Review by superfootdog
"Entertaining to a Limited Extent"
Entertaining to a Limited Extent
Battlefield: Bad Company is an FPS generally structured around the game's engine of environmental, particularly building, destruction. It follows the story of a rogue squad from Bad Company, essentially the military's cannon fodder division. In the squad's early travels, they come across a mercenary division who are paid in pure gold bars. Overtaken by greed, the entire squad goes AWOL in attempt to secure for themselves more of their golden loot. A chaotic tale of betrayal war, humor, loyalty, and, more than anything else, all-consuming greed ensues.
Graphics are rather impressive, most certainly above par. Environments are vast and feature an exceptional level of texture. Inanimate objects are consistently the same. Character models, however, were designed slightly awkwardly, and don't quite look human, mainly in their facial features. This wouldn't have bothered me extensively, except that the game was inconsistent in exactly how the character's looked inhuman. The clearest example of the awkward inhumanness is the squad captain, Redford, whose drooping eyes and pronounced yet flat features reminded me very much of an old dog. Other characters, mainly enemy models, looked so hard they appeared almost alien.
Animations, in general, are quite beautiful. The fires, destruction, enemy-reactions all were spot-on. Standard character animations (running, jumping, et cetera) appeared a bit speeded up, almost old movie style, but not quite enough for it to be an issue. Another slight issue was the glitching, teleporting, sticking, et cetera, et cetera, but it wasn't too pervasive. What bothered me most were the guns (which I shall also go over in the sound and gameplay sections they were highly problematic in this game). The recoil, bullets, and firing of machine guns appeared to be going at all different rates, and since guns played such a pivotal role in this game, this was impossible to avoid notice. Overall, however, graphical presentation was well put together and generally impressive.
Generally, everything sounded pretty damn good. The music wasn't particularly memorable (actually I don't remember any of the music), but I do remember it putting just the right mood to most battling. So it served its purpose. I do remember a pretty hectic battle across a bridge that I noticed a glaring absence of music on. And since I spent quite a while on that checkpoint, that was pretty disappointing. But other than that, music served its purpose quite well.
Effects were just gorgeous, particularly in multiplayer, where the cacophony of distant firefights and explosions created a perfect war-zone atmosphere. Gun firing sounded rather realistic, as did the sound of their impacts off of various materials. However, the firing was constantly out of sync with what was occurring on-screen, which was extremely frustrating. I remember once hearing a tank cannon's report roughly a full second after the animation of its firing.
Voice acting was superb as well, the character's voices fitting their appearance and personas exceptionally well. Haggard's in particular was memorable: light-hearted, with a slight drawl, and just a bit husky, while still being high-spirited, which fit his stubborn, joking, slightly stupid, and lackadaisical character like a glove. The Russians pretty much sounded like Russians, and since I didn't have any idea of what they were saying, I didn't pay too much attention to their voices, but I was never dissatisfied with them, and didn't mind that they all sounded the same. But this is nonetheless a flaw on an otherwise perfect voice acting report.
Contrary to what my intro might have suggested, the story was a bit nonsensical, and it never explained many key points of the story. Examples of this were the crime that landed your character in Bad Company, which was almost completely ignored after the very beginning. Another rather important point that was missed in the story was exactly why we were at war. That said, the bad guys were Russian, so I'm not sure if an explanation was even necessary. Despite these major plot holes, the game managed to save itself by keeping itself very light and out of the way, typically making jokes of itself whenever it did come up, and clever ones, at that.
The characters were genuinely engaging and interesting, if not very well explored. They had interesting relationships with each other (my favorite was most definitely Sweetwater's obsession with radio operator Juliet), and seemed genuinely human, except whilst in combat, at which times they were entertainingly humorous
While I very much appreciated the humor of the story and its setting, I have a personal obsession with the depth of a storyline, which this game purposely avoided, but it did remarkably well in spite of this, even offering a slight moral message on humanity's destructively greedy nature.
Everything about this game's gameplay seemed to be in the right spot: it features a variety of weapons, AI that consistently runs from decent to intelligent, varying environments that could be blown apart if tactically necessary or just for a bit of extra fun whilst dealing with a situation. A few unfortunate mistakes kept this game from glory.
