Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Return of the Four

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 sports some outmoded design elements, but it can still deliver a magnificent shooter experience.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: March 8, 2010
page 1 page 2   next
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter that depicts modern military engagements. Within this genre, a couple of heavy hitters have been released on the PlayStation 3 as of late, so one may wonder what this particular simulation of dudes shooting other dudes brings to the table that sets it apart. In short, the key factors are crazy vehicular mayhem, amazing sound design, fun weaponry, and even a bit of personality.

Most of our praise is reserved for the multiplayer portion of the game, as the singleplayer campaign is laden with a few classic shooter missteps. The basic flow of events when playing alone consists of being funneled through very restrictive and linear environments, and advancing whenever all nearby hostiles are dead. This is pretty standard, although Bad Company 2 does a worse job of hiding it than most of the current competition. Another thing it fails to hide is the scripting involved.

It's always depressingly obvious when you have crossed the invisible line that causes the next group of enemies to appear; sometimes they spawn from thin air directly before your eyes. It's dismaying to see this in a high budget game in 2010, as few things can sabotage verisimilitude as thoroughly as humans blinking into existence. The player's AI-controlled squadmates similarly defy logic, as they would be entirely useless if not for their powers of teleportation and their total immunity to physical harm.

Another old-fashioned shooter problem is the lack of enemy variety. Usually, games that focus on war can get away with a little cloning due to the homogeneous appearance of uniformed military personnel. This doesn't work so well here, because most of Bad Company 2 is spent fighting mercenary forces who are meant to have a rag-tag appearance. There should be some individuality among the cannon fodder, but instead you fight Bandanna Guy, Boonie Hat Guy and Ski Mask Guy endlessly.

The solo portion of the game is not all bad news; there are positive qualities to the campaign that offset the failures. For one, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 looks good. Nothing in the game has particularly amazing fidelity, but it still gives off a good visual impression overall due to high quality effects, like sophisticated lighting and shadows, and nice explosions and smoke.

Everything in Bad Company 2 sounds amazing. The sounds of war are intense and of stellar quality, but what really makes the audio stand out is the way acoustic spaces are simulated. I don't know if there is some kind of physical modeling happening in real time, or if it's all faked, but the result is fantastic either way. Explosions have tons of bass, and the crack of a distant sniper rifle seems to tear through the air after a moment's delay. Your own weapon noises even appear to reflect around the environment in a much more natural way than the usual reverb effects that one finds in games.

Musically, Bad Company 2 can be overwrought at times, but the production quality is very high. The same goes for the storytelling. Most of the plot is delivered through frequent cutscenes, and they are all well-produced, with good animation and camerawork, and very good voice acting. The dialogue is even pretty clever much of the time, but falls apart whenever something is meant to seem important or dramatic. There are a few points when characters deliver utterly cringe-inducing "inspirational" speeches.

The dialogue is at its best when it is completely unrelated to the story. There is a lot of incidental speech, most notably from your own squad, and it can be hilarious, though you'll have to make a point to stand around between fights in order to hear it. B Company has a ton of character, and they carry out some deliciously inane exchanges about a variety of topics from professional wrestling to their own personal foibles. They are always a pleasure to listen to, and through these pointless conversations it is easy to grow attached to them, in spite of the fact that nothing much of interest happens in the overall plot.

Vehicles have always been a strong element of the Battlefield series, and they are used well in Bad Company 2. Whereas in most military shooters the vehicular sequences feel tacked on and irritating, they are always a pleasure here. The tanks, jeeps and all-terrain vehicles handle nicely and are employed in exciting ways. It would have been nice to have more opportunities to pilot air and sea vehicles in the campaign, but you are at least afforded a taste of each.
page 1 page 2   next