WORDS BY: Dan Amrich
We kinda always thought war was supposed to be hell, not hilarious, but count that as one of many preconceptions developer DICE wants to change with Battlefield: Bad Company. That smiley face on the grenade pin in the game’s logo is more than just some cheeky icon — it’s a creative approach.
You’re Preston Marlowe, new guy in B Company — the Army’s dumping ground for ***-ups and loose cannons. “You smell very clean,” says explosives aficionado Haggard, while nerdy and talkative Sweetwater professes a crush on the radio dispatcher. Sergeant Redford is mostly normal, but he’s hours away from retirement, so he just wants to finish his job at war so he can fish in peace. But when the situation gets FUBAR and mercenary gold enters the mix…everyone’s priorities change.
The oddballs-against-all-odds approach works great as long as you’re in the mood for a casual romp behind enemy lines. Bad Company is refreshingly non-technical. You’re in a squad, but there are no squad commands. The world around you explodes on command; conveniently, you carry limitless health boosts, which you can use at any time, and you respawn at generous checkpoints (sometimes inside vehicles!). The stakes are considerably lower as a result, but that keeps the focus on more fun tasks, like collecting weapons, hijacking tanks, and wreaking havoc. Military vets will find the single-player mode too simple and silly, but for anyone who just wants to blow stuff up with army men, welcome.
Then again, no true Battlefield player will be opposed to the idea of endlessly respawning — it’s the heart of multiplayer, which features a new 24-player objective-based mode called Gold Rush (see sidebar, left). Clear map markings make navigation simple; close respawn spots keep the action close at all times; and heavily armored, multi-man vehicles make getting into it a hell of a lot of fun. It’s blissfully simple and inviting. You’re also rewarded for working together with teammates — the specialist can fit a target with a transponder, which the demolition expert can then lock onto and hit with a homing missile. You’ll level up in rank, armaments, and ability, as well as earn commendations for weapon prowess with each round — pleasantly similar to Call of Duty 4’s motivational stickiness.
Our review build had some noticeable issues with horizontal image tearing, and we wish that the buildings didn’t look and crumble so similarly. Nor are we sold on the overzealous reverb effects, which made gunfire in a small room sound like a shootout in a metallic bank vault. Mapping vehicle acceleration and braking to the left trigger and left bumper felt awkward at first, but it’s a good trade-off for using the second analog stick to swivel turrets. The helicopter still felt freakin’ impossible to fly, though.
We’re willing to put up with these quibbles for the promise of 24-player online matches, considering how friendly Bad Company feels. It’s the perfect military shooter for Halo and Unreal Tournament players who find the Clancy titles too real to be fun.
+ Action-oriented, pick-up-and-play multiplayer.
+ Great characters in the story.
- Bad horizontal tearing and some echo-happy sound FX.
? Why are videogame helicopters always so difficult to control?