Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I don't want to end up in some good company

Played through Bad Company 2 in about 6-7 hours. It disappointed me slightly in a few ways. The good things are that the destruction 2.0 is mind blowing awesome and destroying a bridge right under an advancing enemy vehicle for example was just downright... rad. The levels are very beautiful, varied and well designed and the gameplay is very fast, engaging and exciting.

But the original Bad Company that I played through only a day before starting Bad Company 2 set some high expectations that BBC2 couldn't really reach in ways.
In BBC1 you can go around the map pretty much how you want looking for smaller enemy installations, collectables and gold before finishing the objectives. Even then the objectives can often be finished with different strategies, like sniping the enemies from far away without setting foot in the base or just running through the place in zig-zag. You can use C4 to blow up the objetives or rely on a rocket launcher or even the laser designator. Sneaking up on enemies isn't easy but seemingly always possible, since if they don't hear you coming they stay just visibly patrolling or standing around waiting for something to happen. The humour isn't always laugh out loud funny but overall the light-hearted campaign at least makes you smile and the guys in Bad Company have clear unique personas.
It's a bit annoying how enemies always start shooting at you when they see you even though the other three guys would be better targets just standing about, and it's somewhat odd that the Bad Company have such a bad aim. They keep hitting the walls around the enemy while the enemies keep hitting me from a ridiculous distance, but you still feel like a part of the team and despite the slight problems Bad Company 1's campaign is a lot more entertaining than what I was hoping for.

Bad Company 2 goes and repeats Bad Company 1's mistakes and makes a few more. The levels are linear as all hell and the only map that even resembles the old Bad Company maps is the EMPTY desert that is then divided into smaller linear shoot-outs. Seriously, in the first game you have a lot of freedom of movement and you can play several times without going through the exact same path, often even in the more closed areas, but in Bad Company 2 you will always traverse the same path, not necessarily because all the area sare tiny but because there's nothing to be fought or found in the slightly larger places. Like the place where you snipe a total of whopping six guards, the long stretch of the enemy base looks so interesting that I was hoping to get to fight through it, but you cross the empty base sideways and if you follow the Sarge you're through it in only 10 seconds, and if you search the place on your own you'll find one M-COM station and a whole lot of nothing. The city areas and villages were what I was mostly waiting to see after Bad Company, but the most interesting sections of the maps are always done before you've really even entered.

In the small linear maps vehicles don't have as big of a role as they do in the first game. You get to drive a tank in one short section and you steer a boat through a river at one point, but you don't get to pilot a single helicopter. Well, unless you count controlling the UAV for half a minute. You do get to drive a jeep and a buggy a few times when the strict script says so and admittedly driving the jeep through the snowy map and blasting the enemies at the same time was so damn awesome that I don't recall another driving section from any game that could beat it.
Sneaking and knifing in Bad Company 2 is only possible when it's scripted due to enemies appearing from thin air when you trigger them. There's I think a total of three moments you're told to knife someone, plus one time you have the chance and two times a knife kill is either a cutscene or a scripted event for the Sarge that could've been given to you instead.
Sniping is also something you don't always really get to choose most of the time. Enemies, being most often scripted, usually spot you from long range and even with their inaccurate machine guns are almost as deadly as snipers. The levels are linear so there's no possibility for flanking the enemy, and since the appearances of enemies are triggered when you advance you can't even run to a far corner of the area and just pick them off before moving ahead. Only way to snipe long range would be to first run to trigger the enemies and then running away, and that just doesn't seem like fun. Especially considering the enemies sometimes come in threes and you'd have to run back and forth four times before clearing a small area.

