Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: Battlefield Bad Company 2

There are some constants in the universe. The sun will move from east to west. The Yankees will be in the playoffs. Even numbered Trek movies don't suck. And, of course, the bots in a Battlefield game will be hilariously buggy.

I never played the first Bad Company game, so it's a new experience to me to have a battlefield game with a narrative other than "here's some guys and flags, shoot them and take them, respectively!" The Bad Company series apparently tries for a more cinematic FPS experience, much like Call of Duty... but it takes itself less seriously. Where Call of Duty games feel like action or war movies, Bad Company is definitely a "buddy flick."

The gist of the game is this - It's an alternate reality world where the russians are invading, and this time they're digging up an old WW2 Japanese superweapon project codenamed "Aurora" to try to use it on their current-day nemesis: The US of A. The secret weapon is what is called a "Scalar" weapon, which if you google, you'll have to spend hours afterward trying to scrub the grease off your skin from all the tinfoil hats you'll rub up against. It's like the holy grail of WMDs - part EMP, part Nuke, with all the heat and electronics frying goodness and none of the pesky fallout. And apparently in the Battlefield universe, it takes a few minutes to power up, and during that time it bugles loudly in the distance, sounding like Godzilla rising from the depths.

Anyway, the russians are digging up this old scalar tech, and the only ones who can stop them are a squad of four stereotypes - A nerd, a redneck, a token gruff black authority figure, and an everyman (played by you, of course). It sounds like the recipe for a really bad movie, but it makes for an entertaining game, actually. The banter between the other 3 members of Bad Company really do a lot to enhance the game.

At least, it would, if not for the fact that 9 times out of 10, the three of them get so bugged they completely stop moving to have their conversation, and then never start moving again until you pass a magic plot point. And some of these banter sessions are astonishingly long, like the "do you believe in God" conversation which lasts a good 7 minutes. But the banter is entertaining enough to stop and listen to. And I had a good laugh at the "What? I can know stuff!" line delivered by the redneck when everybody was shocked that it was him, and not the nerd, who rattled off a name and detailed description (complete with trivia) of the plane they were observing.

And of course, the writers aren't above putting in a few digs at "the other guys." The end showdown felt directly like the end of Modern Warfare 1, where all you have is a pistol and you need to squeeze off a fast headshot or it's all over... only in the name of one-upmanship, here in B:BC2, you have to make that shot AFTER JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE WITH NO PARACHUTE. I have to admit I laughed when the nerd member of the group said "Come on, Sarge, if not us, then who? You know they'll just send a bunch of douchebags with sissy heartbeat monitors out here otherwise!" - a clear dig at Modern Warfare's propensity to make you rely on gun-mounted heartbeat monitors in snowstorms. But at least I didn't have to physically use my body to constantly jostle Gaz or Captain Price toward the next objective, DICE, so careful about the stones you throw.

Sometimes it's just easier to leave them behind, really. When an important plot point comes up, they'll magically warp right next to you, and then it's back to business for a little while until they are once again struck with catatonic amnesia, and stand there in a state of torpor pointing their gun at nothing in particular.

I know I'm harping on that a lot, but you know, it's only annoying sometimes. Most of the time it just elicited a roll of the eyes from me, because honestly they're not that much of a help anyway. If left to their own devices, the bots in this game would shoot at the same entrenched position forever, waiting for you to flank the enemy and dig them out. So really, it only makes it marginally less easy if they aren't there, and only then because they have a chance to draw the enemy's fire while you absolutely murder all 20 of them. In fact, I most got worried when my comrades stopped moving forward because I thought I might miss out on another banter session while I was slogging my way up Hamburger Hill alone. And you wonder how they manage to miss the enemy so much, when you yourself are aim-assisted all to hell and back, where even a casual spray in the enemy's direction will usually headshot them.

What was far more annoying was the massive performance hits I experienced during cutscenes. I don't know what they're doing differently in cutscenes, but almost every cutscene struggled along and desynched the subtitles from the audio, whereas every part of the actual gameplay was pretty much seamless and fast, abarring one or two parts that went completely over the top with fog and lighting effects. They're also doing something wierd with the audio processing, as every house I entered suddenly sounded like I was in the most echo-inducing of tunnels, and even when there were explosions and gunfire all around me, it was somehow quiet enough to hear the sergeant grumble about how he's gettin' too old for this shit.

