Review by MetalGearManiac

"Love is a Battlefield (game)."

The Battlefield series holds a special place in my heart. I discovered the series back when Battlefield 2 was wrapping up production. I was blown away by what I saw. The game had every nerdgasm inducing element in the book. Jets, tanks, open maps, endless squadplay possibility. Alas, my computer barley had enough juice to outpace some IBM monstrosity from 1979. Instead, I picked up every console iteration in the series. I bought Modern Combat on both the Xbox and the Xbox 360, and Bad Company 1.

I have mixed feelings about the first Bad Company. My appreciation and hesitation stemmed from the same thing. This played pretty much like the Battlefield games of old. Sure, you could blow up buildings, but this seemed like a gimmick at the time. While other series were moving into bold new territory (Modern Warfare anyone) Battlefield seemed to be stuck in a time warp. It felt plasticy, gimmicky, almost like a desperate cry of "LOOK AT OUR GAMES!! THEY'RE STILL RELEVANT!!!"

This brings me to an interesting point. By all accounts, Bad Company 2 should fall into the same category. Nothing major has changed since the first game, so why do I love this game so much? To describe why this game is so full of awesome, I must, inevitably, compare it to the other FPS-sequel-juggernaut-perpetual hype machine. Modern Warfare 2 attempted to introduce many new elements into a similar formula, whereas Battlefield added a few things, then took the core formula and polished the hell out of it. While MW2 plays like a model car hastily constructed with duct tape and silly putty, Battlefield is the one made with an exactoknife and lacquer, with less nicked fingers and ruined pants.

Battlefield has been, is now, and forever shall be an online multiplayer shooter. Yes, Bad Company 2 has a single player, but to be frank it plays like a narrative driven bot match. The AI isn't all that hot, the levels have been reduced to a linear structure (some standouts aside), and the story itself plays out like the stereotypical "Cold War goes ballistic" scenario. Bad Company 2 suffers doubly due to the removal of most of the humor from the first game. While this succeeds in making the tale of Bad Company darker, it shows that grim does not mean good.

What the story mode does offer is a glimpse at the game's graphical prowess. The first level alone will make players repeatedly go "Holy ****!!! Did that just happen???" and totally ruin that "less ruined pants" analogy I made earlier. This is a game about things that go "boom." Lighting effects are top notch, character models are well constructed, and the tech on the field looks near-identical to their real world counterparts. There is no major graphical loss in the multiplayer, with all the explosion-filled goodness playing out at a nearly constant thirty FPS. There are some problems with the graphics though. For all the detail put into the character models the faces look pretty low-res (especially the Russian medic). The Xbox version also lacks the anti-aliasing power of the PC version, and while the framerate stays at thirty most of the time, when it does dip it plummets.

Speaking of plummeting, jumping from a burning chopper is no longer a death sentence. It isn't all spit-shining and polish for BC2. DICE added a few new elements (and reintroduce others) that greatly add to the overall experience. The magical self-packing parachute from Battlefield games of old makes a return, as magical and bulletproof as ever. The four classes still represent a refined mix of BF2's seven, and are further defined in their roles. Vehicles have seen changes as well. Helicopters are no longer uncontrollable messes, and now serve a key purpose on the front. ATV's allow a pair to quickly flank around the main force and do massive damage and APC's allow a full squad to drive on in and introduce the enemy to a new 30mm friend.

All of these little things quickly add up to a game that is fantastic to play. The combat feels fluid and natural. Gravity forces snipers and tank captains to change their aim with distance. Each of the four classes give the player four different experiences, but fit together perfectly. Assault mixes frontline combat with ammo distribution, Recon provides spotting intel from afar and C4 'splosions up close, Engineers fix your tanks while blowing theirs up, and Medics use defibrillators to give downed teammates some 400 joule lovin'. Different combinations provide very different armies. Adaptation in Battlefield is key. This isn't like Modern Warfare where you can pick a niche and stick to it. Players will have to be prepared to fill any role at any time.

