Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Preview
If 2009 was the year of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, 2010 is shaping up to belong to Battlefield: Bad Company 2. This first person shooter, brought to us by EA and developer DICE Studios, builds on the decade-old Battlefield series by adding new vehicles, new multiplayer modes and the most realistic destruction seen in the series to date. While DICE insists it doesn't see the game as in direct competition with Infinity Ward's combative best-seller, it better get used to the idea because the rest of the world certainly does.
At a recent demo in San Francisco, the press was treated to some hands-on time with both the single player story mode and the new four-person multiplayer mode, Squad Rush. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 follows the continuing exploits of the misfit “B Company” and heralds the return of the first Bad Company's four wiseguy heroes: Marlowe, Sweetwater, Haggard and Redford. The boys continue their fight against the Russians in the freezing reaches of northern Alaska where they're assigned to stand guard on the Russian/American demarcation line. Things on the line are fairly ho-hum until B Company discovers the Russians are once again up to something—this time, building a secret super-weapon that could turn the tide against the U.S.
Single player mode at the event was presented on PS3 and appeared to be somewhere in the middle of the game, since we were set down in a South American jungle village rather than a snowscape. Our objective—to rendezvous with CIA operative, Erik Aguire, a man with info critical to stopping the Russians. Upon entering the village, we were surrounded by gunfire and earth-shaking explosions and dashed for cover behind low stone walls. The tropical environment looked phenomenal and the new destructibles system (which is due to the upgraded Frostbite Engine) was immediately in evidence as plants, walls, huts and statuary exploded all around us. The destruction wasn't just eye candy though; it was surprisingly useful being able to knock out hut walls to create vantage points and sniper holes wherever you want them.
We were equipped with grenades and a scoped rifle, and picked up other weapons (like a handy RPG) as we worked our way through the smoke-filled chaos toward the center of the village looking for Aguire. The few times we couldn't find cover and were hit, the edges of the screen became increasingly blood-spattered, representing the new health system of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The health bar of previous games is gone and health now regens, so when the view was obstructed by a thick layer of blood on the screen, we'd take cover until it faded away. The pace and violence of the level continually increased, reaching an absurd crescendo and finishing with the kind of darkly humorous cutscene characteristic of B Company.
The second single player level we played was set in a snow-capped mountain range, and started with us riding a helicopter and manning a turret. This was another great showcase for the destructibles system, as we mowed down Russian soldiers, blowing up trucks and exposing the guys that took cover by blowing the roofs of the buildings off. Once we landed, we fought our way up a mountain path to a hilltop satellite station, hiding behind bushes and snow banks as Russian soldiers did their best to pick us off from above. The snow environment looked even better than the tropical one, and the hillside level design made for some interesting combat. The damage system in single player appeared to be fairly forgiving in general, which may not appeal to hardcore players. But DICE also mentioned a new multiplayer mode in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 called—appropriately enough—“Hardcore”.
Hardcore is what it sounds like; a more realistic combat experience for players who want more of a challenge. In this mode, there's virtually no UI and the survival rate is much lower due to much greater, more realistic weapon damage. In addition to Hardcore, DICE is introducing a new four-player squad mode called “Squad Rush” where one team tries to destroy a series of M com stations while the other team does their best to prevent them. At the event, we were given access to Squad Rush on Xbox 360, which (without getting to see how the server setup and chat system works) felt like a solid multiplayer experience. We chose the Assault kit from the Assault, Engineer, Recon and Medic line-up, and spawned into a bayside tropical village much like the one we'd played through in single player.
Ours was the offensive team (no jokes now) so we ran down the dirt paths and around the wooden huts toward a series of onscreen letters indicating where to set the charges. The environment increased the tension by offering plenty of cover, much of which made it especially challenging to spot the opposing team. (We for instance, kept getting taken down by an especially sneaky Recon guy in a Sasquatch-like ghillie suit.) The minimal UI, which consisted of a left hand minimap with an objective waypoint and a right hand ammo counter, also added to the tension, demanding players be extremely observant and have a high level of skill in order to avoid getting their asses blown off.
Controls in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 were easy and intuitive on both consoles, consisting of: gadget swap via directional pad, and one-button reload and weapon swap. During the match, we were able to carry two weapons (including various types of collectible weapons found in the environment) and compare weapon damage, accuracy and rate of fire in the “Supply Drop” screen, as well as pick up kits to heal and revive fellow players. One of the best multiplayer features however, was the being able to choose to respawn near any squad mate—an ability that proved to be both helpful and strategic.
The Squad Rush mode overall was a frantic but satisfying multiplayer experience, for both attackers and defenders, and even provided an inadvertently humorous onscreen message for the losing team that said, “We Are Losing – Fight Harder”. (Well...duh.) Multiplayer looked as good as it played, with amazing environmental detail and lighting—that is when we had half a second between explosions to notice it. The only demo disappointment was that we never got the chance to drive the new ATV or UH-60 transport helicopter--or any other vehicles for that matter.
Even so, after playing both Battlefield: Bad Company 2's single and multiplayer modes, it's apparent the title will not only live up to the award-winning Battlefield series, but very likely, with its heart-pounding gameplay, improved destructibles, dedicated servers and comprehensive chat system, will eclipse the Modern Warfare 2 phenomenon. Look for it March 2, 2010 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.