All in all, though, the game was an enjoyable playthrough, even if it was only 6 hours long. I can honestly say I'm just as likely to go back and replay B:BC2 as I am COD:MW2. I like that you don't HAVE to have your eye jammed against the butt of your gun to stand a chance at hitting something. I like the convenient supply drops that let you change weapons loadouts at convenient intervals. I REALLY like how damn near every structure in the game is completely destructible, which is the real selling point of this engine as I understand it. And, of course, I like the dialogue, and the cheesy, goofy plot. It goes a long way to making up for the AI bugs and other minor annoyances... and the one major annoyance of having no LAN hosting mode for multiplayer. I mean, I know it's a console port and everything, but that should have been a no-brainer for PC, guys. Bad call. Also, I would have liked a co-op mode for the SP campaign.

Verdict: B-.
And that's the word from Bandit Camp.


Anonymous said...

Nobody really cares about singleplayer in a Battlefield title, I guess you'll review that separately?

The review should have said Sibnleplayer review only.

Anonymous said...

The battlefield series is and always will be about the multiplayer. Your review of the single player portion of the game is totally irrelevant akin to driving a formula 1 car to the grocers and saying it sucks because it doesnt have a boot.

Gas Bandit said...

I disagree that the single player experience is "irrelevant." Obviously EA/DICE also thinks single player is important otherwise they wouldn't have gone through all the trouble that they obviously did to craft a 6+ hour single player experience.

What I find interesting is that whenever I reviewed a MW game, people didn't gripe about me not reviewing multiplayer, and yet now that a Battlefield game is delivering a comparable single player experience to a Call of Duty game, anons are calling it irrelevant.

The Bad Company series is clearly meant to compete directly with Call of Duty. It's true in the past there was nothing to the single player in Battlefield games other than the multiplayer mode with bots, but that is no longer the case. Maybe I could have reviewed the multiplayer a little more, but you guys would probably also have not been happy with my treatment of it because of its small selection of maps, lack of my favorite mode (multiplayer with bots, previously called Co-op in 1942 and 2), the intentional exclusion of LAN options, and my personal pet peeve - having to fling yourself against the catass crew and subject yourself to random online asshats to unlock multiplayer equipment. I know some people are OK with that, for me, it gets in my craw.

So there's your Multiplayer review.

hardcampa said...

You miss the point, multiplayer is "the" thing with the battlefield series.

Also you make me wonder, have you actually played online in a squad? I find it a great experience in this game.

I'm not trying to annoy you, I'm just saying if you are going to write a review about a Battlefield game, not writing about the multiplayer is just wrong.

Gas Bandit said...

Well, apparently Yahtzee also "missed the point," because as it turns out, all HE reviewed is the single player campaign as well.

Maybe that's because the developers and publisher emphasised the first person experience in all the promotional materials, eh?

And if I'd had to review this title based on the multiplayer alone, it would have gotten a much worse grade, for the abovementioned reasons.

And BTW, BF1942 with the Desert Combat mod still beats the pants off of any subsequent BF game for multiplayer.

DimentoGraven said...

FYI: I'm a firm 'single player' kind of guy.

I too have little patience for the multiplayer experience due to the massive amounts of fucking immature assholes who do nothing but grief play and the inevitable hackers.

Multiplayer is only fun when I and a bunch of friends I know and trust are playing with me.

If a game DOES NOT have a decent single player game, I'm sure as hell not going to pay for it.

Saying these games are all about the "multiplayer experience" is fat load of shit and you should know better, exactly for the point that the GB brought out, mainly EA spent a shitload on programmers building a significant single player mission.

Game developers and programmers are NOT cheap. 6 hours of missions, with lots of out takes, a significant amount of voice acting and the like is, at the very least, a 6 month project for at least 10 people.

At even an entry level game developer salary of 40k+ bene's, that could be as much as 300,000+ on salary and benefits, ALONE.

The multiplayer aspect, is also significant but it has always been, as far as I can tell, with these various game series is a marketing tool built using by modularizing segments of the single player.

If the opposite were true you'd see these games actually sold and marketed as MMORPG's with pay for play like WoW, EQ, etc.

Christer said...
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