Review: Battlefield: Bad Company
Mark and his squad of ultimate badasses will protect you.
It’s often said that football (call it soccer and die) is a game of two halves and the same can be said of Battlefield: Bad Company. There’s the single player campaign set across three countries with you and the titular bad company fighting mercenaries and stealing their gold and then there’s the multiplayer game with you and your squad of friends fighting others to steal their gold or defend your own bullion stockpile. Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound very different from that simple description but to properly review this game I’m going to review both modes separately so it’s clear if it’s a worthwhile purchase if you’re only intending to play it solo or vice versa.
The Single Player Campaign
You take the roll of Private Preston Marlow who finds himself assigned to B Company of the 222nd army battalion or ‘Bad Company’ as they’re known, a motley collection of screw ups and borderline section eights whose sole purpose is to spearhead any advance into enemy territory. This is because the better armed special forces are ‘too expensive’ to risk and command regards B Company as little more than disposable cannon fodder. Once you meet your squad consisting of the usual army clichÃ©s: black Sergeant, gung-ho hick and whiny nerd it’s off to blow shit up in the fictional former Russian country of Serdaristan.
It’s here while performing another borderline suicide mission that Marlow finds a case of gold belonging to the Legionnaires, a near-mythical mercenary group with the motto â€œActa Non Verbaâ€ or â€œAction Not Wordsâ€ for those of us who never went to public school. Descending to fuck their orders and go AWOL, Bad Company start chasing a convoy loaded with the Legionnaires’ gold into deeper into hostile territory with the dream of sitting on a beach earning twenty percent and hunting down the odd hidden crate of gold on the way along with over a dozen different weapons that can all be collected.
Now, despite all the talk of you being part of a company you’ll find that you’ll have to do the majority of the work with you driving or flying every vehicle in the game along with most of the actual combat as your squad never wants or even tries to get stuck in much as I found numerous times when I’d leave a single enemy for my squad to mop up only to wait a few minutes as they sat behind cover refusing to go in for the kill or even flush them from cover for me.
Play the game for a few hours however and you won’t care much as you blast around the huge maps going from objective to objective as you like be taking the direct route down guarded roads or going cross country to bypass the roadblocks and hit their passions in the vulnerable flanks. The amount of freedom is very refreshing after the railroading of recent titles like Call of Duty 4 or even Half Life Episode Two as they herd you from set piece to set piece. Here you go at your own pace and can take time to savour the atmosphere and take in the huge vistas thanks to some unbelievably long draw distances thanks to this new fangled Frostbite software engine.
The early game army sanctioned missions act as a prolonged introduction to how BFBC works with its destructible scenery (I’ll talk a lot more about that in the multiplayer part of the review) and love of high-explosives and the most important item in the single player game, the auto-injector. Unlike most FPS games of late (Well since Halo anyway) if you take damage for whatever reason simply finding a good hiding stop and waiting won’t let you recover, and even if it did there’s a good chance said hiding place will get blasted to rubble before you could heal up.
Instead you have you inject yourself in the chest with a hypodermic. It’s as simple as tapping LB to select it from your gadgets and then RT to use it. As a gameplay mechanic it’s a little better than the modern ‘hide and heal’ conceit or the old fashioned ‘giant first-aid box’. Likewise you can toggle between your primary weapons be in assault rifle, SMG, or sniper cannon and the secondary weapon or one of a selection of grenades in both thrown and fired variety.
Other items of useful kit include laser designators to paint enemy targets for a laser guided bomb courtesy of the air force or mortar strike delivered by the local Russian forces. Switching between them on the fly works well enough but the fact the same EQ is on different bumpers in the single and multiplayer modes has lead to some unnecessary deaths on my part when playing online as the Recon class and going for my pistol only to equip the laser. While I’m talking about death I’d better take a few moments to get to one on the few big problems with the single player game.
When you die wither its getting shot, blown up, crashing or even falling off a high building, unless it’s during a plot specific event you will always respawn at your last auto-quicksave. Now depending on when this was it can mean a five second dash back to the action or a five minute drive to that bastard enemy tank that can see through trees and hit you from half a mile away with its cannon before you’ve even managed to get your turret’s pointing in the right direction. When it is the latter boy does it get frustrating but get this, even though you respawn the enemies won’t so if you want to or have to in a few cases you can, as my colleague Danny dubbed it â€œBioshockâ€ the majority of the game.
