Even though the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company is being advertised as a mainly single player affair, it would be a sheer crime against gaming to not include a multiplayer component. But fear not, as DICE has not only included classic Battlefield online multiplayer, but has also released a closed beta to make sure the final experience is everything it can be. We’ve spent some time with the beta and have compiled some impressions to let you know how the first Battlefield game made specifically for consoles is shaping up.
First off, there hasn’t really been that many changes in the beta from the version we played during the 2008 Game Developer’s Conference. All of the things that we liked and didn’t like were all present but for the most part the beta has been a solid experience with few issues in our play tests. The beta comes with two maps: Ascension, a small village shown during GDC, and Oasis, a larger, vehicle driven map taking place in a Middle Eastern setting. There was definitely more fun to be had on Oasis, since its larger scale and inclusion of vehicles felt much more like a signature Battlefield experience. The map includes a variety of vehicles, including tanks, hummers, dune buggies and attack helicopters.
The tank is especially fun to use, since one can take advantage of the destruction engine in Bad Company, and believe us; you don’t want to be the one getting chased by one of these, because almost any cover you seek probably won’t last. As we’ve discussed before, the destruction system allows you to take out most obstacles in the game, such as any wall; however, entire buildings cannot be destroyed, because DICE does not want players to be left fighting on an entirely flat level. Still, it would be nice to have a little more power in our hands, as the game is advertised as having “unlimited” destruction. The function does make a difference in terms of gameplay, and there will be plenty of times when you’re standing inside a building and out of nowhere the wall behind you gets blown to hell along with you. This also works in your own favor, allowing you to create your own back doors when trying to take out one of those golden crates.
Another gripe of ours that still hasn’t been addressed is the sprint function, which doesn’t really feel like sprinting, and in a game with larges maps, such as Oasis, you want to be able to get where you need to be fast. Luckily, the game does allow you to spawn near your squad mates to get into the action faster. The game mode included with the beta and the only mode to be found in the multiplayer component is Gold Rush, where one team is tasked with protecting a number of gold crates, while the other, with only so many men, has to destroy them. It’s a fun game that really comes down to taking over control points like the other Battlefield games, but with only one gametype we wonder how long Bad Company’s multiplayer can stay endearing.
In order to combat any boredom, DICE has thrown in an RPG-like progression system not unlike Call of Duty 4, where completing objectives and getting kills will grant you experience in order to acquire upgrades, such as new weapons or abilities for your classes, including air strikes or health boosts. In classic EA fashion, if you don’t feel like grinding your way to these new abilities, there is an option under certain guns that reads “purchase on Xbox Live Marketplace,” which raises all sorts of worries about balance between players. Of course, there is no option to purchase these guns in the beta, so it remains to be seen how much this will affect long term gameplay.
For the most part, we’ve had a pretty smooth experience with the beta. It’s been easy to get into a match and every one we entered always had a large number of people present, which is good considering how fast it can get lonely in a large scale shooter. The addition of an experience system is always a good thing, but with the inclusion of a single gametype, one wonders how long Bad Company will be able to hold the online community’s attention, regardless of how much interior redecorating the game’s destruction engine allows the player to perform. We’ll have more coverage of Bad Company as its June release date draws near.