The wise asses return, but without the wise cracks.
Some folks are contrarian by nature. Tell them the sky’s blue, they’ll tell you it’s more of an “aqua”. Tell them you’re a Conan fan, they’ll claim Leno is a genius. Tell them the earth is round, and they’d be willing to sail off the edge of the world just to prove you wrong.
[image1]Battlefield: Bad Company 2 gives contrarian FPS fans an alternative to the cultural juggernaut that is Modern Warfare 2. Where Modern Warfare 2 is bombastic and paranoid in its campaign, Bad Company 2 is self-deprecating and smarmy. Where Modern Warfare 2 is labyrinthine in its storytelling, Bad Company 2 sticks to the basics. Where Modern Warfare 2 fills out its multiplayer suite, Bad Company 2 trims its offerings. Modern Warfare 2 says “tomato”, Bad Company 2 says “Tomato? I fucking hate tomatoes.”
For the many surface resemblances between the two titles—modern combat, Americans fighting Russians, strong multiplayer focus—Bad Company 2 stakes an unflinching and unique claim to the highly competitive multiplayer FPS genre.
If only that unique claim applied to its single-player campaign as much as it does to its multiplayer features. The campaign isn’t nearly as light-hearted and rebellious as in the first Bad Company. In the sequel, the past seems to have been totally forgiven and forgotten. The same crew of misfits is now a prized elite squad tasked with saving the US from certain destruction. The tone is much more serious this time around, and the only levity comes from the idle banter between the characters if you sit and do nothing for too long. The humor is no longer front and center, and it makes the whole experience seem much more generic as a consequence.
The enemy AI has been sharpened considerably, but DICE dialed up the sharpness a bit too high. Smoke, dust, and snow are everywhere and impede your visibility often, but enemy AI is wholly unaffected by the decreased visibility. The game is unexpectedly difficult even on its normal setting, mostly because the AI has an uncanny ability to spot you through smoke and walls.
[image2]But the action is steady, and there are a few creative ideas to keep you interested. One mid-game level in the snow has you running from house to house in search of fire to stay warm, shooting bad guys all the while. It’s a great moment in an otherwise predictable campaign.
Surprisingly, Battlefield’s trademark vehicles take a backseat to the running-and-gunning action. In the campaign, you’ll find a requisite tank level, helicopter level, ATV level, and armored vehicle level, but they all feel like lip service and don’t receive the attention they deserve. The series’ other defining feature - destructible environments - also doesn’t stand out as much this time around. It plays almost no role in the missions and does little to turn the battles in your favor.
Thankfully, the multiplayer end of the game lets you forget completely about the mediocre campaign mode. Rush and Conquest both return and have been refined to near perfection. The addition of squad deathmatch and a pre-order-only squad rush mode gives a bit more variety, but the heart is clearly in the two large game types.
In Rush, the defending team must prevent the attacking team from destroying two detonation points. If the attackers destroy those, defenders then fall back to a second set of two defense points. Attackers keep pushing and defenders keep defending until either all four layers of defense have been successfully destroyed or the defenders have killed 75 attackers at one layer of defense. The feeling of the ebb and flow of battle is unrivaled.
[image3]Conquest plays much like other waypoint multiplayer modes with two teams fighting over three or four capture points. The more waypoints your team holds onto, the slower your respawn pool will deplete. It’s familiar but with enough of a different approach that it never feels tired or played out.
Clearly, DICE have given great attention to multiplayer map construction. Maps feel open without ever feeling chaotic, and each map has distinct characteristics that distinguish it from every other. The liberal use of smoke and dust adds a whole new layer of strategy to the game, and vehicles provide variety without introducing too much mayhem. The stellar sound design gives you a strong sense of the spatial dynamics of the battlefield, and the game engine runs with nary a hitch.
The well-balanced class system and skill trees have been pared down to their bare essentials. In contrast to the complex and voluminous skill trees of Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2 has gone the opposite route. Each of the four classes—Assault, Medic, Engineer, and Recon—has its own unique and relatively linear set of unlockable weapons and perks. The loadout menu is designed almost exactly like the PS3’s XrossMediaBar, making for quick and easy weapon selections between respawns. The four-person squad structure isn’t quite as impressive as the command structure of MAG, but it does help give the game its own feel.
It’s a good sign that the only criticism I can level at Bad Company 2’s multiplayer content is that there’s not more of it. Rush and Conquest each has five maps apiece, but other than the minor variation of squad rush and squad deathmatch, there’s no other multiplayer offerings. Luckily, the play modes that are there are so good that I hardly noticed or cared about the lack of other play options.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is the Pepsi to Modern Warfare 2’s Coke. They’ll both scratch the same itch, but not in the same way. As a singleplayer experience, Bad Company 2 is mostly forgettable, which is a disappointment considering how entertaining the first game’s campaign was. Thankfully the multiplayer features are so polished and well designed that BC2’s shortcomings won’t matter in the slightest. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 provides an alternative FPS diet of raw battle tactics in an easy-to-digest structure.