Battlefield: Bad Company - updated hands-on

With Battlefield: Bad Company, the big question is whether or not the series’ trademark multiplayer action can be translated into a single player campaign. At EA’s Spring Showcase, we got the chance to play Battlefield: Bad Company’s final single-player mission, Ghost Town and see for ourselves.

This mission is the Company’s final run at the elusive mercenary gold they’ve been chasing. As the mission opens, you and your men first must secure a small village. We were impressed by how well the map served different styles of play. A sniper can sit on a nearby hill picking off enemies from afar. A commando can swim through a small lagoon and flank the defenders for a surprise attack. A heavy gunner or demolitions guy can opt to walk in the front door and light the place up. We tried it each way, and found the enemy AI surprisingly adaptable. The tank was the toughest opponent, blowing our cover to pieces every time we tried to advance. We finally sneaked past and hopped into an empty tank on the far side of town, then spun around and took him out. We then swapped the tank for a jeep and advanced to the next set of fortifications.

The next village was even more heavily defended. As we busted through the flimsy barricade on the road, an enemy turned a rocket launcher on our jeep. We frantically bailed out and took cover behind some sandbags. We dealt with the rocketeer and a few of his cohorts who tried to flank us, then sprinted across open ground to a structure. As we popped grenades into the next building a missile smashed into the side of the house, splintering our cover and driving us back from our line of fire. We shifted our attention to the missile emplacement, and upon taking it proceeded to blast out several structures where baddies were hiding and taking potshots at us. These “guided” missiles could be steered after being fired, and we started sling-shotting them into the corners where enemies were still cowering.

We helped ourselves to a tank and proceeded to the next part of the mission, an open area filled with enemy tanks, artillery, mine fields, and scattered structures. This section was the toughest, but also the most enjoyable. We exchanged fire with a few tanks in a hilly area until we were too damaged to continue. Luckily, we were able to take an artillery position and soften up some tanks, then put the survivors on the business end of our rocket launcher. As we took another artillery position, enemy AI was smart enough to ambush us and blow the whole thing sky-high with us inside. Death in single-player works like a respawn in a multiplayer game- we were able to clearly see the plume of smoke rising from the scene of our last demise. Another nice touch is that as you become more wounded, the color gradually desaturates. If you’re seeing black and white, it’s time to get to cover and take a health shot.

Though our tank was done for, we were able to pick up another jeep and several new weapons along the way. The area was crawling with foot soldiers and vehicles, creating a dynamic tension that kept us on our toes and checking our corners. The next phase of the mission had us racing the US Army to the gold, forcing us to push forward into heavily defended territory while taking out bridges and trying to delay the Americans’ advance. The difficulty ramped up dramatically, and our demo time sadly expired shortly thereafter.

Suffice to say that in our time with Battlefield: Bad Company, we were suitably impressed with the pace of action and the fluidity with which we were able to jump in and out of vehicles. Controls, both in vehicles and on foot, were smooth and responsive. Enemies adjusted their tactics according to our own, and did not hesitate to use vehicles and the destructible world against us. The urgency of having your vehicles and cover decimated made strategic thinking as important as reflexes. We were left with the distinct notion that we’ll be spending a lot of time in Bad Company when it ships next month.

May 13, 2008