While Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was released almost seven months ago, recent news of the upcoming Bad Company 2: Vietnam retail release including both Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1943 has made it, once again, a relevant title. The Vietnam release offers the perfect opportunity for new players to jump into Bad Company 2, especially since most of the veteran players will stick to the current title. Having topped five million sales, and ranking high among the most played multiplayer games, Bad Company 2 became the most successful title for DICE. This success came from the praise received from its predecessor as well as the upgrades brought over the previous Bad Company.
Being the latest release in any series will raise expectations, this being the Battlefield franchise and the latest PC release since Battlefield 2 [Released June 2005] has made the job even more difficult. The developer DICE had started off with a bunch of updates and a couple of upgrades to the previous game engine, naming this latest iteration Frostbite 1.5. While most of the changes to Frostbite 1.0 were for porting the PC release, DICE put quite the effort into making it very close to a native release, or in other words, they went far above the typical poorly optimized game with PC controls clumsily thrown on. The second of the major upgrades is the new physics engine called Destruction 2.0. The new physics engine in itself brings a host of upgrades including the ability to destroy and flatten buildings, as well as deform terrain. The new physics are a great improvement over its predecessor and it doesn’t end there as DICE also worked hard on the player immersion.
Previous Bad Company players will feel at home with the familiar art style and improved graphics. Newcomers will notice the attention to detail and immersion is superior to the standard crop of games. For instance, the weapon design feels very direct, giving feedback and helping place every shot. The same goes to the player on the receiving end of those rounds. Whether it’s the sound of bullets whizzing by, or the deafening blow of a tank shell exploding nearby, DICE has worked hard at translating the environment to the player. With the awesome gameplay mechanics, you need a game that is equally up to par. With this in mind let us jump over to the singleplayer experience.
Making a return from the previous title, the Bad Company squad is sent out on a new mission. They are tasked to retrieve a scalar weapon [EMP bomb] from the Russian forces, before they begin to invade the USA. With the weapon’s location unknown, the squad is forced to travel in different countries in order to gather the information leading to the current position. While the plot is of the typical mainstream variety, there is still enough to keep the player interested all the way through. One of the interest factors is how the story progresses by bringing you through many environments like thick jungle, snowy mountains and urban environments. While very linear, the combination of varying environments with unique sequences helped mask the linear level design which plagues many modern shooters. The characters also have their own interesting personality with some funny dialog, assuming you don’t run too far ahead of them.
Suffering from a lack of polish on the AI and checkpoint system turned what could have been a good experience into somewhat of a letdown. Having to face larger groups of enemies should be a fairly simple task but when the rest of the squad is two minutes behind, you will easily get overwhelmed. When you do manage to die from the onslaught, you end up respawning at a checkpoint several minutes back which is equally frustrating. Luckily enough there are many moments where the AI is not an issue, the majority of which are the vehicle sequences. The singleplayer comes off as a decent effort, but as DICE is renowned for its successful multiplayer development, and that is where you can expect most of the resources were focused.
On the brighter side of things, the multiplayer continues to be the selling point for the Battlefield series. The large maps with vehicular combat remain as some of the key points that label a Battlefield game. This latest iteration is also the most varied, with the iconic Conquest mode joining up with Rush, Squad Rush and Squad Deathmatch. Consisting of four independent squads with four members, the objective in Squad Deathmatch is to be the first squad to reach a combined 50 kills.
In Conquest, two teams of 16 players (12 on PS3/X360) need to deplete the opposition’s tickets to win. While each kill takes off a ticket from the opposition, there are also the flags that need to be captured and defended. Holding the majority of the three or four flags available will steadily reduce the opposing team’s tickets. Attacking hard and a proper defense will get you the win when the opposition reaches zero tickets.
In Rush you still have two 16 player teams (again 12 on consoles), but this time one is tasked to defend while the other attacks. The attacker’s objective is to rush the pair of M-COM stations that need to be destroyed before the tickets reach zero, while defenders have unlimited tickets. If the defenders fail to defend their stations, they will have to fall back and once again defend the next pair of stations against the onslaught of replenished attackers. For the attackers, each destroyed pair of M-COM stations becomes the new base as the map expands further down the road. To win, the attackers will have five pairs of stations to destroy before their tickets reach zero. Squad Rush takes the same concept but reduces each team to a single squad of four players. Adapting to the low player count, the maps are significantly smaller and only contain two checkpoints consisting of a single station each. Both modes deliver very tight and intense action, and allow every game and strategy to be unique and exciting.
The last important part of the multiplayer experience would be the stats and unlocks systems. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, Bad Company 2 features a detailed stats tracking system. Each weapon holds the amount of kills and headshots, accuracy percentage and time spent with it. There are also many global stats like the score per minute, K/D ratio and time played, just to name a few. Slotting in with the stats is a collection of insignias and pins, which are awarded like achievements. These bonuses also come with a wealthy point boost, which come into account for the points based unlocks. On the subject of unlocks, each kit has dedicated weapons and perks to upgrade along with an extra set available across all four kits. Choosing the Assault, Engineer, Medic or Recon at the right time with the correct weapons and perks combination are crucial to get both the team and personal position at the top.
All things considered, DICE has managed to deliver an excellent game. While the singleplayer lacked some attention, it is quite obvious that those resources were placed where they were most needed. Developing an excellent multiplayer experience was crucial for delivering a popular title and a lasting community. Until Battlefield 3 releases, Bad Company 2 will keep the position as one of the best multiplayer experiences out there. If you were looking for a great military shooter with competitive multiplayer, this game is for you.