There's a heated war going on between two rival factions. Last November, it escalated with the release of Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game broke sales record after sales record invading homes across the world. Four months later, Electronic Arts launched Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in an effort to dethrone the king of the hill and take its place as the best first-person shooter on the market. Is the game a war machine or a toy soldier? EA's newest is hit and miss with a nominal single player experience and an amazingly polished multiplayer throwdown worth checking out.
Bad Company 2 begins with a quick World War II backstory involving a devastating, and fictional, weapon built by the Japanese. Kept secret for years, information about the weapon, the Aurora, has resurfaced leading to another mission for Bad Company, a modern-day squad tasked with getting information on the weapon and keeping it away from foreign interests. Players take on the role of Marlowe whose specialty seems to be team workhorse. Rounding out the group are technology expert Private Terrance Sweetwater, a geeky thin youngster who looks unimposing under all his gear, demolitans expert Private George Haggard Jr., a Texan and proud of it, who shouts profanities from under his beard, and Sergeant Samuel Redford who leads the bunch as a grizzly patriarch looking after three trigger-happy sons.
The three supporting characters are capable warriors at Marlowe's side and don't require any healing or resurrecting. During skirmishes, they will follow, protect, and lay suppressing fire. They're a competent team with no maintenance required except when there's a critical task given to Marlowe, like shooting down an enemy vehicle or two. The game doesn't push players to speed through levels. If a player wants to scout around, picking up weapons at leisure, the squad will wait quietly. If Marlowe wants to spend a few minutes laying C4 for demolition, no one will complain. The story progresses at the player's whim most of the time with checkpoints on the map showing as red diamonds.
Technically, the game looks brilliant with beautiful graphics, and the game engine allows for destructible environments. Trees, houses, and vehicles can be broken and blasted. Is there an enemy taking cover in a building? An RPG through the front facade will create a hole exposing the shooter or take him out altogether. This gives players a whole new dynamic to work with. Strategic players might go for the flank or snipe route, but less subtle players might want to bulldoze with well-placed blasts.
Controls are typical for a first-person shooter though movement feels strange. While running, turning the right stick pivots the player on a point. It's like driving a new type of car that turns on a center axis instead of following the direction of its front wheels. Sprinting can be maintained indefinitely, and there's no prone position. Though snipers can't lie belly-down, they don't have to worry about holding their breath or scope movement. Overall, it gives the game a more arcade-type feel that doesn't force players to worry too much about things like jitter or fatigue.
The story mode can be finished quickly, and the end result is lacking in something. There's no real sense of urgency in the story. Part of the reason lies with the numerous cutscenes. The effect is jarring, and the game would have been better if players had a continuous flow of action. In-game dialogue/sequences could have replaced some of the cutscenes giving the game a more immersive experience rather than forcing players to sit back and watch. Characters also seem to lack development and are caricatures who comment on events with one-liners. Some of the dialogue is humorous, but the storytelling elements lack gravity. Facing a weapon as frightening as the Aurora, one would think that the soldiers would be given more resources and that the story's pacing would be more brisk.
The multiplayer mode, on the other hand, is awesome. Rather than focusing on individual stats, the modes require squad-based effort. Gaining experience nets newer weapons and gear, and leveling up the four classes (assault, engineer, recon, and medic) opens up new gadgets and weapons exclusive to that class. The dedicated servers keep lag to a minimum, making the game feel more solid with a lot less interruptions than MW2. The multiplayer isn't perfect -- a lack of a real lobby and games with one full team going against a team of one -- but when it gets going, it really gets going.
Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2 are just the latest salvos from their respective companies. Critically, Modern Warfare 2 wins out, but that doesn't mean Bad Company 2 should be totally ignored. Multiplayer adds replay value -- which may arguably be the games' true value. Both MW2 and BC2 have competent multiplayer games, and in a head to head, BC2 wins because of server stability and emphasis on what's really important: winning. While MW2 showcases individual stats and killstreaks, BC2's multiplayer modes require teams to gauge situations and act accordingly. It seems to be the method in how EA put together BC2, and hit or miss, Bad Company 2 is pretty good.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Released for: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Rating: 4 / 5