As I've hinted before, vehicles play a key role in Bad Company 2. Many times a good player in the right machine can change the course of a battle. Many times two teams will be bogged down around an objective, and a nothing helps move the line forward like an Abrams. All of the different forms of transport handle well, and feels as they should. An ATV feels nimble, and a skilled player can dodge all kinds of gunfire. Tanks on the other hand feel capable of rolling over anything in sight, and thanks to improved physics models, they no longer get stuck on small rocks or the stray fencepost.

It no longer takes over nine thousand bullets to down someone. Bullets feel powerful, especially when you get into the higher caliber ammunition. A regenerating health system has been implemented, but the healing process is very slow without aid from a medic. This makes sure that combat wounds quickly add up, and that players cooperate as a team. If a medic is nowhere to be seen, you better get your ass behind some glass... or plaster, or wood. Anything to stop the onslaught of lead headed toward your.... head. I'm going to stop now... Don't worry. You're safe now.

That is, until someone decides to launch an explosive your way. Bad Company 2's biggest asset is Destruction 2.0. Powered by DICE's Frostbite engine, it allows buildings to go from safe hiding spots to piles of rubble. This is probably the element that saw the most refinement from BC1 to BC2. Cover can be taken out in small chunks, houses can be flattened, and different material acts in realistic ways. Destruction gives each battle a different flare. Entire strategies depend on which structures are still standing. For example, in a game of Rush (Battlefield's Attack/Defend mode), the attackers objective is located within a building.

The offensive team has a choice. Do they risk funneling in troops through a narrow corridor, or blow out a wall to allow for easy access? But, if the wall is blown out, the attackers will have a harder time defending the bomb. Do they spend the extra time to try and straight-up level the building, risking a ticket loss? This doesn't even take into account all the surrounding landscape, potential snipers nests, engineers setting AT traps, and much more. Such a level of destructibility gives the teams a level of freedom beyond the open maps. Choke points are only choke points as long as the choked team doesn't get frisky with the C4. An attack can be ruined if an enemy tank decides to bring down the house.

This game is a symphony of death and destruction, and that extends to the sound as well. This is, bar none, the best audio in a videogame to date. Everything besides some weather sounds is player created. There is no filler gunfire going off in the background. All the cracks, whistles, and booms are coming from your teammates. Each gun sounds unique, with enough practice the player can identify exactly what is shooting at any time. The distance distortion is fantastic, with the sounds of battle growing louder and more distinct the closer you get. There is nothing more epic then a match on Nelson Bay (a night map) when all the gunfire dies off, then a shot or two rings out, then it swells as the Russkies and Americans wage war in Alaska. And the miniguns.... they are guaranteed to make you have what Top Gear presenters like to refer to as "a crisis."

There are some sticking points to address. First off, while online is usually lag free, these are EA Servers we're talking about. Turning on Bad Company 2 is a crap shoot. Sometimes the servers will be up, sometimes they won't. There will be times where a map will fully load, and then kick you back to the dashboard with no warning or error message. Sometimes children will get fixated on the Recon class and prove to be little more then ghillied paperweights. And far too often, people refuse to spot, much less use a headset, ruining the teamwork necessary for a successful game. In time these issues will be addressed, but for now they are blemishes on an otherwise amazing game.

This is not a knee-jerk game by any means. Battles are not decided by who has the fastest reflexes, the best connection, or the more powerful gun. In Battlefield, cooperation and a well placed AT mine will prove the difference between victory and defeat. This is not that plastic, gimmicky game that came out back in 2008. DICE has shown the world that sequels do not have to follow the tried and true path of "cram more in". Bad Company 2 is not a revolution in FPS gamine, but rather it is an evolution. It's explosive, it's gripping, it's amazing, and it's well worth the cost of admission.

Buy/Rent/Avoid Like Hell: Buy
My Score: 9.4
Integer Value: 9

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/19/10

Game Release: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (US, 03/02/10)

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