Review – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a massive improvement over its predecessor. Offering a superlative single-player experience and a highly varied and exciting multiplayer component, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a great shooter that offers longevity and bang for your buck.

Story: Bad Company 2 follows the exploits of four Army misfits who have wound up together as “cannon fodder”, finding themselves consistently thrown into inexcusably difficult situations. These four characters find themselves in Siberia as Bad Company 2 opens, infiltrating a Russian-held village to track down a U.S. operative. When the operative is caught and killed, Bad Company seeks to escape the village and soon happen a prototype of a super weapon used by the Japanese in World War II. Upon returning from the mission, they are assigned to Special Operations and find themselves traveling to Bolivian jungles, the Andes, the Atacama Desert and finally, an embattled city.

Bad Company 2 is a basic story of a Russian superpower attempting to take over the world and four men whose only job is to prevent the Russians from getting their heads on a working version of the weapon. The story is pulled straight from Hollywood action flicks. It isn’t intelligent, but it also isn’t convoluted and full of twists. Bad Company 2’s story draws its strength from its simplicity and from its characters. The four members of Bad Company, Sarge, Sweetwater, Haggard and the protagonist, Preston Marlowe, are completely likable and while often cliche, the characters inject enough life into the story to make you like them.

Sarge is a grizzled veteran with a penchant for shaking his head at the situation on hand. Haggard is a Texan with a powerful love for his country, and more importantly, for Texas and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Sweetwater is a wisecracking techie who revels in each new discoveries and takes childlike joy in being assigned to Special Operations. And your character, Preston Marlowe, is a young recruit who takes the attitude that you finish what you started and often bites with a sarcastic jab at his teammates. These characters are simplistic but funny enough to carry along the story and you do feel as though you know the people you’re fighting with, which helps make the situations feel more organic.

Scenery: The scenery in Bad Company 2 is outstanding. The original Bad Company was saddled with larger settings that were also, as a result, more generic. Wide-open Russian fields and mountains have given way to tropical islands, Arctic villages, heavy jungles filled with parrots and plagued with heavy thunderstorms, blisteringly cold mountain peaks, gorgeous fall scenery and dry desert encasing what was once a harbor. The scenes are diverse and quite beautiful throughout the game and these scenes add to the story by making a compelling world to fight in.

Action: The action in Bad Company 2 is excellent. Guns sound incredibly realistic and there are plenty of little details that add to the authenticity of fighting. A sniper shot will fell an enemy and, a second later, the sound of that shot will reach the player in a loud crack that whispers across the map.

Buildings explode violently, and this adds an element of difficulty to the game. It is impossible to just sit behind a wall, jump up, shoot an enemy, and crouch again. A well-placed grenade or rocket will demolish your cover and can even bring the building down around you. Furthermore, bullets can pierce walls, which adds an element of satisfaction to the game – and frustration if you are on the receiving end. Shooting an enemy through a wall is a satisfying experience because it reminds you that this world is realistic. Walls crumble, bullets pierce wood and wallboard, and gas tanks explode violently.

The action is heated. Enemies come pouring at you and there are numerous moments that induce sweating and worry as it just seems that too many men are bearing down on your position. Every battle is tense and chaotic, as it should be.

Furthermore, Bad Company 2 incorporates numerous different battle situations. At one point you control a tank and get to blast away at anything in your path and in another instance you take control of a helicopter gunship. The diversity of these experiences was fantastic, but short lived. I can only complain that there weren’t several more instances in which I had the opportunity to enjoy taking out enemies from a distance.

Multiplayer Excellence: The multiplayer aspect of Bad Company 2 is excellent. The Battlefield series has always featured strong multiplayer, but the series’ last outing, Bad Company, cut down on the number of multiplayer modes, including only one, Gold Rush, with its initial release. While Gold Rush was enjoyable, I found myself missing Conquest, which was my favorite mode in the old games.

Bad Company 2 features a diverse range of maps that are absolutely huge and it features a wide range of four different modes. Players can commandeer helicopter gunships, tanks, jeeps, buggies and of course, they can engage in ground combat.

