"Battlefield: Bad Company 2"
For: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC
ESRB Rating: Mature
(blood, strong language, violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
All the important bullet points that were present in 2008's "Battlefield: Bad Company" — and, fundamentally, just about every "Battlefield" game in the series' magnificent lifetime — are present in "Bad Company 2" as well. Mechanically, there might not be a better military first-person shooter, and the multiplayer component that is the franchise's hallmark has only improved with the refinements DICE has made.
This is good, maybe essentially so, because the single-player campaign that was such a major surprise in the first "Bad Company" has taken a slight turn into sophomore slump country this time around.
This isn't the same as saying it's bad, because for the most part, the campaign actually is pretty good. "BC2's" gunplay is every bit as polished as that of "Modern Warfare 2," and the more expansive environments and amazing attention to sound detail, to say nothing of the staggering tech that makes pretty much everything destructible, arguably make it the new best in class.
"BC2's" warfare also is more tactical in nature: It's easier to die here on normal difficulty than it is in "MW2," and the battles place a premium on fighting defensively and catching enemies unaware over mindlessly rushing in with guns blazing.
But while "BC2's" campaign takes full advantage of all these exemplary mechanics, its stumbles are too notable to ignore. Checkpoints are placed inconsistently, occasionally sending players through a long string of firefights that all need to be repeated if something goes wrong at the very end. Three A.I. squadmates are on hand to assist throughout the majority of the campaign, and they're as fun to listen to as they were in "BC1," but when they aren't hanging too far back to even participate, they're demonstrating some comically bad aim. Enemy soldiers, perhaps sensing this, overwhelmingly target the player no matter how the battle is arranged. (In case you're wondering: Sorry, no co-op support.)
Too many moments like these — and a few unfortunate instances of contrived scenarios that require contrived solutions — add up to a campaign that, while still absolutely worth playing, outstays its welcome before the credits roll.
Fortunately, and to absolutely no surprise, "BC2's" single-player action really is just an elaborate primer for the obscenely good multiplayer, which takes all that wonderful tactical gunplay and puts it to spectacular use on huge maps with fully operable vehicles (tanks, helicopters, even jet skis) and up to 23 other human players.
Per "Battlefield" tradition, "BC2's" multiplayer modes emphasize teamwork and strategic 12-on-12 territorial play over the lone-wolf run-and-gun deathmatch action most multiplayer shooters favor, and the diversity in player classes speaks to that approach. "BC2's" upgrade and perks system isn't as elaborate as "MW2's" upgrade bonanza, but with so many more strategic possibilities available right from the start, it doesn't need to be.
Still, in what amounts to a nice compromise, "BC2" introduces the squad deathmatch, which pits four four-player squads against each other in an old-fashioned free-for-all. The action's a bit more uncorked here than in a typical "Battlefield" excursion, but not so much that it doesn't betray the things that separate a "Battlefield" shootout from the rest of the pack.
(c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.