Battlefield Bad Company 2 Impressions: The Tougher Battle

If EA wants its upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to begin wresting military first-person shooter dominance away from Modern Warfare, excellence in multiplayer is only one tactic. How important is the campaign and can it be as good?

Yesterday, I played portions of two missions from Bad Company 2's single-player campaign on an Xbox 360. The missions were set in Chile, first in a jungle, amid some enemy shacks, then up in the snowy Andes, approaching a satellite communications base.

The impression I got is that while development studio DICE's Bad Company 2 may have the chance to be better than Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 in terms of multiplayer - whoever has the best map design, multiplayer matchmaking, upgrade path and so on may claim superiority - my initial impression of the single-player is that Bad Company 2 has more of a chance to simply be different.

Modern Warfare 2 single-player is a largely developer-controlled experience. It's a progression through beautifully rendered locales, funnelling players through an action movie of an obstacle course, demanding the player ride shotgun in a vehicle before shooting through a warzone before racing across rooftops to leap to a helicopter.

Bad Company 2 single-player feels more like it will succeed to the extent it allows player variety. What I played yesterday wasn't as beautiful as Modern Warfare 2's scenes, but it felt less canned during any instances when I was replaying a portion that I'd just died and had to re-try. The unpredictability came largely from one of the things that is the hallmark of the Bad Company 2 series, the ability for players and - I kept forgetting this - enemies, to blow walls up.

The jungle mission had me and and three computer-controlled squadmates fighting through a jungle, gunning our way into a ravine, down a river and then up through tin-roof one-story buildings full of enemies. You hold two weapons, grenades and a knife. I supplied myself with a machine gun and a rocket launcher. Frequently I'd encounter enemies hiding behind walls or peeking out of doorways. It took a friendly reminder from one of the game's public relations people watching me play the game, but, oh yeah, I could toss a grenade and blow up the cover. In the jungle mission, I gradually felt empowered, recalling tactics I hadn't used in a single-player game since last summer's wall-crumbling Red Faction Guerilla. Instead of waiting for an enemy to pop out of hiding, I'd blast apart the wall in front of him and there he'd come. The problem was that sometimes an enemy would do that to me. Ducking behind some sandbags to reload? Not a good choice, not all of the time.

I was impressed with the enemy's ability to tear through my cover and pleased with the unpredictability with which it occurred. They didn't always knock out my cover. Sometimes I got theirs first and they went elsewhere. I was worried, though, that some of the enemies seemed unaware of my presence until I was just about patting them on the back, so enemy artificial intelligence is still something to watch out for as more complete versions of this game make it to the press, to reviewers and gamers like you.

The jungle level climaxed with a fight against an armoured vehicle and then we got to the snow level and some computer controlled helicopter-flying. For all talk of Battlefield's you-drive-the-vehicles advantage over Modern Warfare 2, it seems that Bad Company 2's developers will make you ride shotgun at times. In the chopper I was introduced to the game's pacifist pilot and the more foul-mouthed protagonists of this new game. That, I was told, was an example of why the new Bad Company is M-rated as opposed to its predecessor, which was rated T. It didn't seem like a value-add yet, but I wasn't seeing much of this campaign. The helicopter sequence did add the value of letting me use a high-powered machine gun against enemy forces encamped among warehouses at the foot of a snowy mountain. Here again, the destructibility of the environment was impressive. I was able to shoot the roofs off, eliminating cover.

The snow level offered more tactical variety than the jungle level. I had to fight through some buildings, with the option to run between them, over their roofs or, my favourite, punch enough holes in them and knock enough of them down that I could forge my own varied path. Beyond that section was a controllable vehicle sequence, one that had me both driving and shooting from a Jeep armed with a high-powered gun. My buddies shot as well. We were chasing enemy trucks racing us to reach a crashed satellite. And in a moment that couldn't help but feel like a metaphor for Bad Company 2's pending rivalry with Modern Warfare 2, I got to shoot an enemy soldier who was riding on a snowmobile. I nailed him in mid-air as he was making a jump.

As I noted above, the campaign isn't as visually impressive as Modern Warfare 2's. That's not saying much, given Infinity Ward's arguably best-in-business graphical chops. But this is, unavoidably, not quite as amazing and, from what I saw, not pleasantly twinged with some of the strong use of unnatural colours that can make a Modern Warfare level look real and artistic at the same time. Bad Company 2's look, while detailed, is more conventional.

Looks notwithstanding, the meaningful difference here is the gameplay. Bad Company 2's campaign looks to be the looser one, the one that gives the player more control. I'm not sure it can give the same scripted excitement as Modern Warfare 2, but it has its own thing going for it. Don't stand by a wall when you play and keep an eye on whether it can compete on the one battlefield that Modern Warfare 2 may have an unbeatable advantage.


Comments

    "I was worried, though, that some of the enemies seemed unaware of my presence until I was just about patting them on the back, so enemy artificial intelligence is still something to watch out for as more complete versions of this game make it to the press, to reviewers and gamers like you."

