Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: Battlefield Bad Company 2

Posted by deckard47 on March 8, 2010

Snow-soldiers being buzzed by a snowy helicopter. In the Snow!

Let’s start this off with a joke. Something about not being able to play the game while Simon plays it with impunity. That’s because he bought the console version, while I bought the PC version, which had broken-at-launch multiplayer (a week out, it still doesn’t work half of the time). He’s won this one, since he’s played the game for many hours more than me, but in the long run he’s a big loser. He loses, because PC gamers get the absolutely phenomenal BFBC 2 UI and menus. I’d like to post a screen of these menus, because they really are quite something. They’re responsive, clearly and brightly colored, and let you get to whatever information you’re lookingfor quickly. They aren’t a hideous crimson or blood-red, and there aren’t flames, helicopters, or other silly crap floating and animating in the background. True, the art itself isn’t fantastic (a brurning army guy and some tanks), but the fact that it isn’t trying to claw my eyes out as I play is both surprising and welcome. This menu is here (in a somehow understated Bumblebee color scheme) to fill you in on everything. I can’t remember another menu that does this so well. Congratulations, DICE.

What about that game, then? Here’s the real question : is is as good as that fabulous menu?

I’ve never actually played another Battlefield title. I’ve played many multiplayer games that owe much to the series, but this is the first time I’ve stepped into one of DICE’s MP shooters. I am, ironically, a veteran of both Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. It’s not a secret that I find the stupid, pretentious fiction that buoys the MW series to be completely intolerable. I’d always assumed that the Battlefield series avoided that pitfall by being a wholly multiplayer series. With no single player, they’d have no excuse to drown me in crypto-facist drivel for 10 hours.

Imagine my surprise then, to find that while Bad Company 2‘s single player is inferior to its multiplayer, it’s far more interesting than the SP in Modern Warfare 1 & 2. While you still play one member of a squad of men who gad about the world killing bad guys (generally scary future-Russians and future-Russia’s South American Comrades), that squad is unhappy with its plight. They do what they’re ordered to do, but they aren’t terribly happy about it (as outlined by Nick, here). Less interesting than this band of supposed misfits (who are still crack shots, of course) is the structure of the single player missions. Apparently, in BC 1, the single player missions were like giant, AI-filled multiplayer maps. You and your three AI friends tried to complete a familiar MP objective (Rush, maybe), while the enemy tried to stop you. While I’m guessing this lead to some weird pacing issues, it obviously did a good job of using the game’s new physics and destructibility effects. If every map was a giant playground, you’d always be encouraged to destroy bits of it to open up new avenues of attack.

In BFBC 2, DICE decided to take its quite excellent destruction-engine and plop it into a fairly linear, MW 2-like experience. While not quite as tunnel-visioned  as MW 2, BC 2‘s single player quickly becomes boring. You kill a bunch of guys in a somewhat open corridor, you watch a cutscene, and then you do the whole thing over. It’s certainly not an unpleasant experience. The actors are entertaining, as is their jokey, Die Hard-like banter. The story is silly enough, and it never requires its reluctant heroes to voice loud, stupid opinions on the nature of absolute power and geopolitical maneuvering. It feels like an 80s action story with 2010’s graphics. Fighting from house to house, or from logging camp to settlement, is really quite fun. The sound effects and general sound design are amazing, the destructible environments can surprise you from time to time, and the world is a beautiful thin to blow up. After playing BC 2‘s multiplayer, the whole affair just seems terribly conservative and unambitious.

Tracer dart gun soldier to the rescue! Now in desert/exploding variety.

I wish that DICE had seen fit to lend a little more of the wide-open, chaotic flare that characterizes its MP to their latest single player attempt. I wish that I could play through giant, unfriendly versions of multiplayer maps with my squad-mates. It’s quite possible that balancing the large multiplayer maps for one human and a ton of AI enemies would be quite difficult. It would, if pulled off properly, also be a lot more exciting. All of the destructible walls, excellent gunshot sounds, and powerful weapons can’t distract me from the single player section’s shortcomings. It’s bizarre, watching my teammates take a mortar round or two, fall over, and then hop back up. It’s annoying how oddly and obtrusively some of the scripted events meld into the game’s normally rather unrestrictive methods of play and interaction. It’s annoying when I play through 10 or so minutes of somewhat-annoying car chase turret sequences, only to die, and have to play the whole thing over again. One early section of the game has your squad rescuing a VIP from a (unfriendly)  helicopter extraction. To do this, you must shoot the man who is holding your target hostage. Instead of just letting me kill the man, DICE decided to get all scripted on my ass. As I round the corner, my team leader hands me, in the briefest of ingame cutscenes, a pistol. I regain control an instant later, but now I hold the pistol, and cannot change my weapon to anything else. I see the hostage and his captor ahead of me. I carefully take aim, and fire four bullets into the enemy’s head. In a remarkable act of superhuman strength, he takes the bullets, looks back at the helicopter, and then shoots the VIP in the head. Mission over! Time to respawn to before the scripted pistol-exchange! I repeated this process about 10 times, attempting to shoot the man as fast as possible, as carefully as possible, and finally, as late as possible (eventually he just shoots the VIP).

Of course, the way to do it was to wait until he turned around and looked at ‘da choppah. Of course. Regardless of how quick I am, he was invincible except when he turned around. There weren’t any reliable ways of figuring out what I was supposed to do (my boys just tell me that I have “one shot” at this). This was one of the more frustrating sequences I’ve played recently. They should have just gone ahead and made it a quicktime event. Then, I’d know why the hell I was failing. Instead, they yank me out of my destructible, kind-of-open war playground and shove me into a badly made “dramatic” event. It’s worse than a quicktime event. At least those have the guts to look me in the eye and tell me that the designer wants to show me how to play, not the other way around. This scene is the crystallization of everything that doesn’t belong in a Battlefield SP game. It takes away what makes this series great and plugs in an ugly scene from Modern Warfare. Let me be clear: DICE can do better than mimic that other, lesser wargame. One should not go to the people responsible for “No Russian” and the entirety of the MW 2 plot (and MW 2 single player) for pacing, dramatic heft, or smart, interesting, ingame moments. It makes all of us look bad. And I hate looking bad.

Thank goodness for the BC 2 multiplayer. Multiplayer is, unsurprisingly, where Bad Company 2 excels. I’ll save the multiplayer discussion for another post, but suffice it to say: why aren’t you on there right now playing with me?


One Response to “Impressions: Battlefield Bad Company 2”

  1. deckard47 said

    Hey…. SOMEONE should write stuff about the best game in the world, Just Cause 2.

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