|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA DICE||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 2, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (24 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
December 3, 2009 - Developer Digital Illusions CE, or DICE as they're known on the streets and in pool halls, has proliferated more combat than the Bush Administrations, the advent of automatic weaponry, and imperialism combined. Luckily for the video game community, most of DICE's efforts have been A-okay in the minds of consumers. Unlike many of their real-life counterparts, many of these have been well thought out, fun, and timely affairs with very apparent financial gains at stake. For the most part, they've been well-received (again unlike their true-life cousins) and thus EA and DICE have decided to team up yet again with Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
The original 'Bad Company' came from a long line of war sims that put gamers in the shoes of a soldier on the frontlines. The Battlefield series covered everything from Vietnam to WWII all the way into the future, literally, in Battlefield 2142. The staples of the series have been their impressive visuals, the ability to drop in and out of a variety of combat scenarios (in a few games via the versatile 'hot swap'), and a number of weapons for your blasting pleasure, but Bad Company took a step towards more dynamic combat by adding destructible environments. Telling the story of a squad of wise-cracking warriors, the game favored big explosions and constant motion over tactical combat shooters like pretty much any Tom Clancy game, for instance. It was a good effort, and critics lauded it for the innovative design that allowed objectives to be attacked in unique ways. Unfortunately, the whole "War is Hell" thing was glossed over and, as a result, the lack of a serious approach isolated gamers from their jocular protagonists and kept the connection (and the action) on the surface.
Ultimately, the first Bad Company was a moderate success, and though it was DICE's first real attempt to focus primarily on console gameplay, there was a lot worth seeing. In Bad Company 2, DICE refines and expands its destructible environments, adds a slew of new weapons and bonuses, and places an emphasis on vehicle combat in hopes of giving gamers something to say about war games besides "Call of Duty is awesome!" There hasn't been a lot of playable output from DICE so far from the regular campaign, but a multiplayer beta demo, launched in mid-November, has definitely made an impression on gamers. We've learned a lot, and it appears, so has DICE.
Starting with one of the most obvious gripes about the last BC (and therefore one of the most obligatory fixes in BC2): the destructibility. This time around, structures can be flattened right down to the foundation. It seems like a small change, but it could mean big things for gameplay. Not only can walls and cover be stripped away, but you can literally bring your enemies hidey holes down around their ears. It changes the way the on-foot portion of the game is played, since snipers and grenadiers can't position themselves on invulnerable platforms as they pick you off or lob explosives on you from above. This brings us to the next point of interest: give and take.
As we all know, combat isn't just about who has the biggest, baddest weapons, but who uses them better. In BC2 gamers are constantly challenged to assess their opponent's strategy and react with appropriate weapons and tactics. There are four soldier classes (down one from the original)-Recon, Engineer, Assault, and Medics-each of which provides different weapons and secondary abilities. Recon, for instance, is essentially a sniper class that can call in air-strikes, while Engineers carry hefty rocket-launchers and can repair vehicles. Useful skills to be sure, but what use is a technical degree in the face of a Black Hawk with dual-mounted machine guns? Luckily, DICE has clearly taken great pains to balance things. Loading a UH 60 troop chopper with a slew of your pals and raining thousands of shells may seem like a good idea, but the new AA gun mounted tank could make it a bad move. That tank may resist grenades, but how might it fair against a TOE missile mounted on a rooftop? The fact is there are plenty of choices for weapons and vehicles and many of them are customizable. It's one thing BC had in spades, and BC2 is bringing back choice in style. Just because you're fighting in a desert doesn't mean you can't accessorize.
Other minor but impactful tweaks have been made, but most improvements focus on actual death-dealing gameplay. Melee attacks are mapped to a single button, enemies are easier to kill on foot, health regenerates without the injections of the first game (drug free's the way to be!) and most environments are expansive, diverse, and suited to multiple approaches to combat. There is a definite focus on combat and each of these slight adjustments, along with other bonuses like magnetic tracer darts that allow you to target a vehicle anywhere, will change the pace of battle a surprising amount. The Limited Edition (which will be available for the same SKU price as the regular edition with a pre-order) will offer weapons and enhancements like the tracer dart and improved tank armor early on, but gamers can gain the same advantage by leveling up through combat.
It may not be the app that brings MW2 down, but you shouldn't count Bad Company 2 out. There's plenty to like here, and if nothing else, there's still more we don't know than we do. DICE and EA are playing this one close to the chest for now, but what we've seen so far is enough to pique our interest. A variety of sprawling environments from Alaska to the Russian border, all-new weapons and vehicles, and a combat system scaled to tickle the fancy of even the most practical gamer definitely offer a lot to look forward to. With EA and DICE on the case, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm gonna play the odds on this one.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer