Battlefield has never been praised for its singleplayer campaigns. In 1942, you could play a series of World War II battles in chronological order, but there were no characters and no plot, save the wee loading screen text. Battlefield 2 and 2142 didn’t even have a campaign, just a skirmish mode against dim-witted bots. Modern Combat, a mediocre port of Battlefield 2, had a singleplayer campaign, but it wasn’t worth the disc space it occupied. It looked like DICE, the master of multiplayer, couldn’t bring their strength to bear on the other side of the divide.
Luckily for us, DICE went back to the drawing board and produced Bad Company. With lessons learned from its previous failures and good ideas cribbed from other games in the genre, they crafted a fun story with believable characters that still felt like a Battlefield game, complete with massive landscapes and a large stable of vehicles. Now DICE are back and gunning for their biggest competitor, Infinity Ward and their genre-leading Call of Duty titles. They’ve promised an improved singleplayer experience that’s slightly darker in tone, but will that be enough to rival Modern Warfare 2?
Bad Company 2‘s campaign kicks off in a time and place you might not expect – a Japanese island in World War 2 where American commandos are infiltrating a secret weapons lab, looking for a defected Japanese scientist who knows something about a certain Japanese superweapon. It’s a strange beginning, but it lays the table well for the feast to follow, as well as being a nice homage to the series’ roots.
After a quick tutorial mission into and out of the lab, you return to the furious foursome of the titular Bad Company and the present day, where that very same superweapon has appeared in the hands of an evil Russian. Once again, it’s up to Bad Company to save the day.
The missions as a whole are quick, high intensity affairs with a good combination of infantry combat and vehicle sections. The open levels allow you a high degree of freedom in planning your assaults, and the improved destruction mechanic means that if a door is shut to you, it’s trivial to blow open a new one. The terrain is fairly varied, with jungles, deserts, tundra and urban areas all suspiciously finding their way into the storyline.
While each of Bad Company 2′s high-powered missions hit just as hard as the finest firefights in Modern Warfare, the campaign as a whole feels almost too pressurised. The game lacks the low-intensity sections that were some of my favourites from Call of Duty – missions like Death from Above and All Ghillied Up. This lends the campaign an almost breathless affair, as the high-intensity missions just keep coming.
One of the biggest draws of the original Bad Company was the cast – Sarge, Sweetwater and Haggard made great squadmates, not because they were particularly brilliant or useful, but because they said interesting things. Instead of being caricatures of military personnel, they were laid-back, open, and interesting, a squad of rejects that almost accidentally found themselves on an important mission. Of course they’re back for Bad Company 2, and it’s much the same. The squad and the supporting cast don’t seem particularly realistic, but they fit in well with the over-the-top nature of Bad Company. This time around they’re a bit more serious, and prone to contemplating life, death, and the finer points of the universe when you’re not in the thick of things.
The technical aspects of the game are quite good as well. The graphics are impressive, with shafts of silky light stabbing through the scenery being an obvious point of pride for the production. It’s not Crysis, but it doesn’t require much graphical grunt either. The enemy AI is passable, not infuriatingly clever or blindingly stupid. A fairly middling protrayal, until you get to the sound.
Bad Company 2 is without exception the best sounding game I have ever played. Each sound sits perfectly in the mix, and their clever sound system delivers a dynamic experience, with sounds fading in and out as they battle for control of your eardrums. Listening to the bolt action of the M95 in the heat of battle is absolute bliss. You will want to listen to this game at full volume, and you will enjoy it.
Overall, the singleplayer campaign of Bad Company 2 is a huge improvement over DICE’s previous works. It’s got that Call of Duty level of quality in some areas, like the varied missions, cool cast, and killer sound, but it’s still missing a few tricks that would take it from bonus material to part of the core experience. For now though, the Bad Company 2 campaign is a nice introduction to the game and certainly worth a playthrough when the EA servers are inevitably down.