In Bad Company 2 the ally AI is even weirder than in the first game. Sometimes they just stand way, WAY in the back while waiting for you to clear out the level alone, and at first I thought this was a glitch and they were really stuck on something, but a few retries showed that their movement is also triggered by your movement. This would be great IF they moved at the same pace as you, but it just comes off as downright idiotic that you have to go take out 20 enemies before your friends decide to move slightly. Well, I have to confess there is an alternative way for them to behave: sometimes they literally speedrun through the areas without killing enemies, leaving them behind for YOU to slowly pick off. So the allies have two extremes from which two of them suck major ass. In Bad Company 1, in Crash and Grab you really felt alone and helpless since the slightly useless allies at least seemed like allies and you felt like you were in a team, but when Bad Company 2 sends you somewhere alone a few times it just doesn't feel any different from the rest of the game since you've basically been alone all throughout the game. You can't even trust your allies in the section where they tell you they'll watch your back while you take down some choppers alone, since they sure as hell just idle behind cover when the 5-6 enemies surprise you.
Needless to say that just like in the first game, in Bad Company 2 the ally accuracy is about 4% and they can empty several clips into walls without harming a single enemy while enemies always shoot at you, but I'm afraid in BBC2 it's far, FAR more noticeable in the small pipe battlefields. It's especially painful when enemies using turrets and rocket launchers blast all your cover away even though they couldn't have even seen you. The fun of tactically destroying cover is all the enemies'.
And let me just mention that in the linear, closed levels there are several buildings and other bits of scenery that can't be blown to pieces due to them serving as edges of the map. Sadly the enemies can still use these buildings for cover, limiting the real tactical destruction possibilities. Despite the great Destruction 2.0, you don't ever get to destroy everything.

Also, the Bad Company has lost it's charm since the first game and they have less personality. Hell, in BBC1 Haggard at least uses his rocket launcher, being the explosives nut he is, and occasionally hits the guard tower after a few tries, but in BBC2 he doesn't even CARRY a rocket launcher.
In the story we're told that the reason why instead of some more suitable special ops team the army sends the Bad Company after the new scary enemy weapon is that the Bad Company is unorthdox and lethal. This already takes away from the feel that the Bad Company is just expendable cannon fodder and have to be unorthodox and reckless in order to survive (and because they're crazy), but there's not even a hint of them wanting to be reckless and unorthodox in the story. They follow orders just like any other squad would and seem to use regular military tactics, nothing even slightly insane.
There's also no real funny moments anymore, and although BBC1's jokes sometimes fell flat BBC2 doesn't even try. Only character who seems like he could be from Bad Company 1 is the pacifist chopper pilot, and even he gets more serious later on and eventually ends up being the key to a sad, serious moment in the game. Well, I might as well spoil that moment: he dies after saving the guys and befriending Haggard. Why do I think it can be spoiled? Because the story treats him like a throwaway character and his death is forgotten only 2 seconds after he's dead. Hell, the guys forget about him before his corpse has even hit the ground, quite literally. It's very odd considering how serious the game tries to be and how this could be the only truly emotional and believably serious moment of the game, yet it weights nothing.

There's probably a lot more I could bitch about Battlefield Bad Company 2's campaign, but I can't remember everything right now. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Bad Company 2 is crap game. It's quite an amazing stand-alone title and I'm fairly sure the multiplayer alone is worth the price, and I do prefer that the enemies respwan with you when you die, but Bad Company 2 just isn't Bad Company. It's quite frankly A Company.
With minor tweaks to the character names and some lone words in the dialogue you wouldn't even be able to tell this is supposed to be a sequel to Bad Company, both the gameplay and story drop all the unique aspects of the original.
BBC2's campaign is very cinematic and exciting, mostly due to all the scripted events and linear gameplay, but the truth is that when I want to just play a game the original Bad Company delivers what I need better. I'm afraid to admit, though, profit-wise I think EA and DICE did the right thing by replacing the open single-player gameplay and entertaining story mode with tied-down cinematic sequences and generic plot, seeing how I view the mainstream gamers and reviewers to be dull-minded twits. If you don't lock those kids in a pipe-like level with triggered events they'll just get lost in the training area and bash the game for lack of content.

It's funny, I specifically wanted Bad Company 2 and didn't really even think about getting Bad Company 1, but Bad Company 1 made me a fan the instant I started playing it while Bad Company 2 disappointed me.
Of course, I still have yet to try the online modes so my feelings presented in this blog post shouldn't be used as a review for either of the games. I'm just a single-player man.

I hope Bad Company 3 will be Bad Company with Bad Company 2's technology and visuals. I'd be happy.

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