An excellent first-person shooter with a great multiplayer mode
The original Battlefield 1942 earned its place in gaming history as one of the first multi-player shooters where vehicle combat was an integral part of the action.
It brought an entirely different dimension to team games, as vehicles could carry multiple passengers. This meant one player could drive a tank while another manned a machine gun on top, or they could pick up other players in a jeep and carry them across the map to capture an objective.
The game had planes and boats covered as well, and there were usually some amusing moments when things did not go to plan. It was not uncommon to see a pilot lose control of their aircraft and crash-land into their teammates. At other times a player might be driving towards the enemy with half their team in the back of the vehicle before killing all of them by accidentally driving off a cliff – usually followed by a barrage of vitriolic cursing.
The sequels, follow-ups and spin-offs changed the setting, from Vietnamese jungles to futuristic environments, but the same multiplayer formula has remained the same.
An aspect of the older games that will be less-fondly remembered was the dreadful single-player game, or lack thereof. The only option available was to play the same multiplayer maps against computer-controlled bots, which were so unintelligent they would often stand in the path of enemy bullets without flinching.
While playing against other humans was a challenging, fun and rewarding experience, offline play was the opposite, only useful for learning the basics of the game. Battlefield: Bad Company, which was exclusive to consoles, was the first in the series to put real effort into a plot-driven single-player campaign. The game was very good, but not quite good enough to challenge the best first-person shooters around.
Bad Company 2, however, is right up there with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The technical achievements of the game, including its breathtaking visuals, match its high-quality content in both single player and multiplayer. The lighting and shadow effects are particularly impressive, with light peering in from gaps in foliage, accurately casting shadows onto the players.
The character models are highly detailed, the fire and smoke looks great, and the backdrops to each war-torn level both set the scene and create the impression of giant environments, with smoke billowing into the sky from distant buildings.
The single-player campaign follows the story of a group of elite soldiers called Bad Company. As with Modern Warfare 2, it's full of carefully scripted action sequences in many different locations that will see players traipsing through swamps and across mountains.
At times, the characters and story can become bland and it was more a desire to see the next action sequence rather than the plot unravel that kept us playing. However, while the campaign is not going to win a storytelling award, it is a lot of fun.
The game shines most in its multiplayer mode though. It feels very similar to previous games, with plenty of vehicles, weapons and explosives to play with. Some of the maps are small and see fierce fire fights amongst infantry, while victory on larger maps can depend on the player's skill at using helicopters and tanks.
There are four classes, with equipment to unlock for each by scoring points, capturing objectives, assisting friendlies and neutralising enemies. Players can join squads, and after dying, enter the map right next to their squad mates. Less time is spent running from one end of the map to where the action is taking place. If a squad member is driving a tank, you will be immediately placed as secondary gunner.
The physics engine allows the majority of objects on the battlefield to be reduced to rubble. If a bad guy is hiding near a wall, a grenade not only takes him out, but destroys the wall as well, preventing others from using it as cover. However, though the destructible terrain can sometimes require a rethink of tactics, it's more of a nice graphical effect than something that fundamentally affects how the game is played.
Bad Company 2 is one of the best team-based multiplayer games around, eclipsing even Modern Warfare 2, and is undoubtedly an essential purchase if you play online games. If you don't, the single-player mode is still worth trying, although it lacks some of the magic you get from playing the game against other people.
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A worthy rival to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as the definitive military shooter Good points Fun multi-player game; realistic lighting and shadows; deformable terrain; plenty of weapons and vehicles Bad points In-game server browser currently unreliable; limited number of maps; single-player mode not as good as multi-player PEGI 16+
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