Review by BUCEnGAR

"It's like COD4 and FFOW had a love child with an extra chromosome."

This game is not as good or as bad as other reviewers would have you believe, it's a game with great potential that has fallen short in a few areas. If you're a COD4 player you will be disappointed by the lack of responsiveness from the controls. If you're a Frontlines: Fuel of War player you'll love this game as a huge upgrade over what you previously had. I play games strictly for the online multiplayer and this game was reviewed after much gameplay and unlocks.

The Objective:

The objective in multiplayer is for the attacking team to destroy sets of Gold Boxes that are defended by the opposing team. The maps are huge, and when one set of boxes is destroyed, another set spawn and become the new objectives. There are no other online options, no TeamDeath Match or the like, just attack or defend the boxes. This in itself is not all bad, but as with many things in this game, the execution is lacking in some areas.

When attacking a set of boxes the attackers have a finite set of respawns and must destroy the boxes before they have all been used up, while the defenders have an infinite number of respawns. The attackers are given more respawns if they successfully destroy a set of boxes. Here's the problem with this set-up. If you are an attacker, and say your teammates are terrible, die and respawn as quickly as they possibly can, while you try to be more strategic and stay alive, your team will quickly lose. The reality is that you have no control over your teammates and a lot of players know just enough to continually put themselves in the enemies sights, and could care less how often they die. So the end result is you going 12/4 and losing in under 8 minutes through no fault of your own. This could be easily remedied by just using a countdown timer instead, which wouldn't penalize good players for the ever-present bad players, and would add a sense of urgency to accomplish the objective which also feels lacking at times.

Out of bounds is another sore subject. When you look at your overhead map you will see the inbounds areas as white or lightly colored, and out of bounds areas as red. The problem is that you can stray into the out of bounds area at will. When you do, a 5 second timer immediately starts up. If that timer hits zero you automatically die and are accessed a -10 point penalty. Sounds pretty simple, but in actual gameplay it is surprisingly easy to end up out of bounds through hard to control vehicles or sliding down an embankment you can't climb back up. It's incredibly frustrating to desperately try to get back in bounds only to die when the timer hits zero. It's senseless. The programmers should have simply created an invisible wall around the playing area that can't be crossed and saved the players the aggravation.

Team damage is another problem area. As with all games that default to team damage on, you invite a whole host of player issues. Team killers being the most prevalent. I've seen one player shoot another player on his team just so he could use the artillery piece that was already occupied. Team damage on is also the playground for the bored and infantile, who go around and shoot unawares teammates in the back for fun. It kills the fun when one idiot on your team is a teamkiller. I've also inadvertently killed teammates. I was shooting down a hallway at an open door where the enemy was pouring in with a light machine gun when two of my teammates ran pointblank in front of me and died before I could stop shooting. I felt terrible and wondered if they realized it was their fault or were going to hunt me down and knife me in the back. When you factor in the Area Of Effect weapons you and your teammates can turn loose, you realize that team damage just has to go. COD4 has no team damage and it works just fine.

Gameplay:

Gameplay is another area that isn't terrible, but could have been vastly better. The controls are similar to COD4, but not exactly the same. This wouldn't be such a big issue if you could customize your controls, but you can't. For example, if you want to throw a grenade, you have to cycle to your grenades with the LB, then hit RT to actually throw the grenade, then cycle back to your primary weapon by hitting RB. It's overly complicated for no reason. They also decided not to use the joypad to select your various weapons and skills, and instead decided to put two functions on either bumper, so if you want to use the second skill you would double tap the bumper for the second skill or weapon. Odd. Again, I understand the desire to not completely rip-off COD4's control system, but at least give player's the option to change things around, this would seem to address both issues.

This brings me to weapons and skills. There are a very nice variety of weapons and skills to choose from, unfortunately again the execution falls short. For example, I like to use a light machine gun, but I also like to have RPGs for all the vehicles that run around on the battlefield. In this game that combination just isn't possible. If you want RPGs you'll have to use a shotgun, if you want to use a light machine gun your skill will be an artillery strike. It's just that simple. The class system which limits your skill and weapon choices is unneeded or necessary. There is no combination of weapons or skills that will create an uber-character, every skill does something different and every weapon acts differently, there is no reason you shouldn't be allowed to mix and match to your preferences. And it gets downright frustrating on the battlefield when an enemy vehicle rolls in and you have no RPGs, or you have a huge open expanse to cross armed with only a limited range shotgun.

So now you're thinking you'll just swap out your handgun for a weapon on the field, right? Wrong. Players drop duffle bags instead of weapons when they die. If you pick up the duffle bag you will lose your primary weapon and gain their's, not only that, but you also lose all your skills and gain their's. So if they were a sniper, you'll get a sniper rifle and the skill laser-guided bomb, and lose whatever your previous skill is, you adopt the new class entirely. You'll also have no idea what their primary weapon was until you swap out, so you can't just grab the duffles you like, you have to swap, then swap back to your old weapon which is now in a duffle on the ground if you don't like the weapon they had. Again it's just tedious.

