Brilliant multiplayer game modes; balanced soldier kits; destructible environments.
Uninspired single-player; slow multiplayer-server browser; check-point save games.
We hold the Battlefield franchise close to our hearts—Battlefield 1942 revolutionized online warfare, and Battlefield 2 is one of the best multiplayer shooters of all time. But the series hasn’t fostered another winner in recent memory. That’s why we were a little apprehensive about playing the newest Battlefield game, Bad Company 2 (a sequel to a console-only spin-off title). But despite fears that this was just going to be a knockoff of Activision’s Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2 stands on its own as a refined Battlefield experience that’s worthy of its pedigree.
In fact, Bad Company 2 prides itself in being different from Modern Warfare 2, something it goes out of its way to point out in the 13-mission single-player campaign. That’s right—this is the first PC Battlefield game with a story. The Bad Company in the game’s name refers to you and your squad of four misfit soldiers, sent across snowy mountains and humid jungles in search of a stolen Japanese superweapon.
This fanciful MacGuffin serves to drop you and your AI-controlled squadmates into firefights where the game can show off its big technical achievement: destructible environments. Entire buildings can crumble to ruins under the force of grenades or tank shells, making the safety of cover feel very ephemeral during the frequent firefights. We could be sniping enemies from the window of a house and a second later that entire side of the house might be blown away. Alternatively, we also found that we could blow holes in walls to escape from deadly situations, too.
But aside from this novel use of environment and cover, there’s not much else to Bad Company 2’s campaign that sets it apart from other shooters. Extremely linear map design, an overabundance of rail-shooter segments, and generically incompetent enemies make the game feel like a dated console port. We had the impression that the developers were so intent on showcasing level destruction in the action scenes that they didn’t have time to develop any other innovations.
It’s also peculiar that the single-player campaign doesn’t train you for the multiplayer game, which is where Bad Company 2 really shines. This is pure Battlefield—16-vs.-16 matches that emphasize teamwork, tactics, and solider-class specialization. The Rush mode, for example, sends a team of attackers to destroy a series of targets, each successful assault opening the map to additional objectives. Squad Deathmatch is another uniquely fun mode that pits four teams against each other in a free-for-all.
In each gameplay type, we found that the best teams were the ones that effectively used the squad system, sending Engineers in the lead with vehicles, Assault-class soldiers around buildings to flank, and Recon snipers to safe vantage points to spot enemies. The lone-wolf mentality won’t take you far. In this regard, the game doesn’t differ much from previous Battlefield games, but it’s nonetheless great fun.
Bad Company 2 plays like an evolutionary step in the series, taking what we loved about Battlefield 2 and streamlining it in a game that appeals to both PC and console gamers. We just wish the developers dropped the solo campaign entirely to bring some real innovation to the multiplayer game. But for that, we’ll just have to wait for Battlefield 3.