The Battlefield series has been highly regarded amongst PC gamers over the years, but it never really made its mark on the consoles. This soon changed with the release of Battlefield: Bad Company, DICE’s answer to the console competition that successfully brought the series away from the PC market and into uncharted territory. Starring a new team of boisterous buffoons, Bad Company also saw the series make its first venture into story-driven, single player campaigns in a bid to appease the more demanding crowd, and for the most part, it paid off.
And then along came Battlefield: 1943, a cheap and cheerful download-only title that served as a fun diversion until the following titular sequel. Consequently, Battlefield: 1943 was seen by many as something of a tech demo for Bad Company 2, which has been a long time coming, but has suddenly sprung onto the market with oodles of confidence. I think I can safely hypothesize that there is just one question lingering on many people’s minds: with Infinity Ward firmly sighted in their crosshair, does DICE’s latest entry in the Battlefield saga have the ammunition to take out the almighty Modern Warfare 2?
Bad Company 2’s campaign reprises the same military misfits that graced the original, but this time the tone is considerably less slapstick. Bad Company prided itself on being unapologetically tongue-in-cheek, and while there is still some humorous banter between the leading protagonists, it’s been noticeably toned down.
As before, you play as Preston Marlowe, part of a four team squad of eccentric protagonists on a mission to falter the plans of leading villain, Viktor Kirilenko, to launch an ancient weapon of Japanese descent. Unsurprisingly, this premise is merely an excuse to have you fight off waves of enemies across a diverse range of spectacular set-pieces, from the snowy backdrops of Russia to the tropical jungles of South America. The campaign has less free-form compared to the original Bad Company, adopting a more linear, Call of Duty style approach to the level design, but this keeps the action suitably tight and focused.
Initially, the controls may feel sluggish, as Call of Duty veterans will find movement decidedly clunky; but as you adjust, the controls become meticulously responsive and robust. Throughout every mission you are also constantly fighting alongside your squad-mates, which builds a sense of companionship even though their presence isn’t always fully felt – fire-fights will occasionally feel one-sided but for the most part your squad does a sufficient job of fending off enemies.
The campaign does a terrific job of holding your interest through smart pacing and unbridled variety. The opening level, for example, acts as a knowing nod to Battlefield: 1943 with an endearing prologue set in 1944, and some explosive on-rails vehicle sections are thrown in for good measure. One particularly memorable mission has you fighting not only against foreign foes but the cold climate too, requiring you to frantically seek shelter at regular intervals before you freeze to death.
There’s certainly no shortage of enthralling action sequences, making for a thoroughly entertaining single player campaign, but with little lapse in the intensity, it sometimes becomes a bit overbearing. Disappointingly, there is no split-screen co-op either, which is a pity given Bad Company 2’s emphasis on strategic, squad-based gameplay.
Comparisons to Modern Warfare 2 are, frankly, unavoidable. Its monumental influence has made it the benchmark for cinematic extravaganzas, and while Bad Company 2’s campaign is solid and well-paced, it lacks those defining moments that its rival has in ready supply. The plot was hardly original either, essentially consisting of some husky Americans with OTT personalities shooting herds of foreigners with little justification, but then I didn’t expect anything less. Bad Company 2 also shares another similarity with Modern Warfare 2: at 13 missions and around 6 – 8 hours, the campaign isn’t exactly long-lasting.
But let’s face it, Battlefield has never been renowned for profound storytelling or single player campaigns – it’s the multiplayer component that has consistently drawn in legions of players and it’s no different with Bad Company 2. It is, without question, the most exhilarating, addictive, and downright entertaining online shooting experience I have ever played.
What makes Battlefield’s legendary multiplayer aspect so fulfilling is its squad segmentation. Player classes are divided into four divisions: Assaults, Medics, Engineers, and Recons, with each class sporting a specific perk. Assault classes can lay down ammo supplies, Medics can revive teammates, and Engineers can repair vehicles. What’s more, each class is restricted to specific weapon types, meaning that everything is brilliantly balanced, and progression results in class-specific unlocks. If you solely play as the Assault class for example, you will miss out on some of the weapons available to other classes, so it is beneficial to diversify.
There are currently four multiplayer modes to savor. The classic Conquest mode, a recurring series staple, revolves around capturing spawn points. But it’s the new Rush matches that prove to be the standouts, whereby two teams of up to 12 players are tasked with either defending or attacking M-Com stations dotted around the expansive maps. Team work is paramount here, and it is incredibly satisfying when you can feel your team scouring to defend or attack the bases amid the chaos.