When you first start playing it will be pretty disorienting. You will most likely have no idea which way to go or know what's going on, this is compounded by some of the game design features, such as tagging the enemy. If an enemy hasn't received any damage from your team he will have no indicator. That allows players to hide and snipe without being spotted, unfortunately it also allows a tank or helicopter to roll in with no enemy indicator on it, or more importantly one enemy to be in your midst and not even realize it until he's knifed two of your teammates. It's irritating at times. In some instances I'll just climb a to an overlook and "tag" enemy soldiers with my LMG even though I know I can't kill them, just to help my teammates.

Taking damage is another odd experience. There is no tracer fire at all, if you're used to COD4 where you can tell enemy fire is pouring in through a window, get that thought out of your head. There is NO tracer fire at all. This is undoubtedly what led to my friendly-fire incident. There is muzzle flash, but it seems rather puny and is not a good indicator of where your firing at. It's worse when you're fired upon and have no idea where it's coming from. The damage indicator is very vague and you have no visual to key in on, so you may run up to a window which is currently under fire, have no idea, your screen flashes red a few times and then respawn completely clueless about where you got shoot from. There are also no killcams. All of this can give you a very disconnected feel from the battlefield, and you just have to keep your eyes open and hope you spot the enemy who's shooting at you. Tracer fire could rectify this situation.

There are also no grenade indicators. This is a serious problem. I can't tell you how many times my screen just goes red and I die and the ticker informs me that a grenade killed me. You get no noise, no indicator, nothing. It just happens. That can be maddening when you're in a building with five windows on your level, you just can't watch them all. This seriously needs to be addressed.

If you're used to COD4 then you'll be amazed at the amount of damage one player can take. I've filled players up with lead, at point-blank range with an LMG, only for it to take a few seconds for the player to finally die. If they have a shotgun, they will have a decent chance to respond and possibly kill you if you don't keep your distance. Just be aware that players can take a lot of damage, and don't stop shooting until the duffle bag drops.

The overhead map also does not show gunfire. This can make it hard to determine where the enemy is firing from even if he's in the same building with you, and doesn't make much sense. If the programmers were worried about snipers being unable to hide they should just have a detection range where you can only "hear" gunfire a limited distance from your location.

If you're a Halo3 or FFOW player you'll enoy or at least be familiar with the gameplay of this game and easily acclimate to it. If you're a COD4 player it will take an adjustment period of a day or two.

Audio:

The audio is this game is average. The weapons sound decent and there is a constant thumping of bombs in the background. You can vaguely tell you are getting shot at from the audio, but you'll have no idea where it's coming from. The players don't make a lot of noise in this game and you won't be able to detect where players or gunfire is coming from based on the audio. The sound effects for the players and guns could be turned up a notch and the background noise could be turned down a bit to make it easier to distinguish what is actually happening on the battlefield.

There is also no way to turn off the annoying audio ticker which is constantly squawking at you about every ten seconds. It will inform you of every instance that the boxes are being attacked, that you are the last man in your squad, that reinforcements are running low, that tomorrow it will be cloudy with a chance of rain, etc... All of these things continuously happen at a frequent rate so the audio ticker never shuts up.

In all honesty I've just turned on the radio and shut off the audio while playing this game, that's something you could never do on COD4, as audio is a large part of enemy and gunfire detection. For some this may be a bonus, for others not so much.

On a side note, be sure to catch the opening sequence with the clouds and symphonic overture. It's excellent and looks like the intro to a good movie.

Graphics:

WOW. I mean WOW. These graphics are phenomenal. Easily on par with COD4, and far surpassing Halo, FFOW, and every other battlefield game out there. When you're driving a tank or HUMVEE the antenna's whip around, the wheels or treads fully articulate, it's nothing short of breathtaking. I have a widescreen LCD monitor and the detail is amazing. Every screenshot will look tremendous, and if you have a chance to jump on the artillery which provides an overhead satellite view of the battlefield you'll be simply amazed by the real-time tanks and players running around down below. The graphics are a ten out of ten, and set the benchmark for shooting games, along with COD4 of course.

Every visual in this game, from the battlefield, to the patches you earn, are of the highest visual quality and fit the mood and environment of the game perfectly. The visual team did a tremendous job, and it shows.

Overall:

Overall this is a game worth getting if you play online and enjoy this type of game. If this genre isn't for you, or you don't have online access, then you can skip this and hold out for Gears of War 2 without missing anything. However, if they address some of the above issues in follow-up patches then EA could make this a must-own, but only if they do. There doesn't seem to be any indication that they will, so I believe my advice will stand the test of time.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/14/08

Game Release: Battlefield: Bad Company (US, 06/23/08)


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