To say that the PS3 is inundated with first person shooters would an understatement of epic proportions; it's absolutely suffocated by them. With 49 games in the genre already clogging up the shelves, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 represents the latest entry into that sea of shooters hoping to set itself apart from the crowd. Though no one can question developer DICE's excellent contributions to the Battlefield series, the Sweden-based developer has had a rough time translating its PC success to its console iterations. The original Bad Company underwhelmed both critically and commercially. However, with two years and two console games under its belt since, DICE has taken another swing at it, and though Bad Company 2 occasionally falters, it finally manages to deliver a performance on par with its PC counterparts.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 once again follows the Bad Company, a ragtag squad of soldiers delegated to some extremely dangerous missions. This time, the B Company is tasked with thwarting a Russian plot to obtain a weapon of devastating power, codenamed “Aurora”. The Bad Company's final mission takes them globe trotting from Alaska to Columbia, toppling terrorists every step of the way.
Though the outcome is predictable, it's with this group of soldiers that the game's single player campaign manages to really separate itself from its competitors. The banter exchanged between the heroic quartet really helps to bring them to life and give them personality. They'll crack jokes about each other’s sisters and argue about what the coolest superpowers are, but their sense of camaraderie shines through it all, and you really can't help but become attached to them. That makes it all the more trying and immersive for you as the player when the game throws them through some dire situations. The charismatic Bad Company provides a much welcomed relief from the monosyllabic meat-heads of most contemporary military shooters.
And that's a good thing, because it would be awfully hard to care about the storyline otherwise. The narrative is weaved together from some of the most tried and derivative action clichés, more fitting for a B-tier 1980's anti-Communist potboiler than a turn of the century military epic. If Modern Warfare 2 is a Tom Clancy production, then Bad Company 2 is decidedly a Sylvester Stallone-directed action flick.
The story does facilitate a good six or seven hours of heart pounding action sequences, though. DICE has adopted a more scripted experience for Bad Company 2, and it’s largely the better for it. Whether you're tearing through a lush forest on the side of a mountain in Chile with an ATV, protecting a satellite in the midst of treacherous blizzard in Bolivia, or escaping an enemy encampment on the back of a rickety truck in Russia, the game is absolutely unrelenting in its pacing. The action packed set pieces are really driven home by the fully destructible environments, made possible by the latest iteration of DICE's Frostbite engine. Wooden fences splinter, concrete walls crack and crumble into chunks, and entire villages are reduced to nothing by prolonged fire fights. The wanton destruction is more than just window dressing, and actually gives you some tactical advantages. Instead of fighting a caravan of armored ATCs head on, for example, you can simply destroy the bridge as they cross over it. This added layer of depth makes the whole campaign feel quite dynamic.
The enhanced destructibility is not the only perk of the upgraded Frostbite engine, either. While the original Bad Company was a mixed bag in the visual department, Bad Company 2 is a huge leap towards the better. The environments are incredibly varied, and each location is a real treat for the eyes. The tropical jungles of Bolivia define the word lush, while impressive particle effects bring desert sandstorms in Chile to life. It's not without a few niggles here and there, the game is marred by some screen tearing on occasion, but it's definitely one of the better looking multi-platform games to date.
The visuals are also beautifully complemented by a booming sound design, completing the cinematic feel. Explosions will shake your house, lightning strikes electrify the air and the sounds of bullets ricocheting will have you ducking for cover. The orchestral soundtrack rounds it off nicely, and the whole package is played out in full Dolby Digital. It's not often that developers will invest in really knocking the sound design out of the park, but when they do, it really is a treat.
As competent as the single player campaign is, it will largely play second fiddle to the other half of the equation: the multiplayer. The Battlefield series has been defined by its superb multiplayer experience since its inception, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 lives up the franchise's reputation. Bad Company 2 offers up several multiplayer game types. Rush and Squad Rush are the title's highlight; setting players to either attack or defend a pair of objectives. These appear alongside your standard Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch modes. Each mode represents a thoughtful addition to the Bad Company 2 formula, and in an era where multiplayer is tacked on to so many different titles, none of it feels forced. The multiplayer continues the Battlefield tradition of utilizing a class system, featuring four unique classes this time around: the Assault, who is armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry and ammo, the Medic, who can revive any downed player, the Engineer, who specializes in explosives and vehicle repair, and the Recon, who focuses on spotting and sniping the enemy.
DICE has obviously spent a lot of time working out the kinks in the multiplayer. Each of the four classes feels distinct, and really allows you to fill the role that you want to play. The various weapons and vehicles all feel balanced, playing out into what is essentially a large game of rock, paper, scissors, where the most diversified and coordinated team always has the upper hand. The map design is exquisite, especially in the Rush modes, as epic sprawling desert battles give way to frantic claustrophobic urban warfare as the matches progress, each step of the way encouraging players to use every tool at their disposal. The sense of scale is just something that isn't paralleled by any other game on the market.
The driving factor to Bad Company 2's multiplayer component doesn't lie in its mechanical intricacies, though. Rather, it lies in the sense of character progression. Taking a nod from Modern Warfare 2, you are rewarded points for just about every action on the battlefield, whether it's sniping an enemy from several hundred meters away, or repairing an ally's vehicle. Each match can yield a new unlock, ranging from weapons to tools and accessories. The old 'carrot on a stick' idiom is in full effect here, and you'll find yourself playing 'just one more match' until the wee hours of the morning.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 may be yet another entry into the crowded pantheon of shooters, but it's one that shakes the foundation of the genre at its very core. Though the storyline and outcome of the single player campaign is a little predictable, it is action packed and full of adrenaline pumping moments, whereas the multiplayer combines mechanical brilliance with an epic scale. The result, which is helped along the way by the brilliant visuals and sound, is exceptional.
-The Final Word-
A polished entry in the Battlefield series, with a deep and engaging multiplayer component.