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Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on Xbox 360, PS3 and the PC brushes aside its competitors with an epic single-player campaign and a vastly improved multiplayer mode. Fighting through the dusty villages and dark jungles of South America the Cold War gets even hotter as you try to prevent a deadly weapon falling into Russian hands. With improved destructibility enabling you to raze entire buildings to the ground, Bad Company 2 sets a new precedent for fun with its huge multiplayer maps and satisfying vehicular combat. If you can see it, then you can destroy it.
The first Bad Company delighted in its flippant approach to war and a story of lost gold that could have been ripped straight out of the films Kelly's Heroes or Three Kings. This time, Bad Company 2 takes a far more serious approach but keeps the same humour and camaraderie that made the original unique amongst modern combat shooters.
In this sequel you're back in the boots of Private Preston Marlow and with the three other members of 'Bad Company' are ordered to stop a devastating weapon falling into Russian hands. This alternate Cold War reality is much darker than the original as you're put in a situation that's surprisingly ominous and dramatic.
The real draw of the original Bad Company was the destructible scenery. Now it's possible to raze most buildings to the ground so the usual mechanics of crouching behind impervious cover has been rendered explosively useless. It's an intelligent move that makes every encounter unique - you'll have to think tactically about how to approach each battle.
There's a lot of fantastic moments between the characters too, some even offering a little dig at the Modern Warfare competition with the numerous 'Oscar Mike', 'Snowmobiles are for pussies' and 'Rifles with heartbeat monitors' references. When you get the gruff, explosives-loving Haggard reference a Dixie Chick song, you know this is a game that's confident enough to make fun of itself.
As such, the storyline suffers a little from this levity. It's a fairly serious, if clichéd plot, that encompasses the usual World War Three threatening tropes of WMD's, a bald Russian baddie and a general narrative that feels like someone cut out the marine squad from Predator and put in into a modern day Indiana Jones film.
All this makes the campaign more linear than I expected. There are moments of real uneasiness in some of the levels with the game producing set-pieces that are both terrifying and unsettling. When Bad Company 2 gets these plot-related moments right it comes across more like Half-Life 2 in terms of atmosphere.
The campaign also has some surprising moments hidden within. In one level, dealing with the impending snowstorm and the fatal frostbite turned the experience into a frantic survival game as I rushed in-between safe houses to fend off hypothermia. In another, the sheer power of the game engine is brought to bear as you travel through an enormous desert and take part in some epic pitched battles in the swirling dust.
Multiplayer is equally streamlined and as well tuned as the last game. Here, as with the single player the fully destructible buildings play a real part. There's nothing quite like the feeling of watching a house crumble into the ground with a load of enemies trapped inside it - the grinding sound of walls breaking and the dust that's thrown up just add to the feeling of incredible power that the game gives you.
There are four classes to choose from - Assault, Medic, Engineer and Recon. Levelling up unlocks additional equipment unique to the class you're playing and harks back to the Battlefield 2 days with its array of goodies to unlock. It's not quite as involved as Modern Warfare 2's perks system but just like the latest Call of Duty, Bad Company 2 is generous in giving out experience for a variety of reasons.
I liked that experience points could be gained by not killing anyone at all. By spotting enemies and firing tracer darts to track enemy vehicles I racked up many points before even firing my rifle. As well as offering variety for different ways to play the game this also encourages teamwork in a genre that's pretty bad at building mutual co-operation into its games.
Multiplayer includes the perennial Conquest mode as well as an interesting take on Deathmatch where players are divided into four-man squads all gunning to hit the kill-count first. Rush is an objective based mode where the offensive team attempts to push into the defenders territory and destroy a series of crates - this was my favourite and with the maximum 12 vs. 12 (16 vs. 16 on PC) players it led to some epic battles akin to those found in MAG or Resistance 2.
What all these facts and figures don't convey is how much crazy fun the Bad Company 2 multiplayer is to play. Despite being separate from the older Battlefield games it still has that same, wacky, extraordinary, anything-could-happen feel to it that the originals started. This time the destructible buildings and the firepower at your disposal leads to some amazing moments that can only happen with a full multiplayer game and Battlefield players.
With its humorous and dramatic single player campaign, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC not only matches Modern Warfare 2 for spectacle and drama, but exceeds it by making the experience incredibly fun. This is a game you'll want to get into straight away so you can catch the multiplayer buzz whilst it's still hot, but if you're hungering for a quality single-player experience then Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is an excellent choice.
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