Disclaimer: This VERY long review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game. Looking back, it can sometimes be a tad more rambly than most of my reviews. Most of this is due to me experimenting with a more flexible writing style, and the rest of it is due to me writing angrily after a bad day. Enjoy!
Shortly after the monster that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (I promise, I won't mention it any other time in the review) was said to no longer support dedicated servers run by the community, there was a boycott, complete with internet petition, telling consumers everywhere to not purchase the game. Now, shortly after the shit-storm that resulted from that announcement, people realized that while they were pretending to not buy Modern Warfare 2, they would need some other game to completely hype up and throw praise and worship at until release. Enter the sudden popularity of Dice's Battlefield: Bad Company franchise. An offshoot of their traditional Battlefield games in which you and up to 64 people you've never met and will suddenly despise for no reason engage in a crouch-jumping war with one another. I actually hadn't been paying any sort of attention to BBC2 (now in 3-D) until I saw a video posted in a thread on this very site, suggesting that the Escapist's lovely community not purchase COD:MW2 (not in 3-D). It was a video showing off all the tasty destruction and exciting mayhem the game's multiplayer would provide upon release. Even though I was still purchasing Infinity Ward's bottled up franchise milk, I was definitely excited for Bad Company 2.
Two days after purchasing the game and I still have barely touched the multiplayer. This review will focus almost entirely on the single player, but I will touch on the several hours I spent in complete frustration at a game's community that I've always hated.
So, the difference between Bad Company 2 and its PC brethren is primarily the inclusion of single player. This, funnily enough, was primarily the weakness of the original. It was very much apparent that Dice knew nothing about single player games and what made them fun. If you could forgive the campaign for being multiplayer meant for those without internet, then you would stumble upon a mostly original story about gold, insubordination, and funny talking Spanish generals. Now, the primary reason I decided to focus on the campaign in Bad Company 2 is because I desperately wanted to see if Dice had learned anything at all from their past trials. Well, they haven't.
"Son, I want you to run full speed at that damned heliocpter like a raging lunatic."
Bad Company 2 starts off with one of the greatest and most cinematic introductions to any game as of late. Hell, it impressed me far more than even the intro in Mass Effect 2, or any other game more story minded. I am not exaggerating that at all. Opening with a small bit of intro text regarding a secret operation in WWII codenamed "Aurora", the game sets you loose on a Japanese occupied island in search of a scientist with knowledge regarding their newly made "Oh fuck" secret doomsday weapon. Quite honestly, I love the little time period change, which seems more like the beginning scenes to a movie. Unfortunately, after that thirty minutes of awesome shooter and player love-making, the game throws you into the modern day, as well as a story that was more creatively implemented into James Bond movies. Continuing that whole doomsday theme, the "Aurora" project has been uncovered by the Russians and it's up to you to stop them.
After the amazing introduction, I was bamboozled into thinking that the story would actually be good. Boy, was I disappointed. The main villain is a terribly cliche' Russian behemoth of man that.... Really doesn't do anything the entire time. Seriously. You know nothing about his motivations for wanting the super weapon, nor do you know the slightest bit about him or his background. He's just there to taunt you and then die in the end. As for the weapon itself, I hope you didn't intend on learning more about it as you progress through what could laughably be called the "plot". You know just as much about the weapon at the end of the game as you did in the beginning. On a more positive note, all of the friendly characters in the game have some pretty good dialogue and can be quite hilarious at times. To be more specific, I remember this bit just after a huge battle that saw us trekking through a dense jungle. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, squadmates Haggard and Sweetwater get into an argument over the best scene in the movie Predator. Several other moments of brilliance like that make the characters shine out from under the pile of shit that is the overall story.
Don't get funny and enjoyable squadmates confused with useful ones, though. In fact, much to my dismay, your accompanying troops are more like wise-cracking scarecrows, hardly more threatening to the enemy than dysentery. The enemies seem to realize this as well and will charge into the cluster of American soldiers, ignoring anyone who isn't you, which makes for some particularly frustrating moments where you will die frequently. Also, in a huge dick NPC move, the enemies will grenade and rocket spam the fuck out of you any time you aren't in their direct line of sight (very reminiscent of STALKER), which is majority of the game. That's not to say the game is hard, because it certainly isn't. Over the course of the entire campaign, I died so few times that I could count them all with both of my hands. To be fair, I don't think they were going for a particularly difficult game, considering that the new trend these days are cinematic firefights. Following the same vein as a certain game I promised to not mention, Bad Company 2 attempts to make you feel as if you're playing a war movie in fast-forward. It succeeds at this goal, for the most part, and really nails the intensity that so many other games fail to capture. Being pinned down behind fragile cover while machine gun fire and rockets whiz by is hardly a rare occurrence, and only further increases the fun factor of the game.
