When a company like DICE are hyping up one of their games, you just know
it's going to be good - or at least, you hope so. Throw in a publisher like EA, a few reviews which are not exactly raving about the game and you really don't know what to expect.
This is reminiscent of my Battlefield: Bad Company 2
experience to this point. It's potentially a brilliant game; all the elements of a great game are present and all the gameplay-aspects have been developed brilliantly by the team at DICE. All the pieces of the puzzle are there but at times, this game feels like the puzzle was abandoned with just one piece left to fit.
Some gamers were hoping for a COD-Killer; Battlefield veterans were looking for a title which simply lived up to the series' high standard, and others were just looking for another multiplayer title to waste their time with - but is Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Game of the Year
material or is it another title which was let down by poor choices on the multiplayer front?
The first thing a new player should do in this game is jump straight into the Single Player campaign. I personally made the mistake of jumping into multiplayer first but, upon progression through the campaign, found that there were still countless tips and tricks which you are shown. In many games of this genre, a campaign is used as just that - a basic guide to playing so that people know what they're doing when they jump into some online action.
Found in Bad Company 2, however, is a deeper story altogether. Past the somewhat-cliché plotline lies a realistic portrayal of some of the lesser-acknowledged wartime scenes. The characters are completely believable - a must for a game which aims to have a good solo campaign rather than a tacky one - and a sense of connection between the players and the characters is easily achieved. You've got the man who wants to be a wartime hero; the respected leader ready to call it quits - and even the hippie flying the helicopter to 'get you out of strife maaaaan.' Achieving this sense of connection is important in any single-player story.
However a good solo campaign is not so because of a well-crafted setting. One would think that the gameplay contributes a lot to the overall quality of a game or game-mode, and this is no exception. This is one area where there are a few 'up's and 'down's. As stated before, the campaign teaches you a lot about how to play. The handling of weapons & vehicles, the command of the mighty mortar strike, and other little tips prepare you for online warfare. However putting these tips into practise within the single-player mode is actually quite difficult as, while level design is clever, there are generally only a few different routes which can be taken. There's not a whole lot of room or time to experiment and as a player you often feel like you're being rushed to complete the objective.
Oh, and when I say 'you're being rushed', I really do mean that you
are being rushed. As believable as the characters are in the cinematic side of things, they really are quite useless. They have horrible aim and rarely take enemy infantry out. In addition to this, enemies mainly seem to target you so all fending off you do really is to save your own skin... Actually, maybe DICE deliberately made it this way - re-reading what I've just written immediately makes me think of being stuck with a team of snipers in online multiplayer. But more on that later.
Other than those few issues, playing through and completing the single player campaign really is quite fulfilling and will prove invaluable to those who play through it before venturing online. One of the most outstanding things about this title - especially evident in single player - is the resource management. I'm not sure what it is but it seems outstanding results are easily achieved in the game, even on rather low-end machines. I mean hey, look at my little laptop - even running on low everything looks and sounds damn brilliant (the only exclusion being trees (at a long distance) which is understandable, really) - while great performance is easily achieved and maintained.
To me, absolutely the most outstanding view in this game was looking from a big hill in the solo campaign, down onto a little village with high mountains surrounding the village in the background. As I said, I run the game on low and the rich landscapes seem near-perfect to me. The fact that these brilliant views can be achieved AND placed in a realistic environment is one of the best things about this game. What adds to this, however, is the way highly-efficient particle effects make the game that much more atmospheric. In arctic levels, wind will blow snow everywhere and make enemies harder to spot - confused action ensues as nobody knows what exactly is going on. In arid deserts, sand will be blown to a similar effect and it's just crazy. Every little detail is done superbly, from these environmental effects to the plastic bags and other assorted litter flittering around in the wind across city streets.. and it makes you reflect and think - this is what fighting in a war can be like, where soldiers have no idea 'wtf' is going on. Realism seems to be one of the highest priorities of the developers, and they've achieved their goal to frightening standards.
