March 8, 2010

1720 words 9 mins read

Review: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

As you may well know (perhaps from our earlier entry), Battlefield: Bad Company 2 came out last week. I’ve devoted most of my game playing time since then to playing the game and thought it was about time to do a review. Now some of this review of Bad Company 2 (BC2) will be a comparison to how it stands up against Modern Warfare 2 (MW2). It isn’t that I believe the games are in anyway the exact same kettle of fish, but MW2 is the undeniable “big shooter” of the moment, so it is that which all other new shooters will be compared against (until something undeniably better comes out).

Let me give you the ultra short version: It is definitely an improvement over Bad Company 1. My major complaints for BC1 single player were addressed in BC2. The single player campaign of BC2 isn’t long, but it is enjoyable and longer than MW2 was. The online multiplayer is also quite enjoyable and mostly major bug free (so far that I’ve seen). BC2’s multiplayer is much different than MW2 and personally I prefer BC2. If you enjoy shooters in general and haven’t bought BC2, you’re missing out.

Now we get on to the long version of the review. First I’m going to cover the single player game and then I’ll get into the online play.

At the time of the writing of this blog post, I’m about halfway through my second play through of BC2 single player campaign. The first time I played through on Easy, the second on Normal. I’ll admit that I died a few times on that first play through, but most of the time it was either from exploding cover (which I’ll get into in a bit) or not making some time critical shot (IE you must shoot down a helicopter before it p0wns you). Even if I died a few times in one spot, I didn’t get frustrated at the game. Generally, it felt like even though I was dieing, I was learning what I was supposed to do, or generally just got unlucky. This is fairly important to me because I’ve played more than a few games where I’ve straight up quit playing the game (sometimes permanently) because I kept dieing at the same point with seemingly no way to get past it. Army of Two was notorious for this, and unfortunately the sequel had the same problem.

So about that exploding cover thing: one of the features Bad Company 1 had was that you could blow up walls and such. It was nice and fairly well done, but not fantastic. Well in BC2 they took it up a notch and titled it “Destruction 2.0”. To be fair, they really did a nice job on it. You can blow up just about anything in the game that isn’t solid earth (including trees, rocks, and bridges) and in the case of buildings, you can flat out level them. This game play mechanic, which initially seemed like a gimmick, quickly reveals itself to be quite important. Rather than trying to shoot an enemy who is ducking in and out of a window shooting at you, you simply whip out a grenade launcher and blow up the wall in front of him (which most of the time kills him too). Of course the flip side of this is that the enemies can do the EXACT same thing to you. More than a few times I found myself going from a nice protected little shooting hole to exposed for the entire world to see in one swift and deafening explosion. It is even more fun when you are trying to hide from tanks.

In the end though, I found that the answer was to simply always carry some form of explosives. My personal preference was an RPG. Since they are fairly generous with the ammo (at least on easy and normal) any dug-in enemy was swiftly and immediately blasted out into the open (or more preferably, just died).

I also found one thing that irritated me to no end, but seems to be typical of shooters. When you raise the difficulty, rather than the AI getting smarter, they simply hit you harder. At one point in the game I found myself on a ledge snipping (with a Barret M95) away at enemies that were easily 100-150 meters away from me. They in turn were shooting at me with SHOTGUNS that apparently fired magical shots that expanded to exactly the size of my body (and no more) and flew directly at my head (losing very little of its harmful effects along the way). So here I am sniping the enemy and they are doing a fine job of screwing up my day with shotguns. Rather uncool, but sadly typical of shooters.

In the end, I really did enjoy playing the single player campaign. My two major gripes from BC1’s single player campaign were addressed. First, in BC2 you could carry more than 1 gun. Two to be exact, but that is all I ask for. You could also carry two tools (in a fashion). Second, the constant action halting “regroup at the smoke” scenes were removed. I found those incredibly annoying in BC1 because they killed the momentum of the game every time and they were OFTEN. BC2 still has a similar mechanic, but it was used much more infrequently and generally felt less jarring and less momentum killing.

Now, the multiplayer. This seems to be the big draw for most shooters these days. Multiplayer gets the most work while single player seems to be left to languish. Playing the multiplayer beta was why John and I bought BC2 in the first place. The levels are MUCH, MUCH larger than those of MW2 allowing you a full range of useful jobs. Additionally rather than MW2’s “Spawn Anywhere” technology, BC2 allows you to spawn in only very specific locations. Either at your home base, at a flag you’ve captured, or my favorite, at your squadmates locations. With this WONDERFUL addition, you can actually play in a tactical style.

Say you and a buddy are out sniping. One of you can spot while the other shoots. Should your buddy happen to die, you can simply step back, wait a few seconds, and he can spawn right at you. None of this trash where he spawns at a random location on the map and has to spend 5 minutes hoofing it back to you, he’s right there. In addition, if you’re in a vehicle and there is space open, your buddy can spawn directly into your vehicle. Absolutely Fantastic.

Now notice that key word, vehicle. Every single map I’ve played (so far) has vehicles on them. I’ve seen: Quad bikes, Jet Skis, boats, tanks, APCs, helicopters, jeeps and even UAVs. It makes for a much more interesting battle dynamic when you add vehicles. Most importantly they are fairly well balanced over all. Attack helicopters likes the AH-64 are mean SOBs, but terribly difficult to control and have paper for armor. Personally I think if any vehicle is overpowered, it is the attack helicopters. Even if you have Main Battle Tanks that rattle about the field, a sniper with C4 demo charges can take them out (provided you don’t get shot first). Engineers start with RPGs which do a fine job removing almost any vehicular issue, especially if the vehicle in question is Tracer Darted first. The problem is choppers aren’t easy to hit with an RPG or a Tracer Dart.

Those that enjoy shooters and aren’t absolutely fantastic at shooting, you can play a decent game of support. There are engineers and medics which do exactly what you’d expect them to. Oh, they can still fight and are lethal (I’ve taken a repair gun to the head, it was embarrassing), but they’ve got support powers which can really help tip a fight. The nicest part is that they can support and get real amounts of XP, unlike some games which either give you no reward or very little. I see a LOT of medics and engineers running around the battlefield.

The one “issue” of BC2 that is both a pro and a con and causes me the most consternation is teams. More specifically the lack of them getting shuffled up between matches. I see this as a pro because you get to learn (simply by playing with them, even if you don’t talk to them) how your team mates are going to act. If you see another sniper out there with you on a regular basis, you learn that he’s generally going to cover your back. At the same time you learn what your enemies are most likely to do and how to counter it. The reason I see this as a con, and these days I’m leaning more towards con than pro, is if the teams are unbalanced, they continue to be unbalanced. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winning but if the other team is better than you, they continue to be so. Generally even the “really good” teams don’t win every single time, but they still get close to it. Unlike MW2 there isn’t much shuffling of players in and out between matches because you can’t actually quit between matches (very odd). Unless you quit (back to the dashboard) and find a new game, you’re probably going to play with the same core group of players for several hours. You just have to hope that the sides are fairly even.

In the end though, it is the tactical aspect that really draws me into BC2’s multiplayer. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an ultra crazy match of run around shooting the crap out of people at close range where you die every few seconds. MW2 is great for that, and I’ve almost gotten to level 70 (I got to about 60 before my gaming got put on break for a while). I probably will go back to MW2 for an occasional match, but as of now, BC2 has my top spot.

And if you happen to catch me in a game, you better hope you see me before I see you. My sniper rifle is very good at reaching out and touching the enemy players.