The original Bad Company had its problems – I don’t think anyone, even the developers can deny that. But what it did do successfully was lay down a platform of interesting, personable characters who could be dropped into any environment and breathe life into what could otherwise be a formulaic FPS game.
It’s the characters that make the game and the familiar four protagonists are back once more, but not with the riches of Nazi gold in mind, this time the stakes are raised as B Company are charged with finding a devastating new weapon that could start WWIII.
While I don’t want to draw too many comparisons to Infinity Wards’ Modern Warfare 2, the two games do run several parallels. DICE obviously knew that comparisons were going to be made and rather than turn their noses up or pretend that there were no similarities, they have tackled the issue head on and thrown in some beautifully timed digs to the ribcage of MW2.
As the squad weighs up the pros and cons of taking on the mission or passing it on to someone else, Haggard, the good ol’ Texan boy for whom every month is Movember, jokes “They’ll just call in some pussy Special Ops team with heartbeat sensors on their guns.”
On another occasion as the guys prepare to travel by ATV’s through the jungle, one brings up the subject of snowmobiles. “Snowmobiles are for sissies” quips Haggard.
It’s this kind of witty dialogue throughout the game that endears the characters to you as they crack jokes, freak out and hassle one another, not just in the cut-scenes but even during the heaviest firefights.
The 13 mission singleplayer campaign takes you to several areas of the globe, all with very different conditions. From the misty jungles of Bolivia and rolling grassy hills to freezing blizzard conditions and dusty urban settlements – you’ll encounter environmental obstacles that make you think about how you tackle the situation at hand. In one stormy jungle level you’ll need to time your sniper shots with the thunder so as not to draw attention from the surrounding camp, and in virtual whiteout conditions in the "Snowblind" mission, you'll need to sprint from building to building to find warmth because spending too long outside causes the screen to ice up, your vision to go blurred and your aim shake uncontrollably as you quickly freeze to death.
All these stagings are beautifully rendered. Some cynics might see adding mist and snow to some levels as a cop-out but it’s the particle effects that really sell the environments in this case.
The sound too is incredible. Nearby explosions shake the room and when you get hit by gunfire, especially one of the turrets, it sounds like a lead pipe thumping a hanging side of beef. The dull thud makes you reel back as only four hits on Normal difficulty has you starting again from the last checkpoint. Speaking of checkpoints, they're regularly spaced and you'll never have to repeat any more than five minutes of gameplay which is important to keep momentum in any game. Any title that makes you replay 15-20 minutes of a mission each time you die is fundamentally flawed – unless it’s a feature of the hardest difficulties for realism’s sake.
I died, a lot playing through on Normal, as many situations require a bit of trial and error before you figure out a tactical path. While some would call the game a sandbox shooter, you are confined to a general vicinity and going too far off course results in a warning message and a 10 second countdown before you’re penalised. That’s not to say you can’t take time out to explore though, in fact it’s encouraged with a myriad of collectible weapons and hidden satellite uplinks to destroy for all the achievement junkies out there. Your team will wait for you while you nosey around and advance once again when you’re ready.
Just as in the original you can alter your surroundings dramatically with almost everything being destructible in some way. Chip away at enemies' cover or bring down a whole building on top of them, the choice is yours. But of course they can, and regularly do, do the same to you. Once you are seen flanking an enemy position, be prepared for a barrage of grenade launchers to destroy whatever you're taking cover in or behind.
I loved the single player campaign. It’s well paced and kept me highly engaged for the two extended sessions it took me to finish the game. But that’s only half of what’s on offer in Bad Company 2 – it’s the multiplayer that’ll keep this disc in your console for many weeks to come. In a word – it’s fantastic.
Teamwork rules the roost in all the online multiplayer modes. The game encourages it by rewarding all involved. Ranking and unlocks are directly tied to points and they are dished out equally whether you fought at the coalface and got the most kills or you played a support role, handing out health packs, reviving fallen team-mates or fixing and destroying vehicles. Sure, engineers can still join in the slaughter, and there’s still a place for lone wolf-type assaults, but a well organised team will achieve more success.
The gameplay dynamic from the single player campaign flows directly over into multiplayer in terms of the fully destructible surroundings and selection of weapons and vehicles. It makes for a wildly unpredictable experience which just doesn’t get boring.
DICE have put a lot of work into making the multiplayer experience a seamless joy to behold and for once it’s the singleplayer campaign that almost seems like the afterthought. I was planning on putting a serious investment of time into Mass Effect 2 in the coming weeks, but now Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has got its hooks into me I don’t think any games, especially Modern Warfare 2 will be gracing my console for quite some time.
Want more? Check out our Bad Company 2 PC review.