Be dangerous, it's cool.
Relax... this isn’t a band-flavored spin-off from the ‘70s. Battlefield: Bad Company is a small dose of the vehicle-heavy first-person shooter that is peppered with an unusual humor and advances on a few new fronts for the series. Bad Company is a playful reminder that it’s fun to smash buildings and blow things up, but it’s a fragile hit-and-miss mixture of lively, expansive adventure and stubborn, simplistic gameplay.
So yes, you can shoot the wall off a building in Bad Company. And once you start, you’ll never use a door again. Between spurts of construction-destruction, you'll drive tanks, jeeps, and speedboats, and fly a helicopter in one fun segment. You'll use mortar cannons and other gadgets to call in air strikes, meet a sleazy but cooperative dictator, chat with Miss July, and charge across the fields of war in a golf cart while blasting surf wax music.
These highlights are strung together in seven longish campaign missions, tracing the AWOL exploits of one Pvt. Preston Marlowe and his screwball companions. Preston (a.k.a. you) wanders across Eurasia collecting new weapons, lost gold, and the ire of major global superpowers.
However, given that Battlefield is better known for its multiplayer war zones, Bad Company’s online play is disappointingly a mixed bag for players, a mode that favors veterans and fans. For any of you who like shooters where characters have a low-survival rate, there are many who will die before they even see a target. For every player who strives to climb the ladder of rank and career score, there is another who will struggle to unlock basic equipment like medkits and shotguns.
With that said, multiplayer has a few fun toys, including two-part "Destroy the Gold" maps, mortars, and helicopters. I’m a fan of attacking enemy tanks with power tools; it’s kind of like wrestling a big mechanical alligator. In any case, I suggest you drive tanks and shoot mortars, with some extra armor and artillery as a warm-up before fighting on foot. Oh, and if you’re looking for the old Battlefield standard Conquest Mode, it’s reportedly coming this summer as free DLC.
It all feels very straightforward and plain for a FPS. Some players may find Bad Company a little too goofy or cartoonish for a game about war (those folks can just wait), but the real disappointment lies in the simple A.I. and frustrating designs.
Maybe I just don’t get the Battlefield A.I., but in Bad Company’s destructible landscape, I could perceive only one enemy behavior: ceaseless, relentless shooting. Even the medium-difficulty A.I. really limits your ability to explore and set up a shot. Without that tactical edge, Bad Company is a pain in the ass - in many cases I simply ran a beeline across the map, jamming myself with the Health Pack syringe repeatedly as I darted past rifles and cannons.The villages and action scenes failed to interest me, and killed my motivation to comb the giant areas for collectibles.
The “kill your darlings” inventory system also brings the game down again and again. You can only hold a single rifle and a single bonus item at a time, which means you will often abandon your favorite weapon to pick up the “correct” equipment. Would you rather carry laser-guided airstrike goggles or a power drill? It’s cruel to even ask.
In the campaign mode, the whole misfits shtick is clever without devolving into Delta Farce, but it’s missing one key ingredient: a hyper-intelligent, abusive-but-endearing lead character. Bad Company is like Bad News Bears without Billy Bob Thornton, like Bad Santa without Billy Bob Thornton, like School for Scoundrels without a Billy Bob... well, you get the idea.
At least Bad Company is so polished that the elements impress even when they feel out of place. I liked the gorgeous television-style introduction, but the sequence is way too uplifting for a misfits comedy. The orchestral score is also top-notch, but the cheesy country and surf wax tunes you hear in vehicles fit the scene so much better. At least the art, sound, and dialogue are solid.
Demolition, for example, really drive the graphics home. The destruction and debris isn't extremely flashy with physics and motion, but it is a fine smoke-and-mirrors show in the name of playability. Bad Company also benefits from an investment in detail: Jump in front of an NPC and he turns to face you, or watch your comical teammates do some rock-paper-scissors gags during mission briefings. A few of the artillery-strike weapons pleasantly surprise by jumping to cute camera interfaces or cinematic payoff shots. Performance is not cheap in video games, but Bad Company aims to squeeze that extra bit of character into the single-player experience.
That’s Bad Company in a nutshell: It’s got some fresh, entertaining details, and though the game experience is shallow and a little frustrating, you can hop into a mortar cannon and knock down an enemy entrenchment to make you feel better. If that doesn’t entertain the good-old boy or girl in you, it’s time to knock your standards down a peg and laugh a little.