Battlefield: Bad Company 2 inhabits the same vaguely-defined sphere of influence as Modern Warfare 2 in the hearts of many gamers; they’re both hardcore shooting titles, sequels to popular efforts within already established franchises and have awkwardly-named characters that spout mildly amusing dialogue every chance that they can. This is where the similarities end, however.
This sequel marks the return of the “B” Company as they take their overly explosive brand of fight to the Russians. Some of the action set-pieces that the boys have to battle through are truly dramatic, especially one that involves bringing down a satellite, stealing its data, and navigating through a blizzard while evading the bountiful baddies that litter the snowy landscape.
The single-player campaign tries its best to incorporate the squad-based tactics from the multiplayer, but some frequent A.I. problems plague your troops. When they aren’t in your way, your squad will constantly shout about giving or receiving cover. The problem here is that their definition of covering you involves shooting at a few random spots, a rarely effective tactic that often leads to hilarity. Of course, an incredibly sadistic drinking game could be based around the cover system and how often it leads to player death, but the result would not be pretty.
To be fair, Bad Company 2 does occasionally try to spice things up, but the brevity of these sections is frustrating. At one point, you’re tasked with spotting tripwires for traps that have been set for any would-be intruders. Confusingly, this mechanic only pops up once throughout the entire campaign, leaving me to wonder why it wasn’t utilized more often.
Some may use the multiplayer as an excuse for the rather lackluster campaign, as most modern shooters have short, dull, and downright confusing story modes that act as a throwback to the days of single-player dominance. When done this poorly however, I feel as if the time used to develop the campaign should have been used to add more content to superbly crafted online multiplayer experience.
While the single-player campaign is fairly disappointing, the multiplayer of Bad Company 2 truly shines. The specifics are all well-known to anyone who has ever played an FPS: you have to capture a base/flag/objective and hold it from the enemy. While this may seem rather familiar, the developers at DICE did a phenomenal job of making their title stand out from the pack thanks to the inclusion of destructible environments and squad-based team play.
It’s not that interactive environments are unheard of these days, but the weapons and vehicles of Bad Company 2 make this destructibility a truly pleasurable experience. There’s something incredibly appealing about lobbing grenades, mortars, and even tank fire at an enemy stronghold to watch it disintegrate in front of your eyes. I will also admit to pumping my fist in the air when I first launched an RPG into the side of a building to take down a sneaky enemy.
Also exciting are the vehicles, though they can also be intensely frustrating at times. In some multiplayer matches, the various ground and air-based vehicles can be entirely overwhelming, but the copious amounts of mines, rocket launchers, C4, and mortars that are available to soldiers should help balance the match. The character classes are also fairly even, with several different options for each would-be online assassin. Bad Company 2’s experience system locks many of the important functions of each class from the outset, including the Medic’s imperative ability to revive teammates. As a new player, it takes quite awhile to get to the level that other players are at, but the combat is so exhilarating that you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Having a squad member or two lighting up the building beside you also multiplies the fun. During the game’s relatively painless matchmaking, you’re asked if you would like to join a squad. While it’s admirable that the developers give you the option, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll want to join a squad as quickly as possible, as it allows players to spawn near other squad members in addition to that team’s captured locations. Suddenly, that one guy who insists on climbing a nearby ledge to snipe becomes your best friend, as they offer easy access to the battlefield for a fallen soldier. Even better, you will sometimes find yourself spawning in a helicopter or tank, taking the gunner seat of a mobile vehicle just as it stampedes into enemy territory.
So while the campaign of Bad Company 2 might have a few failings, the multiplayer component makes up for it and then some. Though there are many competitors for the modern FPS crown, this particular Battlefield makes a strong claim for the top spot. The squad-based vehicle combat alone makes the heart skip a beat, and the online package is loaded with features and will keep gamers coming back for more. If we have to be consistently spoon-fed shooter sequels, I hope that they’ll all be this good.