Battlefield: Bad Company 2 ReviewBy Matt Keil - Posted Mar 02, 2010
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 builds on the surprisingly destructible terrain of the first game to deliver a strongly online-driven sequel. The campaign isn't the meatiest, but the strong multiplayer will keep you coming back for more and more.
- Greatly improved destruction and level design
- Bullets now penetrate walls, changing play dynamics
- Vast unlock/reward system keeps multiplayer interesting
- Campaign feels anemic
- AI enemies lack some killer instinct.
- Still stuck talking to squad only if in an online squad
One thing is clear when you finish Battlefield: Bad Company 2: EA DICE has played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and they learned from it. The sequel to 2008’s irreverent spin on the Battlefield franchise delivers many improvements and takes some cues from Infinity Ward’s juggernaut while simultaneously mocking it. The result is a bit of an odd duck, but an appealing one.
Their Final Mission…Again
The first Bad Company was notable for being the franchise’s first serious attempt at a single player story-driven campaign. B-company members Redford, Sweetwater, Haggard and Marlowe were last seen driving away from their convoy in a truck loaded down with gold bars, but as Bad Company 2 begins, they have evidently lost the gold. What exactly happened between then and now remains a mystery, but the point is that the Bad Company mercenaries have more work to do if they ever intend to become independently wealthy, and if Redford ever intends to finally retire.
The U.S. Army recruits their services to track down a secret weapon from World War II that the Russian Federation is dangerously close to acquiring. In exchange, they’ll be allowed to return home to America, no questions asked or, more importantly, charges pressed. It’s a slightly more serious adventure than the first game, with wacky hijinks kept to a minimum in gameplay. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the superweapon in question would feel more at home in Star Trek Online than here, but it’s serviceable enough as shooter tales go. The personalities of the characters do come through in dialogue, and once again Haggard provides many of the best moments. Make sure to stop moving every now and then to listen to incidental conversations in quiet sections, when many of the lengthier discussions take place.
The campaign is much more linear and focused than Bad Company, with great care placed upon making each location feel like a real place and not just a big Battlefield map. There are rather few set piece moments and an over-reliance on scripted waves of soldiers swarming in as primary obstacles. However, the new destruction system allows buildings to be completely leveled, and the AI is willing and able to take advantage of it. Cover disappears before your eyes all too often, and combat is a matter of taking down enemies and finding somewhere to hide after the jerk with the RPG-7 blows a hole through the house you’re camping in.
Waiting for Orders
This element would be more meaningful if the AI knew what to do after it deprived you of cover. Enemies are distressingly easy to pick off at your leisure, and the entire campaign feels anemic because of it. You’ll steamroll through campaign quickly, and there’s not a whole lot of incentive to replay it unless you missed some collectible guns or didn’t blow up all the radar units and really want that achievement/trophy. It almost seems like the developers themselves knew people wouldn’t want to replay the campaign, as the achievement for finishing the game on Hard only requires you to play the final level again.
The campaign contains a number of little jabs at the Modern Warfare games, from snowmobile references to a final level on a plane, but they all ring a bit hollow. Nothing in Bad Company 2’s campaign manages to match the set piece events of the Modern Warfare games, so DICE may be better off not tempting comparisons. Bad Company is a strong enough franchise to stand on its own without repeatedly poking the 800-pound shooter gorilla with a stick.
Many will come to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for multiplayer rather than campaign, and they will not be disappointed. The experience system has been expanded beyond the standard procedure of leveling up an overall rank and unlocking cross-class weaponry. Each kit type has unique unlocks earned by using said kit successfully, as well as a vehicle XP track that awards bonuses for in-vehicle kills. Strangely, much of what you unlock early on seems to be inferior to much of what you start with. Also odd is the decision to force non-VIP players to actually unlock basic tools of each kit’s function, like the engineer’s repair gun and the medic’s first aid kit.
The maps feel smaller than Bad Company, with less emphasis on long-range tactics and more on close-in fighting. This at least means you won’t have to deal with 12 year-olds lobbing artillery shells all day, but robs the matches of some of the scope they once had. The ability to fully level a building makes Rush games (formerly known as Gold Rush) interesting, as careless (or careful, depending on your strategy) fire can leave objectives totally open on all sides. Brutal fights can break out over unprotected objectives. Bullets finally penetrate walls and other objects, so it’s a lot harder to hole up than before. The new full destruction system adds a lot to the multiplayer overall.
Can You Hear Me Now?
As with the first game, you can group into squads of four and spawn on each other to get directly into the hot spots of the battle. Once again, being in a squad only lets you use voice chat with your squadmates, not your entire team. Bad Company 2 seems to have decided to focus on squad-by-squad tactics more than full team strategy. It feels much less hopeless when your squad is the only one actually doing its job on the field. There are even new single squad modes that take full advantage of the feature, including a Squad Deathmatch that pits a number of four-man crews against one another. There’s also a Squad Rush mode, an 8-player variation of the Rush gametype, but for the first thirty days of the game’s release, it can only be accessed by preorder customers. It’s a good mode, but obviously population will be limited for the first month of availability.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 doesn’t hold too many surprises. It’s a refinement of what came before, with no truly drastic alterations to the formula. Some fans of the first game may be put off by the influence of Modern Warfare on the sequel, but it never loses the Battlefield feel in multiplayer. Despite the very likeable main characters, the single player experience remains underwhelming, especially in light of its insistence on comparing itself to Modern Warfare. That’s not what Battlefield fans are after for the most part, though. Shooter fans want large scale multiplayer with massive destructive potential, and in that department, Bad Company 2 has very little in the way of competition.