"Battlefield Bad Company 2 review – in the comfort zone. "
Battlefield Bad Company 2 review – in the comfort zone.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 is yet another war-playground simulator in first person, for the PC, xbox360 and the ps3. During initial and extended playtesting, any edges in the game deemed dangerous to running children without helmets, knee-pads and thick gloves has been ground down to ovals, and padded with styrofoam. References to drugs, smoking and politics has been disappeared, so that only children-friendly murder is left. Any obvious challenges deemed game-breaking, presumably by people who saw the game briefly on youtube, has also been surgically removed from the game - all in order to make the game better appeal to the so called “console-crowd”.
But in spite of this, DICE still managed to create a game that is both original and unique in a few different ways. And I will now explain how - in spite of my fears that evil executives will chance upon the review, and discover what they missed, in order to make the game the truly miserable experience they wanted for the players at launch day.
Very often, the challenge game-designers struggle with when creating the rules for an fps-game, is a way to incorporate distance properly. If we had real life distances in a game, the soldiers would spend most of their time valiantly tracking through snow, jungle, forest, desert and so on. And then blindly firing at an enemy, a shade barely visible at 300m. In the same way, the guns would be – judged by the standard of the virtual copies typically found in games – so inaccurate that they would be considered useless. Soldiers would then run out of ammo from all the spraying, as carrying more than 60 7.62mm cartridges in metal magazines actually weighs a ton.
It is the same issue when it comes to “bullet drop”. Typically, a soldier with an assault-rifle will not consider bullet-drop in an engagement. Still, there is enough bullet-drop that a rifle adjusted for 200m will overshoot a smaller target between 20-50m. So there will be some conscious thought that will go into which range the rifle sights will be set to, depending on the distance you expect your next engagement to take place at. In order to make effective use of the sights when the engagement happens.
Of course, in games this kind of thing would be extremely difficult to actually include. You can't simply snap up a hand to the sight, or pick a mark by raising your eyesight over the barrel. To do that, you would have needed another shortcut combination, and perhaps another controller device that controls your now unglued eye from the sights. The focus would have to react to your eye. Also, distance in a game-world is completely different to distance in the real world – either you can't judge the distance properly, or the range you can see with perfect focus and lighting is simply too far.
Which means that most war-playground games simply drop all of these things, and let you fire a magic broomstick. With homing bullets. The levels will then be designed to have short range engagements, all the weapons will be exactly the same. And sniper-rifles will be used in the same way as a manually loaded shotgun with sabot slugs.
Certainly I am not scoffing at this solution to the problem – after all, trivialising combat and war so blatantly is, after all, the way to make the best selling game of all time.
The point is that when DICE decided to include bullet-drop and variable distances in Bad Company 2, with the amount of characteristically different weapons, gadgets, modifications and vehicles - this was in many ways very risky and original (both points no doubt deftly hidden from the publisher).
On the one hand, simply orienting the game around how the squads will be operating in different comfort zones depending on their loadouts is so different from other shooters, that this alone could have become a problem. After all, such a thing will make teamwork absolutely essential, since you cannot simply rescue a squad by snapping around and blindly firing at a well set up ambush. Or rush through a defence at the badly designed corner-section of the map. This was very obviously going to upset the fps-gurus, and deem the game a complete failure. And yet, DICE bravely did it anyway, with this .. first person shooter.
On the other hand, the game-technical difficulties with balancing the combat for variable distances is complex. Since even if the game somehow ended up incorporating distances naturally, that would, as described earlier, not necessarily make a good game.
But DICE pulled that off as well. And they did it by making sure that the effective range of the weapons are adjusted - indeed not to what couch generals believe is an adaptation of the specifications for a real gun – but instead to what makes sense in terms of the game's design.
Meaning that in spite of the many random people on the internet disagreeing with this solution - long range weapons in Battlefield Bad Company 2 engage at the game's longest distances. In the same way, shorter ranged weapons will be most effective on shorter ranges only. So that the different weapons have both strengths and weaknesses, depending on the situation.
Even the walking speeds and controls were not changed so that the game would feature more accurately depicted supermen with magic fire-sticks in Tiger Stripes. Neither can you, as mandated by the internet authorities, run while strafing. Instead the walking speeds and controls, once again, was matched to fit the game's design. Where differently ranged combat will be possible, but where the ranges are still short enough to keep the battles intense.
It may seem obvious to you that this would make a better game than giving one class and one weapon overpowered stats. But it is not. Not by a long sniper shot.
The destructible cover is next. Even though the destruction is technically – like in any shooter other than Killzone 2 – just a disappearing wall behind a cloud of smoke. It is still something that adds to this mentioned game-design in Bad Company 2, rather than detract from it – which once again is a curious thing to behold. I'm simply not attuned to this kind of thing. After all, destructible buildings and walls should, by rights, simply be a gimmick. And yet, it's an element that enhances the game, and creates dynamic battles that rarely become exactly the same. It's the same as with the vehicles - a carry over from the other Battlefield Games – where taking cover might be a strategic advantage at one moment, and a death-trap at the next, depending on the situation and the placement of your team-mates and the enemy.
Obviously, the producer was sold on how you can seemingly spawn-camp the other team to death by rolling a tank into their spawn-area, and crush buildings by ramming them. But DICE simply didn't show them the many easy and quick ways soldiers on foot would be able to neutralize the threat afterwards.
In fact, in spite of the wishes of evil executives and internet authorities, this balance persists in the game at all times. To every strategy, there's a counter-strategy. Even if it's just shooting wildly at short range, the game accounts for that well enough as well, by rewarding the team that can mobilize quickly and set up positions. Or move purposefully through an area.
Now let me talk about passive abilities. Unlike other shooters, such as Killzone 2, BC2 has passive abilities that has yet to be tweaked into super-abilities (another feat that evidences DICE's superiority over other fps-makers). Meaning that a team where the recon class does it's job by spotting enemies – that is, placing red triangles over their heads for a short while – will make the team function better. A team where a medic revives other people will last longer. A team where assaults place ammo-crates will be better prepared. And engineers repairing vehicles will provide the team with support. In the same way, explosives have to be placed, and rocket-launchers have to be aimed.
And no amount of executive pressure could apparently make DICE ruin their game by making these abilities into active super-abilities. Or by upping the statistics of the most popular weapons. The struggle DICE must have had to surpass all other studios making fps-games in this way must have been truly epic.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 is in the end an – circumstances accounted for - an extremely well accomplished objective and squad-based shooter. It may even rival Killzone 2 at launch, before the patching. In fact, the game is Killzone 2 before it was balanced apart. Just with worse graphics. And more guns. But as far as console-shooters go, Bad Company 2 is quite successful. And it continues to be so after the first volley of patching.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 also has a single-player mode.
Played for a total of 4 days online, unlocked all the weapons, and I don't even like shooters. Online performance is variable, depending on how close to the current server you and the rest of the clients are. EA has a load-balancing scheme in place that shifts clients to the other end of the world if the local servers are full. And this has unfortunate side-effects, such as having to allow for worst case scenario lag. It certainly solved the problem that some people could not connect at all times (now they connect to other end of the planet instead! Success! And EA didn't even have to buy more server space!). But in return clients may suddenly lag, even though you are playing on a local server.
But basically, if you can avoid servers like the ones listed below (which are actual spoofs of EA's servers used for load-balancing EU and US customers), the games should be flowing well enough. Obviously, if you're on a console, that means jumping from game to game, until you find a good one. Since there's unfortunately no server-browser or ping-indication on the console-versions. Good luck out there, soldier.
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Community review by fleinn (May 10, 2010)
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