As if the graphical effects didn't build the atmosphere up enough, the audio is on a whole new level. While recently I was able to play the game on a high end machine with surround sound, what's appealing is the way the atmosphere can be built through sound even on those machines with lower audio-output capacity. No matter your rig, things DO get hectic when you start hearing three different gunfire wars around you. Explosions DO affect your character's capacity to become aware of his surroundings. Bullet sounds change - realistically - depending on the distance it is from you; the type of bullet it is; even what's between you and the bullet. Again, it's almost frightening how close to the real thing the developers can get - this is especially evident in surround sound systems, so if you're after that extra sense of realism, I urge you to give surround sound a try with this game.
I really am sorry for going on so much about the resources, but there really is a lot to say about them.. They just add so much to the whole Battlefield experience.
As with any game there's always going to be changes to the core gameplay with the transition from single-player modes to online multiplayer. In this department, it really is a bit of a bumpy ride for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In all online gameplay, you have the chance to join squads - sub-teams of up to four players. While you can play as a lone wolf (similar to the play in the solo campaign!!), squad team-work is encouraged, with bonuses for helping out squad-mates and being the highest-scoring squad. However in this great strength is found an even greater weakness.
This weakness is by no means a fundamental flaw, rather one which is so because the online community have adapted to the game the way they have - but it still plays a pivotal role in one's Bad Company 2 experience. When you jump into a game, you'll have the ability to choose from four classes, each with their own little perks and benefits. Each class has their own set of class-specific guns, for example the 'Recon' class has access to a wide variety of sniper rifles. This is where the problem comes in..
A high number of the community are too worried about their personal stats to attack the objective in a given game-mode, so you'll see lots of snipers or other campers. For those who play the game to win it, this quickly becomes a frustration and you might find yourself migrating to other game modes, such as Squad Deathmatch.
Like I said, this is not a fundamental problem by any means, but it will heavily impact on the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 experience for some players.
Other than that, there are few major flaws with the online warfare, and playing with and against others is more often than not a pleasant experience. Maps are generally wide open and allow for multiple plans of attack. The maps are also cleverly designed in that the balance is never too heavily in favour of one team, so momentum can shift quickly with a few well-timed moves.
The whole concept of building destruction is amazing. While the patterns of destruction appear to be pre-set, it's definitely a step in the right direction in terms of realism.
There are a few more minor flaws, however. After spawning, you have very little time of invulnerability, meaning that if somebody is in your base when you spawn, you may just die as quickly as you spawned. I can understand why you might always vulnerable if you spawn on a squad mate (so that you can get right into the thick of the action), but if there is to be no automatic punishment (game-side) for spawn-camping/spawn-killing, then more time needs to be allowed for players to get settled in.
Random crashes are still occurring for some players.. Compatibility issues with some DirectX versions are not yet fixed. The server browser is still undergoing some patching as it was buggy upon initial release. There are still some in-game bugs, such as taking down buildings with a knife. These are only little things but in experiencing many of them comes some frustration. To DICE's credit, they have been working on some of these bugs and within the next month or so we should be playing in a bug-free environment.
All things taken into consideration, however, the online gameplay generally offers a very pleasant experience..
Gameplay - 8.6/10
Apart from a few bugs here and there, the engine is very solid and allows for multiple plans of attack in almost every map. The balance never seems too far into one team's favour, meaning every online game can go right down to the last few tickets. The solo campaign offers a fulfilling journey, with believable characters and scenes making the experience a memorable one.
Graphics - 9.2/10
Even on low settings, the game looks absolutely fantastic, with particle effects adding a lot to the stunning environments. One of the best-looking games around.
Audio - 9.6/10
The audio in this game builds atmosphere unmatched in any other game around.
Value - 9.2/10
It's currently $70 USD on Steam, and the retail price is similar. There's plenty of hours to be churned out of this title, so it is worth every cent.
Overall - 9.1/10
A memorable single-player campaign is only a stepping stone for what is a fantastic online experience. Potentially Game of the Year material, Battlefield: Bad Company 2
offers well-paced action on cunningly-designed maps. The fact that every game can go down to the death offers every player a fair go, whether they be a FPS-fanatic or shoot'em'up n00b. Unfortunately, some small bugs may hinder the experience for some players. Recommended to those looking for an alternative to the monster which is the Call of Duty series, or to anybody looking for a new First Person Action title.