Battlefield: Bad Company
Battlefield is back on the consoles, and this time it’s exclusive. With Battlefield: Bad Company, EA DICE has taken a new approach by trying to create a convincing singleplayer campaign in addition to their standard multiplayer-oriented affair. Using the new Frostbite engine, everything in the game is almost 90% destructible, which allows for all kinds of new approaches to fight the enemy. While everything else is the same old style of the previous games, several console-oriented ideas have been incorporated to make the game more accessible and open to everyone.
Bad Company‘s story is simple enough, and takes inspiration from movies like Three Kings, in which a group of soldiers try to steal gold behind enemy lines. In the first mission, you meet B-Company, the regiment of misfits that the main character has joined. Players take the role of Preston, who was just transferred in. The other members of B-Company are the crazy demolitions expert Haggard, the smart and annoying Sweetwater, and the gruff yet logical Seargant Redford, who didn’t do anything wrong, but transferred in order to get early retirement. After finding a gold bar inside the pocket of a supposedly “Russian” enemy, Sweetwater believes that the enemy is actually a large mercenary group where each member is paid in gold bars. After seeing a truck drive away with a shipment of gold bars, B-Company gives chase in hopes of procuring the riches.
One of the great things about Bad Company‘s singleplayer is the fact that there is really no penalty for dying. You instead respawn, sometimes even inside a vehicle, at the last checkpoint. This makes it much easier to get back intro the fray. The destructible environments also make for more interesting choices when assaulting a base. If I see a fence, I can just knife through it; if I see a wall, I can just blow it up with a grenade. Instead of making the destructible environments gimmicky like Red Faction, it instead incorporates it very well by just having it there if you want to use it. It’s amazing to see an enemy base after you’ve destroyed half of it with mortar strikes and grenades, and though there are still some things that will just not break, a great deal of the world can be blown up. The campaign itself is about average length, maybe taking an hour or two for each mission, with a total of seven missions.
The controls are fairly good, especially on the DualShock 3, with the only thing missing being the ability to go into the prone position, something that would have made sniping a lot more efficient. Also, the d-pad is not used for anything other than taking screenshots in multiplayer, which feels like it could have been used for more. Vehicles seem more manageable than the previous Modern Combat games, and even flying the helicopter isn’t nearly as difficult.
Battlefield: Bad Company‘s online mode is similar to any other entries in the series, though this one in particular feels close to a light and lean version of Battlefield 2. Only one mode is available at this time, which is Gold Rush, though DICE has announced that the popular Conquest mode will return in DLC format. Gold Rush is based around the concept of two teams, one defending and one attacking, with the objective of the attacking team to blow up crates of gold spread throughout the map. As each set of gold crates in a base are destroyed, a new base for the defenders opens up and the combat zone grows. While Gold Rush is entertaining, being the only mode makes it grow tiresome, especially due to how most people play Battlefield games with less stress on completing objectives. It’s odd to see the game ship without anything else, and hopefully Conquest mode won’t be the only new gametype added in the future.
The class system is still present, though there are some odd choices. The Assault, Recon, and Specialist classes are your basic soldier, sniper, and spec-ops classes, but the two other classes, Support and Demolitions, are confusing. The Support class wields a machine gun, medkits, and a repair tool, which makes him seemingly three different classes that don’t mix very well in one. The Demolitions class is also odd, as it is effectively the Anti-Tank and Engineer from BF2 comprised into one class. Also, there has been a lot of watering down in the effectiveness of rockets and mines, the latter of which can be seen so easily without much effort, thus making them nearly useless.
Each class has a number of gun options available, though you need to either unlock them via ranking up, or for some of them, you need to either own the Gold edition of the game or complete the Find All Five contest, which is open to anyone. My only problem with the unlock system is that you also need to unlock class-specific items, such as mines or mortar strikes, which should just be available from the start. None of the unlocks feel particularly overpowered compared to the stock guns, though they’re still generally better choices.
With the PS3 version, there is PSN integration as well as “squad” support, which are effectively parties. Each party can hold up to four players, and players can only use voice chat with players in their squad. The squad system seems to be buggy, at least on the PS3 version of Bad Company. I’ve had numerous problems joining or having people join parties, and hopefully this can be fixed in the future. If you’re playing alone, you’ll be assigned to a squad after joining up, which can be frustrating because you aren’t allowed to leave or join other squads. Voice commands are done automatically, which means if a player spots an enemy tank and attacks it, the message will be relayed to their teammates.
There seem to be other PS3-specific issues not apparent in the 360 version, such as a sound glitch that stops all sound until the game is restarted. I’ve encountered this only once thankfully, but it really needs to be patched. Another bug I’ve encountered involves headsets. On many occasions, either my or a party member’s headset will stop function randomly, and there seems to be no fix other than to leave the session and rejoin. Lag can be an issue as well, but this could be due to the recent release.
Everything seems to be above average visually, including a wide array of palettes and effects that set the mood for each map, which gives them their own distinct feel. The framerate is smooth, with no dips or sporadic changes. The dialog is one of the more amusing points of the game, especially Haggard’s lines. The game has a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humor going for it, which allows it to be more enjoyable to most people rather than the gritty, overly realistic world in many other wartime first person shooters.
DICE has done a wonderful job with their first truly original release on the consoles with Battlefield: Bad Company, but like many of their other games, it still has a few snags. It’s worth picking up as a nice ‘Summertime FPS’ for the simple and fun gameplay, and it will likely keep you occupied until some of the bigger shooters drop in the Fall. More content can expand the multiplayer to new heights, though, and it seems there are big plans with DLC in the future. Without much competition right now, Bad Company is a surprisingly fun and well designed effort.