No, sorry, this isn’t about corporate malfeasance! This is (mostly) a guest post written by Warren Magnus. I’ve done a little editing, and my additions are in italics. I added all the links. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 came out Tuesday — that’s 2 days ago. He’s already finished the single player scenario. Let’s see what he has to say about it.
Our house is a little different. We have three avid video gamers and we play together regularly. We’re not talking Wii sports and party games like Rock Band either. We’re talking hard core online competitive first-person gaming. Our son has recently joined us in this and he’s an aggressive competitor in his own right. Most of all, though, we have fun playing. This is genre we know and love and we’re always ready for new and exciting games.
ShortWoman has written on games periodically and hailed the arrival of the highly cinematic single player games of the Modern Warfare series. These games are so good and so compelling that even after a fairly short single player game (6-8 hours) the full price of the game is realized. They play really, really well and network play keeps them fresh for months afterwards.
Last November Modern Warfare 2 arrived. The network play has been plagued by hacks and bugs just like most new software, but Infinity Ward has patched the game regularly and kept these from being a real problem.Even so, it would be nice to have something fresh. Enter DICE’s Battlefield Bad Company 2, a sequel in a long line of games that the ShortWoman and I have logged many hours playing.
Despite superficial graphical similarities, BC2 has exactly none of what makes a Call of Duty game compelling. The soundtrack echoes movies like Raider of the Lost Ark. That wouldn’t be bad, but the suspense music from Raiders every time a plot point is revealed gets old quickly. It’s like a giant banner reading “Look! Here’s something important! Pay attention!”
This game initially reviewed exceptionally well, but the rating has fallen to an 89 at Metacritic. Oops, it’s dropped to 83 since this morning. A quick look of gaming communities will reveal a lot of enthusiasm and dedication to this game especially amongst the PC gaming crowd. Don’t believe it. Part of their enthusiasm is for reasons other than gameplay or quality.
The single player campaign for Bad Company 2 was short and shockingly shallow. BC2 shows that DICE simply doesn’t get single player gaming; it just doesn’t provide the kind of immersive experience that both Modern Warfare chapters did. The game did take a few direct digs at Infinity Ward (the developer of Modern Warfare) in the game dialog but instead of being funny it felt forced.
Nearly every frame of the game felt like I had played it before and recently too. Spoilers below the fold for those that care. There was a whole lot of “Been there, done that, unlocked the achievement.”
Infinity Ward has been widely criticized for improbable or incomprehensible plots, but BC2 beats any Call of Duty game for that. The team in Bad Company ends the first game driving into the sunset with their truck full of gold ala the movie Three Kings (which was itself a remake of Kelly’s Heroes). This isn’t even mentioned and no explanation is given for how they are hijacked by Army special operations. What happened to the gold? Why isn’t the first scene with our protagonists somewhere in a South American villa with the Sarge sipping a fruity drink and asking exactly why they should agree to work with the United States Army at all, for any price?
The plot of BC2 hinges on discovery of a Japanese WWII vintage secret weapon that ends up being hijacked by a Russian agent and used against the US. The American spy that has coordinated the movements of Bad Company suddenly turns the weapon over to the Russians, a complete surprise because it comes with no real lead in and includes a non-sensical explanation. At least the Russian bad-guy kills the American spy immediately. That at least made sense!
The framing and dialog of the game creates an environment that just isn’t compelling or immersive. One only develops a passing interest in any of the characters thanks to shallow portrayals, inane dialog and game play that is almost completely on rails and feels it. Call of Duty games are just as linear, but through careful pacing and use of cinematics makes it feel the player has more freedom of motion than he really does.
One “feature” of Bad Company and Bad Company 2 is the Frostbite engine. This gives players enhanced graphics and for the lack of a better term, enhanced destruction. Almost anything can be blown up: people, trees, buildings, vehicles, those ubiquitous red barrels, just about everything beyond rocks and supply crates. For a while, this is incredibly cool in a “let’s see what we can destroy next” sort of way. And then you come to realize that almost anything you could possibly hide behind for cover can blow up, leaving you in the open. You can actually be killed by a building collapsing on you under tank or RPG fire. Nowhere is this feature/problem more obvious than multi-player mode; don’t be shocked to see that certain areas of the map have been reduced to rubble.
There are two small ways in which Bad Company 2 is at least an improvement over its prequel. First, your AI teammates are better shots and more likely to actually take out enemies instead of leaving you to kill absolutely everything. Oh, you’ll still do everything, you just won’t have to personally kill every tango. Second, the enemy’s bullets are slightly less protagonist-seeking. Slightly.
It’s not often that I feel truly short changed for what first run video games cost. I’m a careful buyer. BC2 is worth playing for those that rent games and maybe later when it’s a discount priced “greatest hit” but at full retail fare the value just isn’t there. Judging from the rapidly plunging Metacritic score, you just might be able to pick up a discount used copy at Game Stop by the end of the month.
Continue reading Bad Company 2