Wednesday, March 03, 2010

War can be a love-hate thing - thoughts from the battlefield of Bad Company 2

So, I'm not a huge fan of the linear, movie-type feel over realistic game play, flash instead of substance kind of guy. If my subtleness is too slight, Modern Warfare, I'm talking to you.

But there was something about Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BBC2). Admittedly, some of the charm wore off with the MP demo that brought home prone and lean would be MIA from the game, the former a particular fancy of die-hard Battlefield fans. Graphics looked nice, but a trip through Modern Warfare taught me that storytelling and graphics don't necessarily deliver an enjoyable and repeatable 'gaming' experience.

The first outing of the Bad Company characters never made it to the PC, so being included on their second journey made us red-headed stepchildren feel special and certainly more loved than we have been in recent gaming memory. And DICE claiming they had a group of developers dedicated to creating the PC version put us in the front seat of the car for this first person shooter.

But whatever the factors were, there I was at the checkout screen on Steam forking over some hard-earned cash for the latest journey into the Battlefield world. The plan was to kick the download off at lunch, and have it ready to play when I got home. The annoying message claiming the Steam servers were too busy to handle my request gave a few false starts to my new deployment, but within thirty minutes I managed to sneak into the downloading queue.

So what about the game?

Good looking graphics. I mean, the sharpest thing you'll find out there. From the quality of the characters to the textures used, there is nothing bad to say about the graphics. All the Direct X candy is included, bloom, mist the whole nine yards. Each level is a living breathing world. Albeit one that occassionally runs on rails.

If there were anything bad to say about the game its just that, filled with a lot of sections that have you running or riding on a rail, spraying and praying. Its really the most disappointing part of the effort.

But what they do well more than makes up for it, at least in this early stage of playing through the game.

The game is dumbed down by removing leaning, prone and silly things like the ability to change ROF (rate of fire). Surprisingly, as annoying as this may be on paper, once in battle its not so noticeble. The SP battles are hectic, made even more so by the very buildings crumbling around you. Doors aren't opened in this game, they are busted through.

The excellent sound floods your senses with the loud, confusing battlefield that has danger coming from seemingly every direction. Trying to take a breather and heal (yes, it has the annoying auto-healing) is near impossible.

The rate of fire? Don't worry about it. The game is designed for players to put down a lot of lead and has enough ammo on each level to ensure you'll never run out. The weapons have a nice kick to them, trailing up into the air the longer you hold down the trigger. When your enemy falls, the moment is well done and a far cry from the rag-doll days of Battlefield 2 which could add a comical note to an intense battle.

The upsides to the game, even with the crisp graphics and destructible environment the game runs pretty smooth. And the game does look beautiful.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe the sound. By far the best I've heard in any game, from the atmospheric effects from your surroundings to the mutlitude of layers immersing the player in the battle. The way DICE has managed to fade the sound in and out as a player gets too close to an explosion or is coming close to croaking is by the best in any game. If there was ever a reason to justify the surround sound set up, here it is. An example to the attention to detail, during one of the cutscenes I kept looking around to see if a tv in the house was on. It ended up being a radio in the office my character was standing in, playing out of one of my rear speakers.

Downside? Not sure about the first edition, but the story for this game is weak. Stereotyping is so strong, I'm still waiting one of my NPC's to tell me how much he likes the smell of napalm in the morning. But for PC players, the Battlefield series never had storylines, so no let down there.

However, I'm only three hours into the SP, and hoping the confusing back story set at the end of World War 2 comes into play soon, otherwise what was the point?

Speaking of which, the transition between game play and scripted sequences is clumsy at best and feels like and afterthought. Its as if they came up with all the different levels in a pitch meeting and worked out how to connect them on the elevator ride down to the lobby.

And it was obviously a short elevator ride.

As soon as the developers make me feel good about all the effort they put into the gameplay and level design, I have to run along a corridor or ride in the back of a vehicle to do yet another mini-level on rails.

Glad I bought it though, no ill-feelings about paying full price. DICE seems to have made me feel good (for the most part) about being a PC gamer. The real test will be the longevity of the MP. Many will be looking to see if it can unseat MW2, most certainly reviving the arguement and true need for dedicated servers.

Check back here for my thoughts on that side of Bad Company 2. In the meantime, I need to shred some buildings.

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