Battlefield's debut on the App Store with the iPhone and iPod touch version of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was a surprise - and at a buck, no less - no doubt leading many thousands of series fans to snap it up post-haste. But now that it bears the standard price of $4.99, is this downsized iteration of EA's beloved shooter franchise still worth a chunk of space on your iOS handheld of choice?
In some ways, sure - Bad Company 2 for iPhone offers the same kind of enhanced production values as most of EA's iOS offerings, with smooth and mostly impressive visuals, solid voice acting, and even some nice-looking menu screens that maintain the aesthetic of the other versions. And with the default control scheme, you can simply touch the left side of the screen for movement and the right side for aiming and firing, clearing the screen of the clutter of unnecessary movement and action buttons (though those are also available).
On the campaign side, Bad Company 2 is a solid, but not remarkably exciting shooter, letting you traverse a variety of environments and shoot a whole bunch of really similar-looking dudes. Encountering a fresh handful of enemy soldiers to dispatch upon entering each new area gets tedious, but at least the campaign shakes things up with distinct level designs, as well as tank and helicopter segments. With 14 stages typically weighing in at 10 or more minutes each, Bad Company 2 will keep you going for a few hours - though some of that will be spent cursing the sometimes-inconsiderate checkpoints.
But while the online and local wireless battles are solidly entertaining, they lack a lot of what makes Battlefield a unique beast. The iPhone version offers only deathmatch and team DM skirmishes for just four players (across two maps), and leaves out expected features like player classes and a persistent ranking system. We enjoyed the condensed battles and found the combat stable over Wi-Fi and 3G, but calling this a Battlefield multiplayer experience feels like a misnomer, and Gameloft's Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus easily trumps it in terms of online features.
With luck, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 will follow the example of the iOS version of EA's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which launched with a limited set of features and then was greatly expanded with a free update. It'll be necessary to make this famed console and PC shooter a true force on the iPhone, instead of just a solid, but ultimately limited adaptation of a better experience.
Jan 11, 2011