Thursday, July 3, 2008
Things must be hard for developers hoping to make a wartime FPS these days. Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4 effectively raised the bar to an absurd degree, blowing away even Microsoft's baby, Halo 3, to claim the number one spot on Xbox Live and sell over 10 million copies. Like so many other gamers, COD4 became my go-to game when I needed an online FPS fix. While Battlefield: Bad Company is also a FPS set in modern times, you have to go into it knowing it's not Call of Duty. It's certainly a different style of play, but I can imagine many gamers will learn to have a lot of fun with it once they get used to the change.
One noticeable difference is in the single-player experience. While COD4's campaign was brilliant, it was incredibly short-lived. Bad Company features more missions, and each is noticeably longer in length. It's also far more lighthearted than most FPS fare, featuring wisecracking characters and some odd situations (try not to think of Jackass as you speed through a war zone in a golf cart).
It wouldn't be a Battlefield game without vehicles, and there are plenty in Bad Company. Jeeps, tanks, helicopters, boats, and more are at your command, and they're crucial to your success in many missions. Not only do they give you an extra boost of firepower, they'll also provide a much speedier method of traversing some of the gigantic maps. The control scheme is somewhat unconventional (left trigger to accelerate), but you'll eventually get used to it. On top of the standard weapons, pistols, and grenades, there are some nice gadgets that can make significant changes in the combat. One can call in mortar strikes, while another brings in a controllable airstrike (complete with bird-in-the-sky camera).
The single-player campaign is solid, but falls short of the epic battles in COD4. Like that game, I believe the bulk of gamer's time with it will be within the confines of multiplayer. I find it odd that Bad Company only includes one mode (with another to come), but it does the job fairly well. You'll take turns being either attackers or defenders. The attackers have to plant charges on two sets of gold bars in the defender's base, while the defenders naturally have to stop them before they can do that (or disarm the bomb once planted). Squad cooperation is encouraged, as you'll get more points if you're working as a team. It's also crucial for one member of your four-person squad to stay alive, as he acts as a spawn point for the rest.
The Halo series was always annoying to me considering that you had to empty clip after clip into your opponent to kill them. On the other end of the spectrum, you could be dead before you knew where you were being shot from in COD4. Bad Company falls somewhere in the middle. A couple headshots will drop an enemy quick, but overall you have to pump a few more rounds into your enemy than COD4 players will be used to. While there are vehicles, they're not as essential to the online experience as I expected them to be. You'll occasionally run into an enemy tank, but helicopters, boats, and jeeps aren't terribly frequent in most skirmishes.
Graphically, it's certainly nothing to write home about. Textures aren't terribly detailed, and there's a decent amount of glitches (especially when waiting to respawn). However, the destructible environments are excellent. If an enemy is camping in a house, it's as easy as sending a rocket or grenade towards the wall to completely expose him. Walls crumble, silos explode, and trees fall based on where they're hit. It adds a more palpable feeling of carnage when everything around you is crumbling to pieces in the middle of a firefight. The superb audio only helps in this matter, especially if you have surround sound.
Overall, Battlefield: Bad Company is a good game and worthy of distracting FPS fans from COD4 for a while. It doesn't have the insane replay value of Infinity Ward's masterpiece, but the different style of play, gigantic maps, vehicles, and lengthy single player campaign at least warrant a recommendation.
First Play: 9.0
Replay Value: 8.0