Both of these game modes can take a long time to complete however, which is where the remaining modes of Squad Death Match and Squad Rush come in for those more in need of a quick fix. Here, each squad of four players is pitted against each other with no objective complications; but I feel these modes lack the scale and team spirit that Battlefield strives for.
Prior to joining a match, the game will prompt you to join a squad of up to four players. Proficient squads are more likely to secure victory than lone-wolf players, and the game awards such diligence accordingly – you will earn significantly more points by sticking with your squad and supporting each other if you play to the strengths of your class. Wonderfully, you can also spawn directly next to any active squad member in the thick of the action should you die, which really keeps up the pace of the match whilst eliminating the tedium of aimless running.
A cap of 24 players may not sound overly impressive, but the spawn mechanic ensures that the maps never feel desolate – MAG may have bragged about its 256 player strong matches, but Bad Company 2 is proof that less is indeed more.
The array of maps derived from the single player campaign are well designed and are, crucially, on a much vaster scale than Modern Warfare 2’s comparatively claustrophobic skirmishes. An assortment of vehicles are also at your disposal, including quad bikes, jeeps, tanks, boats, and Apache helicopters, adding a great layer of depth to each game. Every battle is unpredictable and the variety on offer is utterly unmatched.
The original Bad Company introduced the element of destructible environments by utilising the Frostbite engine, but this has now been stepped up significantly. Launch an RPG into the side of a building, and not only will the wall be blown to smithereens, but the foundations of the entire structure will visually crumble into a pile of rubble. It’s awe-inspiring and hilarious at the same time if you manage to achieve this when members of the opposing team are helplessly trapped inside.
Such decimation is immensely satisfying and plays a key role since it can drastically affect your strategy – cover walls you previously took for granted are no longer safe, for example, and heated standoffs can be solved with a small tap of a grenade launcher, which I find particularly useful for flushing out pesky snipers. Even the terrain itself isn’t safe from this rampant destructibility, resulting in environments littered with mini-craters.
Aesthetically, Bad Company 2 is a beautiful game to marvel at. It looks splendid, with a rich colour palette distinguishing the environments effectively, and a high level of detail creates a ravishing visual onslaught. The novel touches are equally impressive – explosions look devastating, and dust and smoke loom for a surprisingly long time.
Also worthy of praise is the game’s audio design, which is enriched with realistic sound effects that add to the immersion and excitement. The weapons sound convincingly brash, but one of my favourite touches is the subtle yet effective echo effect when you fire inside a building. Mmm, detail.
And so back to my leading question: should you now promptly discard your copy of Modern Warfare 2? Well, while both are undoubtedly very competent shooters, if I had to choose one, it would have to be Bad Company 2, purely based on the unrelenting strength of its multiplayer. Yes, it may have less maps and modes, but the quality of the sheer scale make it irresistibly superior – just don’t go punching your wall because I said that.
Regardless of your allegiance with Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2 is an experience not to be missed – both titles bear enough similarities and differences to warrant room for both to breed.
Bad Company 2 represents the absolute pinnacle of the series and ranks as one of the best first-person shooters in recent memory. The transition to consoles is effortlessly comparable to its PC ancestors, resulting in a sublime shooting spectacle that’s been fine-tuned to the hilt. The multiplayer is so strong they could have easily shipped the game solely with the multiplayer in the vein of a certain other game, but the campaign mode is still worth your attention.
So join forces and step out onto the battlefield – you won’t regret it. That is, until you realise how many hours of your life you have wiled away because of this game.
Bad Company 2 is very polished indeed, with a superb graphics engine that puts others in the genre to shame. The enhanced Frostbite engine that powers the destructible environments is particularly impressive.
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The single player campaign is well-paced and action-packed, but it's the ridiculously addictive and diverse multiplayer that really shines. Bad Company 2 befits its slogan well: it defines online warfare.
The audio in Bad Company 2 is an absolute triumph. A soaring musical score and booming sound effects truly enhance the experience by a significant margin.
The campaign mode only lasts up to eight hours, but the multiplayer will keep you playing for hours on end.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a high-octane thrill ride that delivers everything you could possibly want from a first-person shooter. Fraught action, destructible environments and the most addictive and comprehensive multiplayer around make this an experience that is a worthy adversary to Modern Warfare 2 and a sublime shooter in its own right.