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Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Score: 93%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Digitial Illusions (DICE)
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 24 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
There are a lot of multiplayer shooters on the PS3. Some feature better toys or the ability to allow the population of small countries to play at once, but none are quite as well-polished or finely crafted as Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Bad Company 2 is the nuclear option for game expectations. The other night a group of students finally goaded me into a game of Modern Warfare 2. As I tried to run away from a pack of students eager to finally get one up on teach, one jumped behind a wall. I immediately cooked a grenade and sent it hurdling towards the wall. The smoke cleared and, well, the wall was still there.

In Bad Company 2, the grenade would have left a hole in the wall. This is what DICE's Frostbite engine does to expectations. Once you've had the opportunity to level entire buildings, indestructible walls seem silly. Normally, this sort of destruction comes at a cost. Smaller levels, massive slowdown, less-that-stellar visuals, but there's none of that here. The game looks and runs great at all times, even as buildings collapse around you in a glorious bout of smoke and dust.

Then there's the sound package. I was blown away by Bad Company's audio, and Bad Company 2 ups the impact. Even the smallest of sounds is spot on, right down to the echo-y fullness of machine gun fire in an enclosed space. It creates a soundscape unmatched by most games, upping the frantic feel of combat.

The single-player campaign is linear and more focused than the original. Rather than navigating from point-to-point on a large battlefield, missions are split into smaller levels. It's a change, but helps the campaign's pacing. You're always moving forward and there's no empty travel time between firefights. The only weak part of the experience is the story. After a short prelude during WWII, Bad Company 2 picks up with Marlowe, Sweetwater, Haggard and Sarge completing what is supposed to be Sarge's last mission before retirement. As usual, Sarge's final mission leads to something much bigger.

Compared to the original, the story is not nearly as focused. Bigger narrative points are lost, resulting in directionless level goals. Most of the time I ended up just shooting at anything that moved while attempting to piece together the reason why I was shooting everything. The turn towards a more serious tone doesn't exactly jive with the game's sense of humor either. Then again, the game's sense of humor also takes a bit of a nosedive. Bad Company is still, in my opinion, one of the better-written pieces of game narrative. It was fun, witty and just worked. There are still numerous laugh out loud moments, but for whatever reason much of the smart, snappy dialogue has been dropped for numerous F-bombs. I'm pretty sure I heard more foul language in the first level of Bad Company 2 than in all of first game. Not that I mind, but it's a bit of a letdown.

Multiplayer is easily one of the best multiplayer experiences available on the PS3. Up to 24 players can compete in squad-based combat in a couple of different match types. More traditional modes include Conquest, which pits two teams in a battle for control points, and Squad Deathmatch places players in squads of four in an all-out Deathmatch. Both are entertaining, but not as much fun as the more focused Rush.

In Rush, players are split into two teams, one attacking and the other defending. As the attackers succeed in blowing up targets, new parts of the map unlock. This allows access to more targets and completely alters the flow of battle. The first part of a map may include more wide-opens spaces for gunfire, while the next is ripe for sniping spots. It reduces the amount of ground area in each map, but offers loads of new options for tactics. Some classes are better in certain parts of the map than others, forcing you to learn and use every class available. Playing through sections also unlocks experience-based rewards, ensuring the landscape of battle is constantly shifting.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2's level of detail carries beyond presentation, offering a hectic, dirty style of war rarely seen in games. Cover is a temporary solution at best, adding a frantic pacing to gameplay. Really, it's the power of the Frostbite engine that makes the game. Bad Company 2 would still be a solid shooter by even the highest of standards, but the addition of a true "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" dynamic creates something else entirely.

Whether you're playing in single or multiplayer, the lack of cover forces you to think tactically. Stop and pop gameplay might work in other shooters, but it rarely works here. Instead you have to keep moving and make sure you always know what's going on around you.

Game Mechanics:
Combat classes are reduced from six to four. The reduction sounds like a step backwards, but less is more. The four classes fall into familiar categories: Recon, a sniper/ stealth character; Assault, a frontlines fighter; Engineer, an on-field handyman; and Medic. I tend to make a pretty big deal about the lack of "team" in team-based multiplayer. Classes aren't new to the series, or even multiplayer shooters, but generally classes mean very little. Players will take on roles but eventually even medics decide to go commando.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 breaks this cycle by making classes worth something. Everyone has a fighting chance in battle, but players are rewarded more for playing their class well rather than building an impressive kill count. Medics get points for healing, Engineers for fixing vehicles... it's a cool system and creates a great battle flow. Points are still earned for killing enemies and performing other on-field duties, though you'll earn more for tending to your classes' specialized duties.

To compensate for the reduction in classes, load-out kits are more flexible. Characters can hold two weapons, a sidearm and rifle, and weapons are fully customizable. Upgrades are unlocked as you earn more points, making you more powerful and effective in combat. For example, Medics can earn an increase in their healing radius.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is an all-around great game. It has a few minor issues with the single-player story, but the multiplayer more than makes up for it and, in reality, is the only reason you'll want to keep coming back for more.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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