The Battlefield series has been a personal favorite of mine over the years. I got hooked on the game at a LAN party where we played the demo of Battlefield:1942 demo for three hours straight. Since then the game has taken gamers through warfare in Vietnam, modern times, and even into the future. What I liked about the game was that there was a lot of great first person combat and the games usually required some modicum of teamwork to succeed. The other great thing about the game was that you could spend as much or as little time with the game as you wanted. It was just as easy to hop on a server and play a few matches before bed as it was to hop on a server and spend most of an afternoon defending capture points.
Battlefield:Bad Company brings a lot of changes the Battlefield franchise. This is the the first console only edition of the game and it's the first edition of the game to ship with a full fledged single player campaign. Previous editions just had you playing the multiplayer maps against AI bots. Finally Bad Company introduces a new gameplay mode called Gold Rush that brings asynchronous gameplay to the series for the first time.
The single player campaign follows the exploits of the Bad Company squad, a ragamuffin group of misfits who serve as the tip of the spear for the military. The bulk of the conflict takes place in unnamed Russian country who's main exports are dumb soldiers and exploding barrels. The plot never reveals exactly why you're fighting the Russians but the game takes a bit of a Three Kings turn when Bad Company figures out that the Russians are bringing in mercenaries who like to be paid in gold. From that point forward it's all about acquiring the gold so they can live the life of luxury.
The game eschews the opportunity for political satire or social commentary to focus on shooting stuff and blowing things up. You could read into some of the plot if you want but the plot of the game is there to get you from one battle to the next. There are some attempts at humor during the game but they are more of the groaners than rib ticklers. That said the plot of the game is well laid out and never gets boring. Most of the combat is ground based but you will get a chance to pilot jeeps, armor, and even fly a helicopter. It's not quite at the Call of Duty 4 level but it isn't a complete waste of time and it does serve as good preparation for the multi-player portion of the game.
While the single player is solid the multiplayer in Bad company is the heart of the game and worth the price of admission by itself. You have the standard class based gameplay that we've seen in the previous games but refined to near perfection. The unlockable system introduced in in Battlefield 2 and tweaked in Battlefield 2142 has been tweaked further as well. I like the fact that there isn't a weak class in the bunch. Medics usually had to sit back and just heal but in Bad Company they have a bit of bite to them. You earn points for killing bad guys, assisting on kills, and for accomplishing mission goals and you lose points for team killing. Accumulate enough points and you move up in rank and unlock a point to unlock a class specific weapon. I was a bit surprised to see that you really didn't get anything to start with for each class other than basic guns but you earn points fast enough early on that it doesn't really matter.
The new Gold Rush multiplayer mode is a bit of a twist from the old conquest mode. Players are divided into two teams, an attacking team and a defending team. The goal of the defenders is to maintain control of several chests of gold while the attackers are focused on getting their hands on the loot. There are several sets of gold chests on each level and as attackers acquire them the defenders fall back to the next set of chests. The system works well as it focuses the combat on one or two areas of the map and forces you to work with your teammates instead of roaming on your own. DICE has released the old conquest mode as a free download so fans of the old multiplayer system have something to play as well.
What really makes Bad Company special is the new Frostbite engine developed by DICE for the game. The graphics look great but the big feature of the game is the destructible terrain. Almost everything in the game is destructible and it really impacts how you play the game. When most of the cover in the game is destructible it really changes how you approach the game as there are no longer safe spots to hide from heavy fire. It also creates new pathways through the map. On some of the village maps the buildings are close enough together that you can climb to the roof of one, blow a hole in it and then blow a hole in the building next to it. This allows you to then jump to the other building and ambush troops coming through the lower floors. You can also blow holes in the sides of some of the buildings to create impromptu sniping positions or create covering fire positions.
The destructible terrain also means that tanks are no longer stopped by trees, sign posts, or short fences, which fixes one of my longstanding issues with the series. Armor is now especially important in the game as they can help to quickly create paths to the gold or clear out nests of enemies. There's just something satisfying about blowing out the side of a building so that your machine gunner can take out people who thought they were safe inside.
Playing the game on my PS3 once again made me wish that microphones were standard issue on the PS3. There wasn't a lot of talking going on (which can be a good thing) which means a lot less cohesion. This isn't as critical as it used to be as the focused nature of the modes makes this less of an issue but the games are probably a bit more talkative on the Xbox 360 side.
From an audio standpoint, Bad Company is amazing. We've seen phenomenal audio from the series in the past but with Bad Company, DICE has taken their game to a new level. Battle are a cacophony of gunfire as you can quickly tell which weapons are being fired at you and which direction they are coming from. Each weapon has it's own unique sound and while DICE has always had good gunfire, Bad Company takes it to a new level. My only complaint is that they retailed the squelch sound from the demo which just grinds on me every time a radio message goes out across the coms.
The score of the game is also very well done and DICE has done a good job of weaving the classic Battlefield score into the game. Audio cues (especially in the singleplayer portion) are perfectly positioned and executed. It's not go out and buy the soundtrack good but kudos for coming up with a solid score.
I was a bit worried about Battlefield: Bad Company but after playing the game I've realized that the folks at DICE have managed to crank out another excellent game. It's not perfect and I wish there was a PC version of the game but if you're looking for a great mutliplayer game with solid single player you're not going to do much better than Battlefield: Bad Company.