Boys with guns. It doesn’t matter whether you’re five, fifteen or fifty, the appeal of pretending you’re in the army and taking potshots at your enemies never seems to wane and the gaming industry has shamelessly exploited that desire from the early days of Wolfenstein and Doom to the present.
With the rise of the mighty Call of Duty series, however, Digital Illusions’ acclaimed Battlefield series found itself heavily overshadowed, despite hordes of loyal fans. Bad Company 2 is EA’s attempt to right the balance by playing to Battlefield’s strengths (i.e. its multiplayer combat) whilst beefing up its weaknesses (principally the single-player campaign).
So the first move made was to revamp the Frostbite engine to make virtually all of the scenery destructible. The tactical difference this now makes is huge, as snipers can be removed by one well-placed RPG and houses provide no more than temporary refuge before the walls are blown in.
In single player you’re once again part of the same wisecracking four-man team from the previous game, where the mission is to prevent a new WMD falling into enemy hands. Cue plenty of global criss-crossing from steamy jungles to snowy mountain ranges to narrow urban streets, plus the trademark Battlefield commandeering of vehicles on sea, land and air.
It’s fun and frantic, but apart from a few extra hazards (such as needing to find hotspots during the snow campaign, an idea already used in Crysis) the campaign won’t prove that challenging to hardened CoD players and can be completed comfortably in about eight hours.
When it comes to multiplayer, though, it’s a completely different story. The Conquest mode (which was a late add-on in the last game) is a firm fixture here, as well as Rush where up to 32 players have to defend or destroy pairs of M-COM stations.
Choose from four classes to suit your temperament – Assault, Engineer, Medic or Recon – and earn awards as you build your confidence. The higher your score, the more gear and weapons you unlock and the more victory points you accumulate. In addition, there are two new game modes; Squad Rush where two squads go head-to-head, and Squad Deathmatch involving four squads and one Infantry Fighting Vehicle battling to be the first to fifty kills.
The success of games like this is as much judged by atmosphere as weaponry and in that respect Bad Company 2 hits the spot. Dramatic music, powerful special effects and the boom, crash and zing of a fire-fight all contribute to the super-reality of intense battles, and with the unpredictability introduced by the new destructible sets, EA has managed to put the wow back into warfare.