My favorite modes were, of course, Conquest and Rush. But the inclusion of Squad Deathmatch and Squad Rush added an extra factor to the multiplayer, which I believe people will be playing for a long time. The multiplayer aspect of Bad Company 2 is excellent. I would go so far as to say it is one of the best multiplayer experiences available and as such, Bad Company 2 is a worthwhile purchase even for gamers who don’t plan on ever playing the single player campaign.

Linear Design: The Battlefield series is known for large, open-world maps, but Bad Company 2’s single player campaign is hampered by linearity. The game’s missions take place in vast, gorgeous settings such as the jungles of Bolivia and the Atacama Desert of Chile, but these settings are largely eye candy. The game funnels you down a certain path, and even in more open maps such as the Atacama Desert, the openness is artificial. You can drive your buggy across the open desert, but eventually you’ll reach a point where you have to abandon the vehicle and walk through narrow canyons while you come under fire. There is no way around these sections, and Bad Company 2 suffers from employing the same old shooter tactics that we’ve seen for fifteen years.

Bad Company 2 would have benefitted from having these deliciously beautiful environments on an expanded scale. Far Cry, which was released in 2004, enabled gamers to explore vast tropical islands and tackle situations in any number of ways. While inevitably you had to kill people on each mission, you could also avoid combat if the odds were against you. You could crawl through the jungle and sneak around a military base. You could snipe a guard from a distance, move to another point in the woods, and then target a group of soldiers as they came into the woods searching for you. Bad Company 2 would have benefited enormously from realizing that the openness of its multiplayer levels would be beneficial in the single-player campaign in order to allow for a diverse, replayable experience in which numerous paths to success lay before the player.

Die, Die, Die! Unfortunately, while Bad Company 2 features fast and furious action, some aspects of the gameplay are just plain wonky. Enemies will take four or five shots to the chest, will stumble, stand up, and charge at you again. I would much rather face a great number of enemies who die after a realistic one or two chests than have to face the frustration of shooting an enemy six, seven, or eight times before they finally hit the ground for good.

Beyond that, one weapon in particular is insanely and unrealistically powerful: the shotgun. While wielding the shotgun in Marlowe’s hands is like wielding a normal shotgun – i.e. enemies who are near to the weapon will go down in a heap but enemies more than 50 paces away seem hardly to feel it – the enemy seems to have super-powered shotguns. In one particular level I stood on a hilltop more than a few hundred yards from an enemy force. I sniped at them and suddenly a barrage of shotgun shells hit me. I noticed that the enemy shooting at me was among those foes hundreds of yards away. Enemies with shotguns ought to be ineffective at anything but close range, and fortunately, while I didn’t die from far-away shotgun snipes, it took me out of the moment when I was hit with a sniper-like shotgun because of his vastly unrealistic the situation was.

Endgame: As excellent as Bad Company 2’s single-player experience is, the final mission is a bit of a letdown in terms of both difficulty and ambition. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but while the ending itself was enjoyable, the final mission was short, easy, and not nearly as dramatic as the rest of the game.

Overall, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is an excellent game. It’s single player story both pokes fun at its competition and provides a fairly straightforward, intriguing journey. The settings of the single player experience are marvelous to behold and the sheer destruction of the world around you is throughly enjoyable and adds a new dimension to the duck-and-cover conventions of old.

Bad Company 2 is only hampered by mostly minor quibbles and the only glaring complaint I have is the linearity of the single-player experience given Battlefield’s history of providing large, open worlds. The developers at DICE could have allowed for greater diversity in choice and approach by opening the levels to exploration and cover, allowing for replayability and a break in shooter convention.

Nonetheless, the pro’s of this game vastly outweigh the con’s. It is a multiplayer experience that will prove to be durable and enjoyable for years to come and that alone is worth the purchase price. Beyond that, the single player storyline is vastly improved upon the first and the graphics are quite frankly, gorgeous. I highly recommend Battlefield: Bad Company 2.


* We reviewed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the Xbox 360. It was developed by DICE and published by EA and is available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC for $59.99 ($49.99 PC).

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