Battlefield: Bad Company Subseries User Review
Rivalry. Over the past months, an intense rivalry has sprouted between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, facilitated by the constant jabs by EA, the rabid, rivalry-loving nature of humanity and the close proximity of their release dates. Not having played any previous entries in either of the series, I decided to throw myself into their latest incarnations to decide whether they may or may not be right for me. You can find my feelings on Black Ops with a bit of searching, and I finally managed to get around to the Bad Company subseries of Battlefield. Without any further gilding the lily and with no ado whatsoever (great line from an excellent movie), here comes the review.
The two Bad Company games have recently been pointed out by a DICE spokesman as being more akin to action films that the realism that is supposedly being aimed for with BF3, and this can only be described as hitting the nail firmly on the head. Everything about these games screams of a likeness to the utterly brainless, popcorn fuelled romps that, sadly, dominate the box office. You control Preston Marlowe, a new recruit to the 222nd Army Battalion better known as Bad Company, joining three cookie-cutter cardboard cutouts in the form of Haggard, the guy that just wants to blow stuff up, Sweetwater, the nerd afraid to get his hands dirty, and Sarge, the guy who just wants to get the mission done so he can go fishing. It certainly doesn’t break new ground in characterisation, but having these three other guys around almost constantly does alleviate the tedium of the game somewhat through their inane, though occasionally funny, statements. Marlowe acts as both audience substitute and narrator, and a surprisingly good job is done on this latter aspect, with one actually getting some sense of the emotion that he feels, though it is underutilised. Without that aforementioned narration, the games would lose what little charm they held for me.
And that is a testament to the dullness of the campaigns here. The first sees the crew fighting Russians, until they come across a bunch of mercenaries known as The Legionnaires. These guys supposedly form one of the deadliest armies in the world, but hey, apparently they get paid for their work in gold bars. Sure enough, one of the guys they kill has one of the bullions on him, and greed overcomes Bad Company as they go AWOL from the army, invade a neutral country and get themselves in a whole mess of trouble. It’s a fun, light-hearted tale, but ultimately empty and somewhat disappointing, especially when the ancillary characters have even less personality than the main characters and much of the game winds up feeling drawn out far beyond what is reasonable, despite being no longer than eight hours.
The second begins an indeterminate amount of time later, though actually starts off with a flashback to 1944 and something called Operation Aurora, as the player takes control of some World War II era soldier trekking through Japanese territory to find… something or other. After this is over, you once again take control of Preston Marlowe, alongside the rest of B-Company. You begin in Russia, seeking some kind of weapon and ultimately succeed in this task, but this is only the beginning as it turns out that it is a fake. Following this, you are sent all over the world, visiting some locales that are simply stunning from a visual perspective. Unfortunately the plot only manages to get ever more forgettable to the point that one feels as though DICE is simply globe-trotting the player in an attempt to make them blow their load over the vistas, those these are admittedly unparalleled in beauty. The first game was fun, but this only ends up feeling like a chore and the five hours that I managed to pass within this game before it glitched, were, with the exception of a single mission in this game, the hardest that I have ever forced myself to try to finish a game. It’s just dreadful.
Now, I already mentioned that the vistas in Bad Company are simply jaw-dropping, and I would defend this statement to the bitter end. To put it simply, I’ve never seen better. Be it the icy mountains, or heavily forested hills, the grandeur that the possess is amazing. This sentiment of excellence in the graphical presentation is also applied to the character models, which are all very well done and a colossal step up from what was in the original game. Hell even the vegetation is altogether quite stunning. Unfortunately, it falls apart a bit when presented with the interactive environs, as these are dominated by cut-and-paste set pieces, though the level of detail within them certainly is commendable. One of the biggest things that I was taken aback by in this respect was the destructibility engine. I was led to believe that it was unlike anything that I’d seen before; Destruction 2.0. Are you kidding me? I mean, sure it looks good, but it isn’t physics based. It causes canned damage to the external façade of structures depending on where the grenade/rocket hits. Sure, when you get a chance to call in an aristrike you see some spectacular fireworks, but that’s a rare thing. All in all, I was unimpressed with this facet of the game.
But this isn’t the only drawback to the visual presentation. Frame rate issues crop up when things start getting a bit hectic, such as those aforementioned fireworks, though otherwise remains quite steady in scripted sequences and regular gunfights. The biggest flaw is the rampant screen tearing. I mean, I can normally forgive this issue, but this series is simply detestable for the screen tearing. There is scarcely a minute that will pass without seeing the telltale sign of the splintering of visual elements, and it gets much worse when any sort of action begins to take place. And if that were the worst of it, I’d actually be more satisfied. The cutscenes, oh dear science the cutscenes. These are plagued by tearing. I kid you not, they are damn near unwatchable as a result of the frequency and intensity of it. This one aspect is almost enough to ruin the experience, even though it can normally be glossed over.
The audio of the game is much more solid. Explosions go off with suitable punch, with the deafening after-effects being recreated through a high pitched buzzing and muted sound for a little while. The distance of explosions seem exaggerated though, as they quickly drop in volume with the further off they are. It’s slightly jarring to hear nothing from a building being blown to smithereens at a distance that just seems too close, but it’s a difficult balance to get right, even for the most talented of programmers, as there are other audio cues that must take precedent. The gunfire is, usually, very well represented with most of the weapons sounding carefully weighted to the real life counterparts, though others seem to be lacking. Environmental noise is almost nonexistent, which is sad, but rarely achieved anyway. Still, you expect to hear birds chirping away in a tropical forest, but not here.
The soundtrack of the first game fits in well with the light-hearted nature of it, though there is a very limited selection. There is one track in particular that is played several times in cutscenes, and while it is initially an interesting inclusion, it eventually grows annoying. The second game is a bit more diverse, but very heavily invested in more standard military shooter sounds, and this takes a great deal away from the singleness of the first game. When it comes to the voices, it is much as you would expect. It only serves to reinforce the stereotypical, one-dimensional nature of the characters leaving Marlowe to be the standout by head and shoulders. And again, the ancillary characters do little to relieve this as they are handled even more poorly.
The games are both first person shooters, and the original actually feels quite fresh, while the second is a more stock-standard affair on this front. This is because the first clearly plays by its own rules, with the second choosing to adopt the popular ideals set forward by Call of Duty, and this simply is not good. But what are the major differences between the two? The first allows you to pick up only a single gun at a time, and then switch between the regular firing mode or throwing/shooting a grenade. And yes, most of the weapons have a grenade launcher as their secondary fire, while those that don’t have thrown grenades. I found it a peculiar choice, but okay. The second maintains the secondary fire mode of a grenade launcher, but also allows you to carry grenades separately to be thrown at any time. In addition, you are also able to equip two weapons, which does increase the tactical allowance of the player, but also does away with that singular feel. Further to this, the first has a needle thing that you jab yourself with to restore your health, and requires a short time between inoculations to recharge, and power tools are required to repair any vehicles. The second does away with both of these, implementing a regenerating health scheme for both person and vehicles.
The area where the second comes out on top is, without a doubt, the level design. The first has these enormous, empty maps with certain hub areas allocated for the action. It’s a promising choice, until you realise just how huge and empty they are because you bailed out of your vehicle just before it blew up and now you have to trudge some ridiculously long way just to get to the next objective. I mean… boring. The second has a tighter design philosophy, with the huge areas not being more balanced as to the number of enemy confrontations scattered about. They’re still unnecessarily big and occasionally boring, but it’s a massive step-up. This balance comes at a price though, as the second game is far more scripted, so you spend a considerable amount of time being forced from place to place, rather than having the freedom to do things at your own pace. It’s just disconcerting when you see the size of the maps. And then there’s the enemy placement. Given the openness of many of the areas, it appears that DICE have barely tried in this aspect. They’re invariably hidden within these stupid little shipping container-looking buildings, or just thrown about willy-nilly. And AI… bah, Artificial Stupidity more like. There really are no redeeming features to the bullet fodder, aside from a nice level of detail.
Oh, and the control layout is just stupid. I mean, whoever decided on the button management needs to be shot as it is immensely difficult to get used to and ultimately counterintuitive. Further to this, it is impossible to alter the layout in anyway, with no other choices being granted to the player. It’s utterly frustrating, especially after coming off the Resistance franchise where you can remap to your heart’s content.
That being said, the second game features on of the best missions that I’ve seen in a first person shooter, Snowblind. That’s all I’m going to say so as to not spoil it for anyone, but oh my, I found that to be amazing.
Now as already mentioned, the games aren’t particularly long, clocking in at around seven or eight hours on the standard difficulty, but they just seem to drag on. There’s nothing special about the campaigns, though they’re certainly worth a revisiting for people that adore the genre, with collectable guns to be found in both, and gold bars also to be hunted down in the first, while the second offers M-COM stations to be destroyed as a bonus objective. Neither is particularly compelling though. One thing that irritated me no end was a gun that is probably the most unbalanced that I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across (and that’s saying something after the Mutator in R3. That was overpowered.). I think it’s called the TOS, and it’s a shotgun that can basically be used a sniper rifle. At least, it can in the hands of the enemy. It’s ridiculously overpowered, but as soon as you get one for your own, its effectiveness seems lessened. Oh, but the multiplayer is supposed to fun, and it’s abundantly obvious that that is where most of the effort for the games went.
Honestly, I tried to like these games, I really did. I wanted to, but they just wouldn’t let me, and when I came to a point where an enemy helicopter spawned on top of mine at a checkpoint in Bad Company 2, I knew that I was done with them. Look, from a technical standpoint, I firmly believe that my score above is too low, and from a personal standpoint, it is ridiculously high. For me, these are 6/10 games at best. I thank the heavens that I managed to get both of them for less than $40, yet I still feel as though I wasted my money.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for persevering and as mentioned in the beginning, I’d truly like your feedback as to the style of this review and whether you’d prefer to see more continuing as presented here, or returning to the more objective and analytical type that I’ve generally stuck to in the past.
As always, thank you for reading. May you find Peace, Happiness and Contentedness going forward in your lives. Until next time, PSXE.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.