When DICE start working on a new game, be it Battlefield related or not I begin to sit up and take notice. I've enjoyed the majority of the Battlefield games that have come along, in one form or another, either on console or on the PC. So it's the turn of the Xbox360 and DICE's latest - Battlefield: Bad Company to vie for my affections. Bad Company puts you squarely in the shoes of a new recruit to the US Army's most dysfunctional squad.
You're Preston Marlowe and you're teamed up with the likes of Haggard and Sweetwater, two characters who could have been cookie-cutter morons if it wasn't for the fact they have genuinely funny and likeable personalities. A testament to the strength of the game's writing. Bad Company attempts to put a fleshed out single player story of sorts into the series that's more often than not known for the excellent online multiplayer versus modes and teamwork potential.
The single player is more like training for the multiplayer usually in the Battlefield games, but in this case it really does have a cohesive story, packed with cut-scenes, characters, dialogue and all those things that actually keep you interested in the single player. There are various US Army weapons; the inventory has been kept slim so you can't walk around with every gun in the game and several special weapons that you can pick up, like targeting systems that allow you to call in support options, like mortar attacks and so on.
Like in any real Battlefield game though the meat of the game will be found between the balanced factions online, DICE are good at this and whilst there's only one mode: Gold Rush (an attack and defence mode), the other mode(s) are planned as DLC. The game would have scored a lot higher for me if the Conquest mode shipped in the box so to speak. The maps are massive with support for 24 players and there are numerous vehicles, tanks, helicopters, apcs and so on. There are also static emplacements like artillery that can be crewed with a top down view to allow you to rain destruction on the battlefield.
One of the newest innovations to the Battlefield series this time around is the highly destructible environments. The game's selling point could be hung upon these and the system works really well, lending a war-torn aftermath to the game that allows for some different tactical choices in combat. Now those bridges that could allow tanks to cross can be turned into useless piles of rubble with the correct explosive force or a direct strike from a manned artillery piece.
The level of destruction is based on the weapon you use; don't expect to cut down a wall with a rapid hail of bullets. Expect to punch a big hole into the side of the house with an m203 grenade launcher however. No longer is cover a viable option when that kind of firepower gets used, you can quickly find that the wall you were using is nothing more than a useless pile of broken masonry. The same counts for your enemies on and offline: so don't be afraid to use grenades and explosives in this game to remove cover, blow a hole through a wall to get through to the other side.
This can also make tanks extremely dangerous, they need to be handled pretty quickly as they can rapidly turn the tide of battle against a weaker armed defence force. Always be on the lookout for weapons like the rocket launcher to even the odds in that respect, you can find weapon drops and caches in sp scattered around the levels, of which there are seven and they take a good 45 minutes or more to complete.
The AI for the sp game is rudimentary at best, the enemy provide a good amount of challenge but they don't tend to use advance tactics though a tank will make pretty short work of you if you forget that cover can be demolished. So will any enemy manning a rocket launcher emplacement or something similar.
I guess the true game is still in the finely honed multiplayer that the Battlefield games are known for; they're right up there with Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4 in terms of rock solid multiplayer experiences that cannot be beaten. Whilst as previously mentioned there's no Conquest mode for the multi as of yet, it's in the works and Gold Rush is an attack-defence mode that allows one team to defend their gold caches and the other to destroy them.
There are all the tools of the trade at your disposal, team based classes that should complement each other and support classes that work well, able to repair broken vehicles and lay booby traps for the enemy. The two factions are well balanced and DICE has always been good at making adjustments to the balancing if any issues arise, so expect problems to be cleared up. There are no noticeable bugs on or offline, whilst the sp might feel a little short this is primarily a multiplayer game and there true longevity will be in ranking up your character in the online battles and unlocking the various toys to play with.
The classes are broken down into the following:
Assault: front-line general purpose soldier class, good with a wide variety of rifle weapons.
Recon: uses sniper rifles, this class is your classic sneaker and long range death-dealing class.
Demolitions: Explosives, shotguns and that's about it. You want to blow things up? This is your class.
Support: Light Machineguns, this is the class if you want to suppress the enemy, pin down soldiers and cause pain.
Specialist: Another sneaking style class, more like the commando than anything, this class is for those who like Sub-machineguns and close quarters.
I should take a moment to rave about the audio in the game, the voice acting is especially good with some solid performances all round from the various characters. Haggard wins hands down being our favourite here and Sweetwater's slightly nervous disposition coming in a second to the other two characters. The music is stirring and never overpowers and the weapons/effects audio are excellent. Add to this a solid graphics engine with no pop-in or noticeable glitches and the whole package is an all round great one.
If you're tired of playing Call of Duty 4 or you just want something a little more destructive to get your teeth into, then Bad Company is worth picking up. It's nothing very new but there's polish and there's enough meat on those bones to make it a worthwhile game.