Appropriately enough Bad Company 2 begins by kicking the doors in and unloading a shotgun blast of thrills in your face. Following a brief, straightforward prologue you’re pitched into the snowy wastes of Alaska (not to mention 24-style intrigue) as the Bad Company boys stumble across a Russian plot involving a terrifying experimental weapon. Given that almost every gun you can pick up here doubles as a grenade launcher, that’s quite a threat.
Far from unbalancing the combat, the grenade launchers add an extra layer of strategy. For instance, if enemies are taking pot shots from behind cover you can literally blow that cover away. If you know a sniper is lurking on the upper floors of a building just take out the wall - or better yet the entire building. It’s an immensely confident opening and one made all the more exciting because the very same destructive tactics work equally well when used against you.
The result is a singleplayer campaign that at its best really challenges you to use your intellect as well as your trigger finger. It’s a system that works best in urban environments - later forays into South America quickly descend into the linear and restrictive territory of less inventive shooters. It also becomes clear that despite being part of a team you’re the only member of the squad using his brain. Your teammates are efficient but by-the-book, and often you’ll have to tow the line in order to trigger events and coax baddies to appear.
In short: Bad Company 2’s singleplayer mode struggles to maintain a balance between scripted events and a sense of freedom. The result is an inconsistent campaign that mixes moments of brilliance with long stretches of the merely competent.
Thank goodness then for the incredible multiplayer mode. In common with the single-player campaign, this isn’t a game in which you can switch off and let your shooting skills mop up. Once again it’s possible to destroy almost anything but you’ll also need to decide which class to use. This decision is likely to be easy enough as it’ll reflect the way you play. But it’ll also influence the dynamics of your team in the squad-based modes which, for our money, are the main draw here.
For instance, lone wolves may choose to play recon and pick off aggressors from a distance. More gung-ho players can play assault and lead the charge, whilst medics and engineers can play an invaluable support role, resurrecting fallen comrades and keeping vehicles in tip top condition as required.
Brilliantly, these abilities can be swapped out on the fly by dispatching a player of a different class. For competent players it’s easy to imagine exploring all four disciplines during a single match.
For example, we started out cowering in windows taking pot shots at passing soldiers. We ended the game buzzing about the environment on a quad bike blowing up enemy tanks with some well-placed C4. From target practice to fully-fledged badass in mere hours? That’s progress.
As the above tale suggests Bad Company 2 is an extremely accessible online experience, too. Even newcomers to the thrills of multiplayer warfare will find their determination quickly rewarded. The presence of better players forces you to constantly rethink your approach, and the ability to blow away cover means that you’re never unfairly at the mercy of a too hot-to-hit sniper.
Furthermore, prolonged play unlocks new weapons, gadgets and abilities - much like Modern Warfare 2’s perks system. This versatility, scope for strategy and sheer accessibility raises Bad Company 2 above most other multiplayer games.
But for any online enthusiasts looking for a more tactically rich and squad-focused 360 shooter than Modern Warfare 2, this really hits the target and you’ll need this in your collection.
March 2, 2010