I experienced some major issues with the single player mode. A large problem was vehicle control I quite often confused getting out with switching seats (which was necessary to fire any guns), and, provided the large role that vehicles play in the game, this could constantly be problematic. The firefights in single player seemed poorly designed, often set-up in a way that discouraged any spontaneous actions or risky behaviors, instead heavily encouraging a slowly-paced, long-range firefight until almost all of enemy resistance had been taken out or at the very least been severely damaged. Two things that supported this method were the fixed health bar with a health shot that fully restored one's health and could be used once every thirty seconds and took about 5 seconds to deploy and get back to your weapon, and the respawn, as opposed to restart-at-the -latest-checkpoint, punishment for death. What I mean by this is that is that instead of being put at the game's last chronological checkpoint, with all of the obstacles still in place, you would be placed back at a point with all the damage you've dealt still there and your ammo still spent. While this is sometimes used as a brilliant mechanic, as it was in BioShock, in Battlefield: Bad Company, it was in many ways a far worse punishment than traditional death, as one's respawn point was often hundreds and hundreds of yards away from your death. This forced the player to make a several minute-long trudge back to the battlefield. This exemplified itself in a particularly terrible firefight that involved a wide open field and some snipers hidden in some shrub on the other side. I would take several minutes after each death getting back to the site, only to be treated with a cheap death as I reached it. Needless to say, the single-player action was a disappointment in many ways.
Another considerable issue was the flaunted destruction engine. There was no total destruction (the frame of the building and anything leading to another floor always stayed intact), buildings were destroyed in obviously pre-set squares that were very large and quite awkward, and each explosion could only destroy one of these squares. I remember a rather non-entertaining, self-made game of trying to aim a rocket on the cross section of four squares, and seeing which one would be destroyed (I don't know if this was just my game, my aim, or the programming, but it was always the lower left). While this is a clear step above no destruction whatsoever, a game that advertises itself for its destructive capabilities should have a better engine. Despite such problems, I still found the environmental destruction to be a highly useful and entertaining gameplay mechanic.
The clearest and most unfortunate of the problems with gameplay mechanics were the guns. They never felt right. Whereas call of Duty 4 is a perfect example of how guns should feel in a video game, with perfect volume, timing, recoil, animations, remote vibration, damage ratios, etc, giving the feeling of one actually firing a gun, Battlefield: Bad Company is quite the opposite. In order to avoid damaging my preciously preconceived notion of guns, I began to tell myself that I was not in fact using a gun, but instead a long-ranged metal weapon. I truly did find that much fault with it.
On the other spectrum of the gameplay (that would be the good one), weapons were extremely varied, each level sporting a couple of unique weapons, such as tight-spread shotguns, machine pistols, super-accurate rifles, grenade launchers, etc, etc. Such weapons added some much needed variety to the otherwise rather standard, sometimes monotonous, gameplay, although not quite enough to make it exciting. Adding to the variety were the multitude of land, sea, and air vehicles, which, while sometimes awkward to handle, added another level of much needed tactical depth. Squad AI was brilliant, often seeming to read my mind and take the initiative of raiding a certain structure, or providing cover fire at the exactly correct moment. While I have a creeping sensation that I may have been experiencing a series of lucky flukes, I nonetheless felt very impressed by the squad's AI.
With multiple collectibles, including gold bars and unique guns, the single-player mode boasts a rather extensive amount of replay value on its own. However, paired with the brilliantly designed objective-based online multiplayer (complimented, of course, by standard team- and free-for-all deathmatches), Battlefield: Bad Company has nearly limitless replay value. Unfortunately, anything replayed still suffers from the same faults it began with.
While Battlefield: Bad Company isn't necessarily a bad game on any level, several smaller faults, primarily in the gameplay, limit the potential entertainment the game could provide. But that is my personal opinion. I was bothered by the incorrect feel the guns gave more than any other aspect, and to others, this is much less of an issue. If you would agree that a small flaw like that could ruin an otherwise great gaming experience, by all means heed my advice and steer clear of this game. However, if you feel as if you wouldn't have a much of an issue with this, I would recommend at least renting the game, as it has much to offer.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 08/25/09
Game Release: Battlefield: Bad Company (US, 06/23/08)
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