Did you play Bioshock? If you didn’t go and play it now you silly personâ€¦ ok played it? Good. When ever you died you would respawn at the nearest vita machine without it costing you a thing in either money or Adam. Well the same is true in BFBC; you can die, respawn and die time after time without it mattering. So you only killed one guy, fine you’re effectively immortal so just keep grinding away and you’ll progress. You can try and ignore this and try to avoid death but when the game forces you inside a bunker then makes you fight your way back out surrounded by a battalion of hostile mercs it can be hard to not just think f*ck it, I’ll dash out shoot a few guys then respawn and repeat until they’re all dead. Right that’s enough negativity for now lets get back to the good stuff and by the REALLY good stuff I meanâ€¦
The Multiplayer Campaign
We’ve covered this before at Peoww with both the beta test being played by Colin and Adam and then everyone (yours truly included) wanking on about the limited demo version on our own forum. Unlike previous Battlefield games the MP mode isn’t conquest based (that’s coming as free DLC later) but rather a new variation called Gold Rush. Rather than just whittling away the other team’s ticket count for the sake of it like previous games now one team has an infinite respawn count and has to defend a series of crates for the other team who have a limited ticket count that is boosted with each crate they destroy by either planning a charge on it and then stopping the other team from defusing it or by simply inflicting direct damage to it with normal weapons.
The Gold Rush mode sounds simple but with each team having a clear objective be it assault or attrition based defence there’s huge scope for tactics with the attackers able to man artillery in their base to soften up the defenders positions while the defenders can use turrets to repel attacks or have their demolition class players drop mines to slow down any hostile tank rush.
The thing that has everyone talking about it (apart from the few restrictions that sour the experience, but I’ll come to those soon) is the destructible environments. This plays a huge part in how each game is played with the early stages providing plenty of cover, albeit temporary but the long the round goes on the more walls get reduced to dust by the various vehicles all equipped with explosive armaments, C4 charges, RPGs, mortar strikes and the snipers best friend the laser guided bomb.
Don’t worry Call of Duty 4, you are still number one. Just.
I didn’t really take any notice of Battlefield: Bad Company until a few months before launch. The various trailers showing its unique sense of humour compared to other similar FPS games really caught my eye, along with the promises of destructible scenery. If you are a fan of Kelly’s Heroes, The Dirty Dozen or Three Kings then you’ll be right at home with this game.
Having never played any of the previous Battlefield games I have only been used to the usual run & gun deathmatch-style of play. The (currently) sole online mode â€“ Gold Rush which involves attacking/defending two crates â€“ is a welcome change. The way the battle swings back and forward in your favour provides some epic matches. The destructible environments feature really comes into its own online. Seeing the battlefield around you being reduced to rubble is a very satisfying feeling.
The different classes really change the way you approach each match. Sniping, which I have never been a fan of, is probably my most played class along with Support (easy experience points). The unlock system is far better than the levelling system in COD4 in that you get to choose which weapon or piece of equipment to unlock for each class, rather than it being pre-determined.
The sound in this game also deserves a mention. The explosions and gunshots are amongst the best I’ve ever heard in a computer game. The soundtrack is also excellent and the orchestral music contrasts well with the various songs on the vehicle radios.
Despite the lack of full-team voice communication and connection problems, Bad Company is almost up there with COD4 as one of the best online games right now. The disc has barely left my 360 and I can see it staying like that for a long time.
Secondary Score: 8/10
When I say destructible you might recall other game that have made that claim like Red Faction but trust me when I say that after an hour of playing Gold Rush you’ll never fell totally safe hiding behind any building or structure especially if you’re one of those scumbag sniper who’s bread and butter is spawn camping. You’re days are numbered thanks to the laser bomb and mortar options given to every player.
Everyone who has played Gold Rush has their own stories of glory either its defusing a charge at last moment to win the round or scoring a triple kill using an artillery gun or even the hallowed laser bomb helicopter takedown. About the only thing that’s stopping me giving this a triple a gold stamp approval is the small annoyances that could and should have been resolved post beta and pre-release.
I’m not talking about server stability, that’s been sorted now EA has actually bothered to increase the bandwidth given over to it, leaving me to wonder if this problem would have been resolved so quickly if it hadn’t sold like it has. I’m not going to bitch too much about the hoops you have to go through to unlock extra weapons and equipment, it’s an EA game after all the same company who charged for cheat modes to its games and anyone â€œhardcoreâ€ enough to waste £10 unlocking shit you get for playing the game properly won’t care that some of us don’t have the best weapons to abuse and get by just fine.
The biggest grip I have is the squad system as you can only have four people in your squad and share voice coms and squad respawn locations. I understand that having voice coms with all twelve people in your team would no doubt reduce the game speed enough to make it unplayable but when you have to turn away friends as often as I have playing this game it gets hard to take. Even when you do have a full squad people are always getting dropped and reassigned post map load and given the lobby system is a bunch of arse too it makes me wish they had tried to fix it properly prior to release rather than spending resources of getting a conquest mode it doesn’t need ready to download while making vague promises about patching said problems.
Still if you’re willing to accept these flaws and put a little faith in EA as hard as that might be you will have a great experience on a scale not yet seen on home consoles. If you’re only going to play this game for the single player campaign you’re only seeing a fraction of the game on offer and as such knock one or more points of the score, but if you can look past the flaws of the multiplayer game and are willing to wait for the conquest DLC and (hopefully) updates to fix the problems with squad numbers and player allocation take this score for what it is, a big recommendation.