Haggard, Sweetwater, Marlow and the Sarge are back! Dice & EA's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 brings you more of the same, tweaks it, refines it, and then injects the multi-player with some much needed fixes to make an all around solid and enjoyable military shooter, with a few bumps in the road that makes things slightly bumpy.
The campaign once again puts you in the shoes of Preston Marlowe in "Bad Company" and makes it's way through a solid 8 - 10 hour run in search of the origins of a secret weapon being developed to be used on the United States. If you played the first Bad Company, then you pretty much know what to expect here, which isn't a horrible thing. I really enjoyed my run through the campaign, however I was a little disappointed to see that at the end of the day, it's really just more of the same. They refined a few of the mechanics that were good, but not great in the first game, for example building demolition, but didn't really give you enough instances to make use of it. In fact I did most of my destruction once an area was cleared and my squad mates were just standing there looking at each other waiting for me to move... which brings me to my next point.
There's a lot of funny banter between the characters, again similar to the first game, however some of it is relegated to these odd stationary moments after a fight sequence where you're all standing around and you can sit there and listen. Once you move forward they'll follow your lead, or occasionally just warp in front of you to take up positions in the next "scene". It's pretty evident to me that Dice made these moments for a number of reasons; firstly, you can explore the area looking for new weapons you haven't collected yet, or com-units that need to be taken down ( read: collection achievements ) and secondly, trying to highlight so of the humour as it's easy to miss when you have a stationary machine gun unloading on you or the building you're hiding in. Now while I can appreciate this, it makes one of the best aspects of the game, the humour, camaraderie and fluid "real world chatter" that this squad indulges in, very easy to miss, which is a real shame. If you're the type that investigates every little corner, then you're going to catch these for sure, but players who like to b-line it through games are definitely going to miss out on these gems, and mark my words... they're worth the wait. Haggard being schooled on his current location ( South America, not South Africa ) had me laughing so hard I had to pause the game.
The weapon collecting, and allocation of ammo boxes, and supply crates was something I found a little refreshing. I'm all for making games tight on ammunition when there's a good reason for it, but if I want to empty my 8 RPGs into the house by the water, it shouldn't make the next 8 levels hard to get through! Being able to move through an enemy encounter in so many different ways ( around houses, over houses or even through them! ) means the tools you need might be different at every turn. Having the supply crates, which allow you to change your primary and secondary weapons to anything you've collected, make for a less frustrating time of changing tactics or game play style on a certain encounter. If something isn't working, pick up a couple of different weapon types, and try again!
Where the value part of the equation comes in, is the multi-player. If you've played Battlefield games before, you're going to be fairly familiar with this environment. One of the knocks Bad Company took on it's first release, was the overall lackluster multi-player and it's pretty evident that Dice put a thick coating of polish on it for the sequel. You can choose from one of four class types ( Assault, Medic, Engineer, Recon ) and help fight some very strategically oriented maps in one of three basic game types. Conquest (standard Battlefield multi-player), Rush ( Attacker-Defender ) and Squad Deathmatch. The more you play a specific class, the more ranks you'll gain and the more tools you'll have available to you. For example I started out as a Medic, but I couldn't do much healing for a substantial period of time, so unlocking all the kits and all their tools is going to take you some time. They did a fine job of balancing out the utility of each of the classes, and a well balanced group is sure to do some damage in the field ( to both buildings and opponents faces alike! ).
The overall presentation of Bad Company 2 was another aspect of the game that I appreciated. A lot of different environments are presented to you during the campaign, as well as some excellent work with sound both in the campaign and the multi-player. Near misses with RPGs slow down your response times, and leave a nice resonating sound in your head and running inside a building with an assault rifle firing on all cylinders echos off the walls as you'd expect it to. It really made me stop and shoot up the inside of a few shipping containers :o). There's some graphical and physical hiccups along the way, but I think it's pretty much unavoidable when you have this much of the environment damageable. For example, one level has you caught in a major snow storm where exposure for any length of time is going to kill you, so you're put in a situation where you're clearing from house to house to make your way in from out of the cold. Naturally there are some enemies along the way, and if you happened to bring your RPG you can just demolish the walls in the house you're moving into next as to easily see the enemy however that house, which now has no walls, will still keep you warm from the extreme cold! Kinda not how houses without walls work.
At the end of the day, fans of Bad Company, and the Battlefield series are going to get more of what they expected, new players should be pleasantly entertained and those who didn't enjoy the boys the first time around, probably won't enjoy them this time either.
The Way I See It: A solid campaign with the always enjoyable Battlefield multi-player action is something everyone should enjoy!