    I actually miss this in first person shooters. I enjoy sneaking in behind enemy lines so to speak and going melee. In most games the enemy know where you are... all the time, it's like you spend the entire game moving from one ambush to the next. Like in FarCry, when an enemy would shoot you from across the map while you were crouched behind a bush.

      Ahh, I know what you mean... MW2 on veteran is especially guilty of this. Like if you so much as poke a toe out of cover, the enemy can hit you with 100% accuracy. And even if you stand directly behind your own guy who is not in cover, somehow the bullets go past him and straight to you with millimetre accuracy... complete awareness of the AI in games can be a very bad thing...

        There are weapons where the bullet can/will penetrate a human 'shield' wearing body armour.

    Sounds interesting... I had to delete my BC2 demo thanks to my 20gb hard drive running out of space, but from what I played it was solid... can't wait to see how the campaign turns out. I have the vaguest feeling while BC2 might not have the production values of MW2, it's campaign will have a lot more depth, replay value, and be longer lasting than that glorified demo... Oh, and IMO the graphics in the first screen look pretty damn good, although possibly touched up a bit... but very Crysis-esque, and I wouldn't complain :)

    My Steam account shows I've now played the BC2 beta more than I've played MW2 MP since buying it on release night. Does that not say it all? Its more fun playing ONE mode ONE level and capped to only level 11 in Bad Company 2 than having the whole of MW2 at my disposal.

    Dedicated servers matter, MW2 is just not fun because of it.

    I wish BC2 the best of luck, they're putting their money where their mouth is on PC and thats a rare, rare thing nowadays so they have my full support.

    I've already played the beta for BFBC2 longer than I've put in hours for MW2. Mostly because of the dedicated servers.

      ha ha same here. I think it's a case of the people who played MW1 before it kinda got bored really quick with it...why?..... because it's the exact same game with a new coat of paint.

    This game is gonna rock! I will love how varied the single player is in this as MW2 was a poor excuse for a sequel..... it's like Michael Bay directed it or something. Being able to take multiple paths, blow up different things to change the outcome of a battle will lead to endless possibilities in the way you approach the campaign which in my opinion is what gaming is all about. Can't wait for this piece of awesome.

    In the current beta, I go Assault with the C4 Spec upgrade with a shotgun and supply myself with more C4 after putting 5 sets on each of the walls of the collapsable buildings. Just to watch the **** go BOOM. It's fun everytime.

    It's not that hard to beat MW2's single player. It looks nice, plays well. But the story is so lame, I felt bad playing it. COD4 had that story i've played many times over and over.

    As much as i prefer COD4's multiplayer (even though MW2 isn't that different) - COD series will always win if they keep with the formula they have and other FPS's don't try to top.

    Perks, Classes, Ranks etc.. are all easy to understand and follow. COD can be understood by a 3 year old. Problem with other FPS's is that they make it confusing.

    COD have always had great map design, something I didn't see in Bad Company 1. I'm not taking MW2's side so to say, but COD have always had that easy to understand, jump right in and maps you can remember after even 1 playthrough of it.

    Unless they can do all of that, then they've sold me.

      I am presuming you havnt played the beta then. It has ranks, perks, classes and so on. It is, imo, a better experience than MW2 multiplayer.

    Fence in your way? Tear that shit to shreds with your knife.

    I've played MW2, not impressed, it looked pretty but that was it. I've played the demo of BFBC2 for a lot of hours now, I freakin love it, it's fun, it's versatile, so I'm getting the full game on PC and PS3. It's worth the $$$, even tho I'm currently flat broke! haha

    Obviously Stephen (like many disappointed COD4 fans) is still in a state of denial about his true feelings towards MW2. Psychotic delusional states aside, the fact Stephen won't admit he felt ripped off by MW2's repetative, lackluster "multiplayer" gameplay after coming down from the "Hollywood blockbuster" style single player is a true indication that judging future expectations based on delusional past experiences is not such a wise idea. In fact it's quiet obvious by the tone of his writing that Stephen still hasn't subconciously forgiven MW2 for being unfaithful to him (much in the same way a jilted lover often mistakenly exhibits a desire to return to the "failed relationship" of the past and seeks out future partners that resemble it). I just hope that with time and the right game (and girlfriend) Stephen can finally resolve past issues and find long term psychological peace.

    Kindest Regards

    Dr. Sigmund Freud

    This will set the benchmark for future FPS's. Why?.... cause you can blow shit up. "Ohhhh is that building in the way?.... I'll just blow a few holes through it, I can't be bothered going around.... oh look I killed that dude in the process cause he was camping in there....bonus..."

    This is how FPS's should be. Others who say otherwise are full of shit and probably just MW2 diehards that just won't allow themselves to face the horrible truth that they got a rehashed game with no redeeming features whatsoever. Denial.

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