Battlefield:Bad Company 2- Closed Beta Impressions

by: Chuck -
I know that the world is a buzz about Modern Warfare 2 right now but personally I'm still waiting for Battlefield:Bad Company 2. I could go on about how all the things like perks and squad based combat started in the Battlefield series but I don't want to sound like the cranky old guy who's telling kids to keep their crap out of his yard. Instead I'm going to tell you about some of my experiences with the closed beta for the game which started late last week.

The closed beta of Battlefield:Bad Company 2 includes one map (Arica Harbor) showing off the new Rush game play mode. The mode divides players into two groups, the attackers and defenders. The goal of the attackers is to progress through five areas of the map, blowing up two crates at each point before moving onto the next area. The goal of the defenders is to stop them. While it's simple in concept the actual implementation is pure gaming deliciousness. As an attacker do I want to try and flank the defenders to provide cover for another group behind me or do I want to just do one powerful move down the middle. As defenders do I want to hang back and react to the attackers advances or do I want to go on the offense to try and pin them into their spawn area?

If this sounds familiar it's because it's pretty much the same concept as the Gold Rush mode from the first game except without the gold. This does solve one of my major problems with the first game although why I have to blow up these two points is never really explained. I just rolled with it though as it does make for good gaming. It's not a straight port though as they've made a few tweaks. The defenders have unlimited lives to protect their base while the attackers are limited to just 100 lives to take each point. Once a point is taken they get re-enforcements which refills part of their reserve.

The unlocks/leveling system has also been tweaked significantly. As you play the game you earn points for kills, head shots, healing teammates, re-supplying teammates, and generally playing the game like you should. Accumulate enough of these points and you get promoted which earns you new abilities. In the previous game you earned "unlocks" which could be used to unlock new weapons for one of the games four classes. Instead of that system you get non-class specific ability like sprinting faster, carrying more ammo, or heavier armor.

Class specific upgrades haven't gone away though, they've just been re-worked. Class unlocks are done by earned points playing that class as the points you score playing that class go towards unlocking weapons/abilities in that class. It's a bit of a change from previous games but it works well as it forces to decide which role you want to play on the battlefield. For me it meant that I unlocked a ton of items in the assault and engineer class with the medic and recon class being left virtually untouched. I'm sure this will probably stir the pot for some people but it worked well for me as I like how you have a summation of all of your points (rank) as well as class specific ranks (which are denoted by the unlocks in each rank).

Another nice change is that the unlocks are available immediately within the game. In the last game you had to exit out to the main menu screen to get new weapons/gadgets. Now once a weapon is unlocked you can pick it the next time your re-spawn. This took me a few minutes to figure out but the system works really well as you just pick which class you want to choose and then scroll over to which weapon you want to replace and then choose from a vertical list of weapons.

The only downside to the unlock system is that if you're new to the game you're going to get killed a lot until you level up a bit. The higher end weapons do create a bit of a chasm between the haves and the have-nots in one on one battles but those fade away once you gain a few levels and learn to aim for the head.

Outside of the ranks and unlocks you can earn badges and pins for your actions in combat. I know these appeal to a certain crowd out there but I'm more focused on winning the match than winning stuff for my profile.

The controls are fairly tight and well laid out. The soldiers in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 are a little heavier than other games which takes some getting used to but once you get a feel for their chunkiness you're good to go. In an interesting move DICE has re-worked the tank controls a bit. Instead of using the L1 and L2 for moving forward and back they've gone back to using the right thumbstick . This is a bit of a surprise as they pioneered that schema in the last game. I'm guessing there is an option to switch it over but I haven't looked for it.

The big feature of the first game was how destructible the environments were and the new game builds significantly on that feature. You can now raze buildings to the ground instead of just reducing them to steel beams. This takes a bit of work on your part but it still adds a lot to the game play. I don't know that game has surpassed Red Faction:Guerrilla yet but they've definitely gone further than the first game.

I spent over five hours playing the game this weekend and had a blast. You would think that with only one map the game would play the same but I never had the same experience twice. The game also retains the amazing Battlefield moments that the series is known for. There's nothing like being out in the open and seeing a tank pop up ahead of you only to be destroyed by a UAV before it can get a shot off.

The game retains the same fantastic sounds as the previous game as heated battles create a beautiful soundtrack of gun fire, exploding ordinance, and crumbling buildings. The annoying radio squelch is gone which means I no longer have to cringe after radio communication comes through.

So far the game looks like it's on track to build on the success of the first game. I'm still waiting to see what DICE/EA have in store for the single player part of Battlefield:Bad Company 2 but right now it looks like they've got something that will gamers away from Infinity Ward's latest.
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