That guy in the Ghillie suit back there looks more like Chewbacca than anything.
Something that helps this tremendously is the simply fantastic sound design. I played through the game using a pair of high quality gaming headphones and found this to be one of my favorite aspects of it. Guns are almost obnoxiously loud and have a sort of depth to them that just sounds right, and explosions will absolutely rock you. Honestly, if you're hearing the audio through some crappy TV speakers, you are really missing out on a major part of the game. The graphics are another major factor that aids the intensity and cinematic-ness. Guns and characters are very highly detailed, and everything has a nice texture to it. Environments are simply gorgeous and often show off by shoving extremely large vistas into your eyes, with draw distances the likes of which have never been seen on consoles. I find myself completely unable to complain about anything in the graphics or audio departments. Dice certainly have their shit straight there.
Of course, erection-worthy graphics are entirely useless unless you have some good gameplay to back it up, which, thankfully, Bad Company 2 does. Controls are tight and won't have anyone complaining, the game's HUD leaves nothing to be desired, and the shooting mechanics work just as well as they should. Nothing too out of the ordinary in particular here, but it's the way that graphics, sound, and gameplay come together that make this game so much fun. The Frostbite engine plays a major role in both single player and multiplayer, boasting that 92% of any given environment is able to be destroyed. Funnily enough, all the environments are pretty much completely demolished by the time you arrive, mostly due to the fact that there is actually a war going on. However, the ability to blow up any damn building you want at any time is nice and adds another level of depth to the game. Bricks, dirt, and debris fly outward from a recently created hole in the wall, giving you a nifty snipers nest on the second floor of a building, or a nice entrance for breaching. Besides, it looks fucking cool. What more could you want?
The campaign is relatively short, however, and feels rushed in the last four - five chapters. I beat the game on the second day of owning it (about 7-8 hours of game time) and that's even with all the time I wasted showing the locals exactly what was wrong with their building code. So, it's short, but action packed, and full of tasty bad guys to shoot. Does that make it good? Well.... Sort of. You'll find yourself embarrassed at exactly how much fun you're having in the first half of it, but at a certain point that I don't remember specifically, I found myself actually getting tired of shooting things. Yes, I was sick of shooting in a first-person shooter. Regardless, towards the end, I just wished it would be over soon so I wouldn't have to deal with its shit anymore. Ironically, the ending is one of the worst ever conceived, making it the complete polar opposite of Bad Company's fantastic intro.
"Don't step on Jim! He's napping!"
Shortly after finishing the campaign, I leapt into the multiplayer with much excitement, especially considering my past marriages to Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 1942. Well, much has changed since then. The number of people in a server is nowhere near the amount of previous games, which is now 24 (I believe...), but this often doesn't feel like the case. Battles can be as intense and overwhelming as they were back when the number was 64. Really, there isn't much to say here. It's a lot of fun. There is a level progression system, which awards you with shiny new toys the further you progress (sounds familiar), and gives you quite a bit to work for. Game types include good ol' Conquest for fans of the series, Rush for people who love dying a lot, Squad Rush for people who bought the game for all the wrong reasons, and Squad Deathmatch for those of you that want even more of a cluster fuck. Conquest is essentially "capture points A, B, and C" and probably the most straightforward of all the game types. Rush is where an army is sent to destroy a few metal boxes and another army is sent to spawn camp the fuck out of them so they can't. And, I never played either of the other two, but I'll update the review as soon as I begin caring about them.
Really, none of the technical shit matters in multiplayer because, chances are, you don't care as long as it's fun. Well, it is a lot of fun, especially if you have a few friends to create a squad with. However, your experience can vastly differ, depending on exactly who you're playing with. Now, because someone at Dice apparently thought that people didn't suck, there is no sort of spawn protection. Be very well prepared to get pissed off at campers and just about everyone else. If you had asked me what I thought after I'd only played in my first server, I'd tell you to go die, you prick. That's exactly how annoying those people had been. Thankfully, joining another match remedied the problem, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the game.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is really a game that depends on what the player wants. If you like shooters and fun, then buy it, because you won't be disappointed. If you have a stick up your ass and are too devoted to Infinity Ward to enjoy another game, then I feel deeply sorry for you. As much as I love Call of Duty, I also love fun. And Modern Warfare 2 (fuck, I said it) has gotten old for me, so I bought this, and don't regret it at all. Sure, you can call it unoriginal and a copycat, but then you'd be missing out on the purpose of video games. To have some fun every once in a while. But not too often! Otherwise, we might have inter-console peace, and god knows we don't want PS3, 360, and PC owners actually tolerating each other.
As always, thank you for reading, and feedback is always welcome.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to read my other reviews: Shutter Island, Halo Legends, Stalker Clear Sky, Stalker Complete 2009, HAWX, Fable 2, and The Boondock Saints.