March 15, 2010

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The franchise famous for giving the middle finger to ‘Call of Duty‘ comes back for more. Do destructive environments and controllable vehicles a franchise killer make? More after the jump.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 PS3 video game image (2).jpgIf ever there was a reason not to judge a book by its cover, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BBC2) is it. Quite frankly, the beta multiplayer was crap. Poor graphics, shoddy controls, and a convoluted vehicle interface and combat system did little to make this a must-purchase.

Hot damn!; it’s good to be proven wrong. The finished version of BBC2 is a finely tuned first person shooter machine (thank you, Bobby Boucher), a terrific alternative to the gaming wonderment of ‘Modern Warfare 2.’ For the purposes of being useful, this review will emphasize comparisons between the two premium franchises.

DICE’s much-touted Frostbite environment engine delivers as promised. Watching fences splinter away, buildings topple, and grass blades shoot up into the abyss combine to add an element of realism sorely missed in the ‘Call of Duty’ world. The result is a cover system that – at last – acts as intended. Temporary solace from a firepower sonata…but one that thankfully removes the lurker stupidity plaguing its strongest competitor. Endlessly crouch behind a crate? Homey don’t play that, in this iteration.

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Morever, BBC2 places a premium on vehicle interactions, with tanks, helicopters, quad bikes, remote control drones all ready and waiting to play with. BBC2 solidly balances vehicle ying for yang, meaning heavy firepower will meet its match rather fast on the other end of the scoped target. Realistically, large vehicles quickly become large burial grounds if over relied on. Tanks get lit up by mortar fire. Attack copters shot out of the sky. They die, you die.

The result is a cat and mouse game for the adventurous, of foot soldiers methodically picking off their much bigger, slower counterparts. I found myself hopping in and out of vehicles to succeed, a staccato of damage that kept my cover and damage potential fluid.

In turn, BBC2 plays a very different game than its Call of Duty counterpart in both campaign and multiplayer modes. The former tells the tale of a search for a World War 2 relic long forgotten but equally as apocalyptic potent. As a nice creative touch, BBC2 opens in the role of the original protagonists and environments, transitioning the story and gameplay to modern day weapons and roles. Versus EA’s ‘Army of Two,’ the ‘Bad Company’ team of four packs both personality and team play brains.

As our merry men of ass kickers transition from snowbound Russia to Bolivia, it’s clear how much effort DICE put into its beautiful engine. The environments are fantastic, weapons unique, gameplay tight. Not as smooth as Call of Duty in terms of character movement and firing mechanics, but this an engine emphasizing interactions, not protagonists. Still, these deficiencies are glaring for Call of Duty veterans.

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Multiplayer is where it really gets interesting. With a premium on environments and vehicle interactions, rampage killers are – hallelujah! – nowhere to be found. BBC2 is devoid of the hosers crowding Call of Duty servers and gamerooms, of cheap ‘javelin’ or sniper killers. BBC2 multiplayer maps are ENORMOUS; the Limited Edition includes a slew of goodies to add to the mix.

Spawning is novel, allowing the recently deceased to tag team positions with any surviving teammate…including inside manned vehicles he/she is driving. Coolness is respawning to instantly man turrets in tanks, guns in choppers. A Grade A-way to re-enter the battlefield, to say the least.

Coolness, however, comes at a price. With all the carnival mayhem of vehicles and exploding environments, BBC2 multiplayer lacks the quick trigger, endless bullets flying of Modern Warfare 2. Leveling up likewise takes an eternity; this is a not a Battlefield for the impatient.

Unfortunately, BBC2 suffers from the same childish norms as its shooter compatriots. Leveling up occurs in four distinct character classes…although the absence of solid teamplay on BBC2 delineates any advantage class dynamics can provide. Sigh; idiot, pre-pubescent adolescents screaming profanities, rap soundtracks playing through headset volumes. Yup, same ol’, same ol’ online multiplayer. If there are legitimate, adult players out there in the multiplayer world, I’d be grateful if they emerged from the online aether.

As a whole, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a very different game from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Better in some ways – environmental engine, vehicles – worse in others – less control feel, delayed upgrade system. For Modern Warfare veterans, it’s hard not to recommend Battlefield: Bad Company 2. First person shooter noobs will find a lot to like here. Well done, EA.


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