Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Preview

Responsible for more crashed helicopters than Vietnam!

I left B:BC2 off the previous list because I didn’t have any major interest in it… until I played the beta. And I must say, I’m pretty damned impressed. As far as Battlefield fans go, I’ve been out of it for a long time. I played BF1942, skipped Vietnam, skipped 2142, and didn’t play much of BF2. Played a little bit but not a lot. The BF community is pretty vicious, so learning how to play is usually a bit of a trial. Especially with vehicles. People just don’t put up with poor vehicle users. Aircraft especially. Anyway, BC2 is like a return to the Battlefield series for me, so I was intrigued enough to see what had changed.

Apparently, quite a bit. BC2 is a multiplatform release and it somewhat shows; this beta is fairly unoptimised and has a tiny bit of Consolitis… enough that it’d be a carrier but not a full-blown infected monster. Still at least they’ve done a good job at chopping out a lot of the retarded console stuff, and yeah there are dedicated servers before people ask. Performance is terrible on my i7 920 GTX260 4GB Win7 x64 system, but I definitely need a new video card so take this all with a grain of salt. The game engine itself is reasonably pretty, but the demo only comes with a single snow map, so the colour pallet consists of white, blue, and a few shades of grey and whatever is in between. The main point of the engine though is that buildings can be destroyed similar to how they can be wrecked in Crysis. And they get destroyed frequently, either because it’s a good idea or just because somebody wants to have a bit of fun. Sometimes it’s entirely accidental because a missile has gone stray or a helicopter has crashed.

And that’s what I want to say about BC2 before I go any further. It’s like playing a big action movie. You know those action sequences in movies like Blackhawk Down, or Behind Enemy Lines or whatever, where they’re acting like they’re in a real war but everything has been changed so that it looks better on the big screen? That’s more or less what’s going on here. This isn’t a realistic shooter, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Awesome things like watching players scatter when a Blackhawk makes a strafing run, or watching people go for cover when a sniper opens up, or watching them run like madmen when a building goes down… they’re all common events and happen frequently. There are times when you’ll just stop and go “Wow… this is awesome.” The destructable environments are chiefly responsible for this; blowing a hole in the wall to reveal a startled enemy player are fun and impressive. Getting the hell out of the way in the middle of a mortar strike while trees are exploding all around you is fun.

The sounds add to the chaos as well; DICE apparently too a leaf out of Valve’s book and has the players yell random things (or at least have random voices play from somewhere) to alert you to what’s going on. If somebody gets killed by a sniper, someone might shout out “SNIPER!”, just the same as someone will yell out to alert you to a tank or helicopter or something. Environmental sounds and weapons are fantastic, and this is easily one of the most realistic sounding games out there. It’s also remarkably well mixed to create a pretty believable environment. Some people won’t like that it makes it practically impossible at times to determine small local sounds (at least if there’s a massive explosion going off somewhere or somebody is firing away like a lunatic), so sneaking up on somebody is entirely possible. This works wonders though because suddenly silenced weapons become much more useful, and because player models tend to be a bit ambiguous and blend in with the environment (by design), sneaking up and checking targets becomes a bit more useful.

There’s a new system for squads too. You can either auto assign yourself to a squad, or you can join one, or you can opt out all together. Joining a squad (even a random one) will net you extra points, as well as offer a new spawn location. Pretty much all commands are now boiled down into the “SOCIALISE” key, which is Q. You look at a target, press Q, and it becomes marked. You look at an objective, and your squad gets an update to go to that objective. Simple. Painting targets with Q will get you points if people go on to destroy it, so it helps you. BC2 has gone the path of giving points for being useful, so medics get points for healing, engineers get points for repairing, you get points for objectives, you get points for assiting somebody to kill someone else, and on and on it goes.

There are no jets in BC2, but there are helicopters, as well as a UAV and plenty of tanks, light vehicles, and static weapons. The classes are familar to any BF players – Assault for all your infantry grunt needs and ammo deployment, Medics for light machine guns and healing, Engineers to kill vehicles and fix them up, and Recon for sniping and locating targets. Recon is actually really versatile (perhaps too much) because they also have C4, which will usually let them sneak up on unaware vehicle crews and blow them to hell. They’re also great at taking down buildings. Medics are slightly less useful in BC2 because the “regen health” effect is present. It works like in any other game; sustained fire will kill you, but if you stay away from it for a bit, you’ll be saved. Healing from a medkit deployed by a medic will heal you much faster and keep you alive much easier, but they’ve still taken a bit off the class as a result. Reviving players is still present and reasonably important, as it saves tickets.

There are lots of unlocks and ranks with BC2, as you’d expect, and it’ll take a while to accomplish those. Still with the assist system it’ll be easier than if it was just a kill-based system. You increase your score to get access to unlocks.

If I have one major complaint with BC2, it’s the complete lack of support. There’s literally nothing to tell you how to do anything, it’s just assumed that you know everything. Like I didn’t know about the regenerating health mechanic until I just guessed at it because there was no health bar and the red haze seemed to go away after a while. When I first joined I had no idea what I should have been doing. There’s no information on what the UAV does or why you should care. Likewise, the SOCIALISE command isn’t mentioned. I know it’s a beta, but it needs a bit more info to help new players like me out!

In all though BC2 is shaping up to be a hell of a multiplayer experience, so much so that I’m definitely picking it up when it is released in March. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s cinematic. Also a lot of the annoying things from BF2 (like prone glitches or jet whores) have been removed, so DICE are obviously interested in taking BC2 in a new direction which should work out for everyone. Well, here’s hoping!


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