For all that’s been said and done about pushing the boundaries of video game narratives, there’s always something to be said about a game that lets you create your own stories. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 makes a compelling case for the player-generated story, and for that alone it is a game you should play.
Listen: Bad Company 2 is a multiplayer game. This is why you would want this game. For the all the effort (or lack thereof) gone into the single-player campaign, there’s not much to it. Clocking in at a brief 5-6 hours, it takes B-Company through missions with angry Russians and funny dialogue. The actual interactive involvement within the campaign isn’t very remarkable – shoot guys, blow out buildings and move on – but it’s rather when you’re sitting still when it’s at its most entertaining. The dialog within your squad is funny, topical, and generates a true sense that these guys know each beyond ranks and last names. It’s so easy to miss all the great conversations, because the game never really indicates when they’ll start chatting. Take a minute between each firefight to let them start talking away; you won’t regret it. It makes what’s otherwise a competent single-player shooter into something a bit more memorable.
"It’s synergy at its most explosive and fun."
It’s pretty clear where most of the development effort was directed to when you take Bad Company 2 online. The multiplayer is epic, robust, and concentrated with so much chaos and so much maddening intensity, that it’s something that has to be seen to be believed. A building will collapse once enough of it has been blown apart, Apaches scream past your head as they bombard the highways with missiles, tanks roll through the tumultuous terrain, mortar fire rains down from the sky and contextual voice clips cuss and scream with such powerful conviction that it makes Bad Company 2 fun to just watch and hear. The best part is that all these things happen… all the time. It’s all player-generated chaos, where DICE has given the player all the tools to create the chaos and where the player will gladly use the tools given. It’s synergy at its most explosive and fun.
Underlying the presentation is a game with stalwart foundations. All four classes are important; assault acts as the offensive frontline while providing munitions support, engineers take care of all things vehicular, medics take care of you and your mates, and recons scope out moving infantry and have some nice, destructive abilities for use. It’s symbiotic; everyone depends on each other to fulfill the roles they have chosen for themselves, and with the game generously awarding points for committing to those roles, it gets people working together, even if the ulterior motive is to just grab some more points. With the game also dividing players into squads and also being allowed to spawn on your squad, it’s rewarding to play smart and play together, because Bad Company 2 is a game that loves to reward teamwork, not racking up the most kills.
The destructibility also plays a crucial role. It looks absolutely awesome when walls are being blown to smithereens, but it also plays the tactical role of destroying viable cover. There’s never a sense that where you’re standing is totally safe, creating a constant state of tension. Bad Company 2’s destruction is integrated into the gameplay in ways that, well, no others game has done before.
With four modes spread across 10 maps, there’s a lot to dig into. Conquest, a Battlefield constant, returns, as both teams try to take flags spread across the map in an attempt to drain the opposing side’s tickets. While the maps are huge by most standards, there are not enough capture points and not enough space within a Conquest map to really get a long struggle going on between both teams. It’s not as dynamic as it could be. It’s still a lot of fun, but it could’ve been better. It’s simply a matter of size.
Rush, on the other hand, works much, much better. One side attacks while the other side defends. It’s always exciting, as both sides keep pushing at one another. The maps, while large, only expand once defenders are forced to retreat, creating an interesting drama on the defenders’ side. Once you reach you final defense point, that’s it, there’s no more turning back. It’s the Alamo with tanks and way better guns. Squad Deathmatch has nice twist to it, as it tosses four opposing teams onto the map, while Squad Rush offers up a smaller, more concentrated version of Rush. This with the straightforward progression system and a constant stream of new gadget and weapon unlocks, Bad Company 2’s multiplayer is so complete and fully realized, that there’s a strange disconnect between its single-player and multiplayer, because of how much better the multiplayer is.
"As a PC game, Bad Company 2 is a quality product."
As a PC game, Bad Company 2 is a quality product. It’s a game that feels like it’s been developed for the PC. It’s a sad day when it’s worth praising the existence of a server browsers and dedicated server support, but here we are. Both are extremely welcome and offer the kind of stability and long-term community that a matchmaking and P2P system could only dream of attaining. There’s still some work to be done; games are stable, but the server browser is painfully slow to refresh, and the game doesn’t cope well with moderate latency. They’re issues DICE has been looking into, and hopefully things will be patched up to get the game blindingly shiny with polish.
On the presentation front, Bad Company 2 is a visual stimulant and a sonic narcotic. Everything is presented with such visual polish. Explosions look great, the way tank treads bend and form with the bumpy terrain is always a nice sight, and the way everything moves and animates gives infantry and armor a really good sense of weight. With maps being so big, there are a few compromises; shadows and some objects are drawn-in once within a few feet from you, and some of the textures suffer from a lack of definition. It’s still a great-looking game, but it’s the audio that puts Bad Company 2’s presentation over the top.
You’ve never heard a game like Bad Company 2. You’ve probably never heard a game that sounds this good. Every explosion, every crack from rifle fire hundreds of feet away, every deafening explosion, can be heard, but it’s the way the game makes you hear the sounds that makes the audio worth mentioning. The game constantly reprioritizes sounds, adjusting decibels on the fly based on distance of the sound and its importance. It’s not just all talk; you’ll really hear the effort. The game sounds freakin’ incredible.
Remember: This is a multiplayer game. For all the thrills the single-player might provide, it’s nothing compared to what’s in the game, when you go online. It’s always thrilling, memorable and a joy to be part of the fight, a fight where your contributions matter for the entire team in big ways, even if it’s not always immediately apparent. There are still a few niggling issues that need ironing out, but until Battlefield 3, Bad Company 2 is the new online shooter to beat and man, good luck to other developers-wanting-to-make-good-online-shooters, because this one’s going to be a tough one to outdo.