During last week’s Game Developer’s Conference, DICE held an event at at the nearby Vessel nightclub that was decked out with around twenty HD TVs so that guests could get their first taste of Battlefield: Bad Company’s multiplayer mode for the Xbox 360. Even though DICE has been mostly discussing the single player campaign of Bad Company, the developer still hasn’t forgotten their roots, and are offering an in-depth multiplayer experience as well.
Our demo was fairly limited, playing on a map called “Ascension” that took place in a European village that only allowed for infantry combat: no vehicles here. The involvement of soldiers stealing gold in the single player’s story carries over into the multiplayer mode we played known as “Gold Rush.” Crates of the stuff are located in houses around the map, and depending on which team you’re on, you will have to either defend or destroy these boxes of bullion. As the offending team destroys these crates they will be given access to more enforcements, weapons, and bring up new areas of the map to continue attacking further. Although it’s with chests of gold, this mode does feel similar to classic Battlefield gameplay, as you’re still racing to either take over or defend different points on the map.
After choosing your class from the usual groups (assault, recon, demolitions), you will be given your choice of weapon and can then enter the battle at either current spawn point, or with your squad if you want to get right into the action. It’s also worth mentioning that nearly every rifle you pick from is equipped with a grenade launcher so that everyone gets to enjoy the game’s trademark destruction gameplay. We of course decided to experiment with just how much damage we could incur on the environment around us and discovered a few things about Bad Company’s destruction mechanic.
First, it can come in really handy for creating your own entrances, say a back door to one of the houses containing a chest of gold, or an escape exit of you get caught in a corner. However, aside from playing lumberjack with the trees or taking chunks out of buildings the destruction system is mostly cosmetic, so you will never actually get to demolish an entire building. We found this somewhat disappointing as the game is being advertised with a “destroy anything” tag line, when it should be more like “make lots and lots of holes.”
Control-wise, the game feels pretty tight, since this version is finally one that DICE put full effort into making for the consoles, so moving and looking felt really good. A few minor gripes was that the sprinting (left thumbstick) really didn’t make our soldier do much more than a power walk rather than sprint, and moving to objective points at a slow pace is not something you want in a Battlefield game. Also, when looking down the iron sights of our gun we found the aiming not quite sensitive enough, causing us to have to lead our targets by a wide margin. But other than these issues the controls felt good over all, and not like some PC game port. There is also a knife melee, but it’s nowhere near as much fun to use as the one found in Call of Duty 4.
We also had a chance speak with one of the game’s sound designers, who explained to us the system used for Bad Company called High Dynamic Range Audio. This technology mixes sounds on the fly and prioritizes them so that the player hears the most important sounds in regards to their own location. This is done so that like a movie, you get to enjoy the sounds of gunfire, explosions, or dialogue that occur closest to you, instead of a cacophony of random noises. DICE seems to have gone the extra mile for creating these sounds, even recording a live military exercise in Stockholm, Sweden, where the developer is based.
It’s clear that the game has a ways to go graphically, and the build we played looked pretty rough in terms of the gun models and other players around us, but again this was not the final build. What we played at the DICE event was a small slice of what the entire game will end up offering, such as more elaborate maps and vehicles. Bad Company doesn’t exactly do anything ground breaking with its cosmetic destruction and multiplayer mode tweaks, but it did still manage to play pretty well. At the moment, there isn’t really a variety of quality large scale shooters on consoles, so hopefully the master of the genre will be able to offer us a worthy experience.
Battlefield: Bad Company is currently slated for release in fiscal 2009, for the Xbox 360 and PlaySation 3.