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In direct competition with Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 brings its destructive force into the 21st Century. In multiplayer terms, this is the grown ups shooting game, as opposed to the often juvenile infested Modern Warfare 2 experience.
I've been waiting for a real success story for my multiplayer column for some time, waiting for a game that validates my focus on just this aspect of play. I think I've found it. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 ticks all the right boxes. It's a complete, buy it on disc in a green case, AAA game. Not only does it has a full solo campaign that's garnered high score reviews all round, it has an online multiplayer that is heavily subscribed to and attracts the whole spectrum of players from expert to complete novices.
To be fair, I've been excited about this game's release ever since I saw a video comparing it to Modern Warfare 2. Like so many other gamers, I have been completely sucked into the immediacy of Modern Warfare 2's high paced multiplayer, but at the same time I am often frustrated by the well practiced skills of my opponents, the almost continuous trash talking, the glitches and the plain old fashioned cheating. Bad Company 2 makes Modern Warfare 2 look like its brash, loud mouthed, snot nosed kid brother in comparison.
As short a life as this column may have had, I've been waiting for a real success story, waiting for a game that validates this column's existence.
It's easy for some (and for some reason I immediately think of my Mum here) to say it's just another FPS game, run around, shooting at each other just like little boys with your spud guns and your silly rat-tat-tat noises. But that's because they can't see what we can see - Bad Company 2's brilliant emphasis on teamwork. I don't mean that it says in the book the best way to win is by working together, rather the only way to win is by working together.
Take the ticket system. In a match, one or both sides have a limited number of tickets. Each time a player on that side dies they lose a ticket. When the tickets run out, the game is over and that team loses. However, if you play as the medic, then you can revive fallen comrades, if you're quick enough, and save valuable tickets. But best of all, you'll get a buzz out of doing it and you'll get a genuine thanks from the team mate you just saved.
I did have a quick look at the solo campaign looking for a training level before hitting the multiplayer, but there wasn't one I could find. I have a feeling I might not ever get further with the solo game than that brief glimpse of an intro, in fact half an hour later that feeling has become a firm belief.
On my first night of playing I hit the heady heights of a top three placing more than a few times, even though I am amongst players with much higher ranking. I found it worked for me to simply 'spot' the enemy. By getting a player in your sights and hitting back they then appear in the map and in the game with a little red triangle above their heads. This makes it easier for your team to find them, and you get some points for the kill as well. This hunkering down out of the way and spotting enemies was a whole new aspect of multiplayer game play I really liked. And it made me feel like a useful part of the team even as a beginner.
I also used the defibrillator quite a bit in these early multiplayer games. It's not just handy for reviving friends, it also doubles up as one of the video gaming world's most bizarre weapons since you can use it to zap your enemies in the head and kill them. The first time I saw this happen I was hiding in a building with a few squad mates when an enemy rushed in, shot one of them and turned his gun on me, only to get some props from an episode of Holby City wrapped round his head.
We work well together, choosing a different class each, talking our way through things, spotting for each other.
I even like being a sniper - something I usually suck at. But with Bad Company 2, a combination of the lager maps, longer games and emphasis on defending areas meant I could quite happily sit and watch with my sight for long periods. I could then 'spot' enemies when they're moving too fast to hit, and get head shots if they stop for too long. Generally I really got into the being miles from the action, but having a real effect on the battle.
I was disappointed that there wasn't much communication between squad members. Unlike the inane chatter on Modern Warfare, Battlefield 2 seems very quiet. I can't stop myself most of the time - if I see any enemy I'll say so, if I need ammo or health packs I'll ask squad mates, if I think we should attack a particular base, I'll speak up about it. But for a game that clearly requires good teamwork to win, many players seem reluctant to talk.
One way to ensure some friendly chat is to play with a friend, something that's surprisingly easy. Luckily for me I have a couple of friends who have been just as excited about this game as me. The three of us make a formidable force, especially since they are both veterans of the original Bad Company game. We work well together, choosing a different class each, talking our way through things, spotting for each other. The medic zaps the dead, the infantry doles out the ammo, I fix any tanks or cars we nab and blast any that come at us with my rocket launcher.
But the reason I consider this game a success story is that teamwork and considered play are essential for the successful player. In Modern Warfare 2 running around like Rambo, itchy finger poised over the trigger, capping everything that moves, often leads to a successful score for individual players. But in Bad Company 2, any kind of gung-ho behaviour like that will lead to repeated deaths. I know because there have been occasions where I have lost my head and charged in like some macho fool with a penchant for blood and guts combat and been stopped in my tracks every time.
In Bad Company 2 it is far better to take a more cautious approach.
In Bad Company 2 it is far better to take a more cautious approach. Exactly how I like to play FPS games. Choosing a flag to attack, then considering which is the best place to go at it and winding your way over there almost always pays dividends. There's one particular map that has a flag inside an enormous air-hanger. Snipers cannot resist sitting on the roof and taking pot shots at those crazy enough to charge the building. What I do though is sneak up to the roof to stab snipers in the back of the head.
Similarly, when you're defending a base you'd be surprised how many players hang around as close to the flag as possible. But for me, I like to get some distance between myself and the base, which allows me to see everything in the vicinity. I'm not an easy target for grenade or mortar attacks, I'm certainly not going to be surprised by anyone who likes to creep up on people hiding out in buildings, and when the enemy do reach the flag I have two options. I can either spot every one of them or take them out myself.
But don't think this is all arrogant boasting, I am as surprised as you are that I'm scoring so well. I'm surprised that there are so many players here who have probably played some of the solo campaign and have definitely played the multiplayer a lot more than I have. I'm putting it down to the game just suiting my natural FPS playing style perfectly. Maybe later, when I've been playing it for longer and everyone else has learned the maps and worked out how to play the game to win things will be different, but for now Bad Company 2's need for a more measured approach suits me down to the ground and I feel sure that no game is going to come along and knock this one out of the disc tray. Except for the odd game of Carcassonne - still can't stop playing that board game translation.
There are so many to chose from it's hard to find somewhere to start, so let's look at the worst multiplayer moments instead. There aren't any.
For FPS fans tired of the testosterone fuelled Modern Warfare 2 playground, Bad Company 2 is the grown up FPS game they've been waiting for. Large maps, destructible scenery, a wealth of game options, a range of weapons, classes and vehicles that can be customised ad infinitum, all of this is great and made greater still by the emphasis on team work. Though you may end up in squads and games where there's very little of it happening, when you find a squad that is up for working together you will have a great time and quite possibly find yourself some new online buddies. As yet I haven't heard a single insult or seen anyone reigning blame down on their team mates, which is more than can be said for Bad Company 2's direct competition.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: