As a concept, it shouldn’t work. A sequel to a game which was both a console exclusive and a single player focused iteration of a popular series gets a release on PC and turns out to be a serious competitor for Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer crown? It certainly helps that the pedigree of the larger series is that of course of one of the best loved multiplayer franchises for the PC in Battlefield, and DICE certainly remember their roots this time around.
If you’ve never played a Battlefield before, the action can be summed up thus: players are in two teams of soldiers which can then be broken down into squads of four people in order to capture flags around the map – flags which determine the rate of points your team loses whenever someone is killed and respawns. Whoever reaches 0 points first, loses. Of course, many changes have been made to the successful formula. Joining the classic capture the flags gamemode of Conquest, Bad Company 2 features new gamemodes Squad Deathmatch – pretty much as it says on the tin – and the rather more interesting Rush gamemode, in which two points are active at any time with one team attacking and one team defending. Rush feels like a far more dynamic way to play the game as every time the points are taken, the map expands and two new points appear. For the attackers Rush gives a sense of progression and certainly makes maps feel more like an epic campaign than an isolated skirmish, whereas the defenders never truly feel as if they’re fighting a losing battle – unlike Conquest when all the flags are taken by the enemy – as they can always retreat to set up the defence of the two new points.
Classes have also been given an overhaul and streamlined to a very manageable four. The benefits of this are clearly two fold as, previously, some classes could be all out neglected by players as they settled into very specific niches. The new system gives every class the strength to take on their peers without ever feeling they have a particular weakness while still allowing for specialisation and encouraging one of each class in a squad to really get the most benefit by complimenting each other. In addition the unlock system, in which experience points are awarded for most activities on the battlefield which can then be used to unlock different (but not necessarily all-round ‘better’) weapons for their class. Crucially the unlocks are tied to each class, so if you want a better choice of Anti-tank equipment, you play as the anti-tank class. These touches give a great deal of diversity to each player’s playstyle.
The enviroments themselves are pretty diverse, from snowy mountains a to desert skirmish, each level is visually distinct. However a crticism that can be leveled is that enviroments don’t feel quite as open as previous Battlefield games, meaning major skirmishes take place in roughly the same sort of areas. This is slightly offset by the Geomod 2.0 engine, which means pretty much most pieces of cover can be blown up. And how. This really is a visceral aspect to the game that screenshots can’t do justice to. It’s a massive culture shock after playing other multiplayer games to find the wall you’ve just been taking cover behind was just blown into a million pieces by that tank shell. It almost completely eliminates camping at flags or capture points and makes for frantic scrambles on both sides as you try and adjust and compensate for the warzone almost changing on a dime. It’s rather interesting to note that in the Rush gamemode, the points can be destroyed by collapsing the structure around them. It’s a gameplay mechanic that on the one hand can make attacks a rather brief affair but on the other hand give the defenders a focus to take out tanks and the like that can bring buildings down quickly.
Behind all this mutliplayer madness is a singleplayer mode, with a story about a mysterious superweapon that threatens to be used against the west which only Bad Company can stop. Standard fare then, and it is. The story isn’t fantastic, and it’s hard to be truly invested in the characters – moreso when we never received the first instalment on PC. Annoyingly, the action is constantly peppered with little cutscenes that don’t really add anything to the game. It doesn’t ruin the game by any stretch, but it somehow misses both the cinematic dumb but fun blockbuster feel of Modern Warfare 2, and the more social commentary with heroism feel that say, the earlier Call of Duty games used to do. It’s not a bad singleplayer by any stretch and it’s fun while it lasts, but it’s certainly obvious that the multiplayer is where Bad Company 2 really shines.
If you’ve been waiting for a true sequel to Battlefield 2, Bad Company is probably what you’re after. There are so many little changes that feel like how the series needed to evolve: Allowing spawning on any member of your squad making death a minor inconvenience rather than a chore, making the UAV a weak drivable vehicle with a weapon with a well balanced risk/reward contingent, and making air warfare far less of an easy domination for one team. These tweaks make the game feel so balanced and display DICE’s level of awareness for their audience. It’s a game that really makes victory feel like a team effort, and unlike Modern Warfare 2 you don’t feel like you’re against superhumans. It will remain to be seen whether it has enough to last for as long as Modern Warfare 2 will, but if you want a modern equivalent of the old Quake Vs UT argument, gamers will now probably take sides on a MW2 Vs BC2 war.
And ironically in this war, everybody wins.