Blowing Things Up is Always Fun

July 1, 2008


Battlefield: Bad Company is something of a departure for a series that was born online and grew into a multiplayer legend. This game more closely resembles a traditional first-person shooter, although it doesn’t neglect the online multiplayer that can make or break a console shooter. The game essentially does what it has to do and blows things up real good.

So what’s so bad about this company? For one, your group is tasked with doing the dirtiest and most dangerous work on the front lines. It’s a thankless job, and the guys in your squad aren’t the type you’d see in recruitment commercials. You’ve got a cowardly whiner, a hillbilly who loves seeing things go boom, a long-suffering sergeant who can barely keep everyone in line, and you. As Preston Marlowe, you’re the guy who’s just kind of there when he isn’t single-handedly tearing the enemy a new one thanks to your controller inputs.

Bad Company
hits you with a lot of story, focusing on your PO’ed group going out for themselves to grab mercenary gold. There’s a lot of irreverent dialogue and plenty of jokes, so you’ll definitely get to know your fellow soldiers on more than one level. Their personalities and plights are hit or miss. If you can stand the jerks, then more power to you. If not, you’ll have to grin and try to bear it. Being stuck in place watching a bunch of cutscenes from a first-person view isn’t ideal, but it’s a huge step up from the typical Battlefield story that usually amounts to little more than, “So there’s this war…”

Bad Company’s philosophy can basically be summed up by one of its ubiquitous smiley-face grenades--blow stuff up and have fun doing it. No matter what map or mode you choose, every battlefield is highly destructible. Tanks, dirt, bridges, buildings, and even fences and sandbags explode. Even though there are still certain things that can’t be knocked down, you’re highly encouraged to see cover as temporary and discover that the quickest route between two points is as straight as the rocket flies.

Your campaign has you and your company trotting from one battlefield to another, blowing up what needs to be blown up and scouring buildings for big, shiny cases of gold that the mercenaries you’re fighting left lying around. Objectives are highlighted nice and red on your map, and you can take out targets any way you see fit. As long as you stay inside the boundaries of the mission area you can go about it any way you want, but here’s a hint anyway: you’ll probably want to blow them up.

The conquest mode that made Battlefield as a series will only be implemented as a free download later down the line, mostly thanks to incredible demand during beta testing, so players are left with one multiplayer mode called gold rush and eight maps. Fortunately, gold rush is a keeper. Teams are split into attackers and defenders, with the offense trying to blow up gold crates while the defense tries to kill the attackers. One dead attacker equals one less ticket, and when they’re all gone, it’s game over.

The maps each offer a fairly distinctive experience by mixing up buildings, geographical features, and vehicles. Multiple routes for attackers, choke points for defenders, and overall solid map design offer enough material for dedicated shooter fans to sink a few weeks into.

The online game also uses a rank and upgrade system that was started by the Battlefield series and was nearly perfected in Call of Duty 4. It awards players with experience for helping their team, which in turn leads to increased ranks and the opportunity to unlock a new weapon for the class of choice.

Finally, a class system offers players on either team five choices to be all that they can be. Some roles obviously compliment each other, such as the specialist tagging a tank or helicopter with a tracer dart which will gives the demo guy a chance to lock-on and fire a homing rocket. The support class has a nice combo of heavy machinegun and the ability to dispense health-kits, which is useful to everyone since only the assault class can unlock the ability to self-heal.

The Battlefield pedigree comes shining through here as the developers have been honing the formula for years. It definitely shows.

Back in the single-player game, think of Preston Marlowe as assault plus. You’ll always have access to the miracle healing syringe, and you’re able to juice yourself up to 100 percent every few seconds. Amazingly, the guy can also respawn repeatedly after being killed. Your teammates might be jealous, if they weren’t immortal themselves. This means it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting and make sure objectives get checked off, but most players wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bad Company has a slightly different feel than other shooters, and not just because of the much higher things-blown-up to things-not-blown-up ratio. Weapons feel powerful--especially considering how destructible most of the world is--but accuracy isn’t as unnaturally precise as it is in some other shooters and this can make weapons feel less lethal. On the other hand, fans of shotguns will be very happy at the effectiveness of their weapon.

Movement speed is pretty fast thanks to a sprint button, but because it can take a good bit of effort to take out an enemy you have to be careful at putting yourself out there. There’s also the danger that the ground you’re standing on could become a smoking crater thanks to mortar fire, airstrikes, attack helicopters, tanks, or under-barrel grenade launchers, and the list goes on.

Sometimes weapons don’t affect the environment or your enemies the way you’d expect, but there’s a nice overall balance. Ultra powerful tanks can be instantly toasted with one mine while a helicopter won’t fare too well from even one direct hit from an RPG.

While the campaign mode features allies that never die and basically do their own thing, multiplayer does benefit from communication. It’s worth noting that you can only communicate with players on your squad, which has a maximum of three teammates. The limited communication isn’t too much of an issue considering how a lot of people tend to play online, but the options that are there hold up their end of the bargain.

Unsurprisingly, the best thing Battlefield has going for it are the explosions. They look great, they sound great, and you’ll definitely know when one hits. The only complaint here is that so many things blow up so well, finding something that’s indestructible is a little disappointing.

Weapons, in general, still attack the ears just as you’d hope they would, and the English or Russian chatter is pretty believable as well. The game’s soundtrack loves to play the harmonica, which vaguely ties in with the overall vibe, but probably won’t have you dancing a victory shuffle.

As for the actual battlefields themselves, they look pretty good at eye-level and impress with their scope when viewed from a high spot. Bad Company does more than the bare minimum, but doesn’t set any new presentation benchmarks.

Bad Company
set out to deliver a successful single-player campaign, and it succeeds. This isn’t a unique feat and it’s not a new high standard, but it’s definitely a first for the series. The game’s multiplayer mode finally brings the PC experience to the consoles and will hold up for quite a while with the promise of downloadable content, but there is definitely a hole left for conquest mode to fill. Even so, this Battlefield is definitely worth returning to.