I’m a big fan of first person shooter (FPS) games. To break it down further, I’m a big fan of FPS games with objectives. They all started with your basic deathmatch and capture the flag modes, but the latest generation of consoles have enjoyed new modes carried over from PC shooters or new creations from the developers.  Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2), developed by DICE, has the objective modes that I enjoy and more. It also has the graphics and sound that can immerse you into a battle, if you have the right HDTV and sound system. Even if you are not the latest cinema geek, you will still have a blast online with BFBC2.

Your ticket to new maps and more!

I spent about 20 hours in the PS3 beta of BFBC2… one desert map and one Rush mode… yeah, I liked it that much! I also spent quite amount of time with the Xbox 360 beta on a new Alaskan snow map with the same Rush mode. (Okay, so this is more of a detailed first impression.) It’s nice to finally get into the finished game and do some more fighting with the new maps and modes. If you are a purchaser of a new copy of the game, you gain access to the VIP club.  This entitles you to two extra maps that are unlocked on the disc… no, they are not downloadable content (DLC). Two more free maps are promised, for VIP members, in April. I jumped to the Store in the main menu of BFBC2 and noticed that there are also some new player character skin kits that will be arriving sometime this month (March 2010). For a short time, you get the limited edition of the game when you purchase it, at no extra cost.  This comes with six weapon/item unlocks like a new pistol and extra armor for vehicles. These will normally need to be unlocked as you rank up in the game. Two more special items were the extra Sub-Machine (SMG) gun I got for the GameStop pre-order and an M1 Grand rifle for being a Battlefield Veteran… It noticed that I had Battlefield 2 for Windows and Battlefield 1943 and the first Bad Company on my console… I’m a 3x Veteran! All my first level items were also unlocked for each class and I’m thinking this may have been part of the Veteran program too because I’ve got friends who had to unlock these.

I know… you want to hear about the game! Well, it has four online game modes; Rush, Squad Rush, Conquest, and Squad Deathmatch. All the modes are carried over from other games, but are tweaked to make them feel different. I tried them all except Squad Rush. If you played the original Battlefield: Bad Company, Rush mode is just renamed from Gold Rush. You have an attacking and defending team… 3 squads of four players on each side. There are pairs of communication crates, labeled A and B, across the map.  The first two pairs are available at the start of the game and the area around them are opened for war. The defenders dig in around the base and crates. The attackers leave their base on foot, or in vehicle, and try to destroy the crates. This is done by getting next to a crate and arming explosives, throwing C4 on the crate and blowing it up, blasting the crate from a tank, leveling the building over the crate, or even shooting RPGs at it from a distance.  There are many ways to take out a crate, but arming the explosives is the quickest. The attacking team also has tickets that count down with each death of a team-mate. When this count reaches zero, you lose. This makes you think more before running into battle.  As you take out crates, you gain some tickets back.  Just make them last until after the last crate is blown-up and you win the game.

Get into the action with your squad-mates

While the attackers are busy trying to destroy the crates, the defenders are doing all they can to protect the crates. They can place mines on the roads to stop the tanks, sit on top of buildings to snipe the attackers as they rush to the crates, place C4 around the building to take out anyone running by, use their own tanks or mounted guns to blast away the enemy, or just go out Rambo style, with your Light-Machine Gun (LMG), and mow down any attacker in sight. There is a lot of action going on in this mode and you need to be ready for anything. The defenders just need the attackers to run out of tickets. If you protect the crates well enough, you will win the game… even if it is just by saving the very last crate. It just makes the attackers feel worse if you can keep them from destroying any of the crates.

Take everything you read about Rush mode above, shrink it down to micro size, and you have Squad Rush mode. This is Rush mode with only two crates on a small section of the Rush maps. The attackers and defenders have one squad of four players each.  Much more personal and up-close action.  For those that don’t like the huge maps, this may be for you… check out Squad Deathmatch too.

Your trusty weapon

Anyone who has played a Battlefield game on the PC will recognize Conquest mode.  It is the same as it was in Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, and Battlefield 2142.  It was even added to the original Bad Company a few months after release because just about everyone who played the other Battlefield games complained that this mode is the bread and butter of Battlefield. If you played Domination in Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) or any type of FPS with a Control Point mode, you will know how to play Conquest.  Each side starts with a ticket count.  If someone on your team is killed, you lose a ticket. An odd number of flags are placed around the map.  If you capture a flag, by being near it long enough, the other team will start to lose tickets. The more flags you have, the more flags the other team loses… you see where this is going. The fight is to capture the most flags, or get more kills, to cause the other team to lose all their tickets.  Sounds easy but if you are not paying attention, the enemy will come from behind and take those flags back.

Squad Deathmatch is another mode played on smaller maps. If you have ever played any kind of team deathmatch game, you will understand squad deathmatch. You start the game with four squads of four people each.  Each squad attacks the others to see who can get 50 kills (“Points” for those against violence) first. There is going to be a lot of target practice in this game. Your squad of four have 12 other players to shoot at. To put a fly in the ointment, the DICE developers decided to toss a tank into the middle of the map. When the game starts, it is a mad dash for the tank. You may be battling the other squads in this mode, but when someone grabs a tank, it seems like all the other squads work together to take out the tank A.S.A.P.  Yeah, you may pick off a passing enemy here and there, but you concentrate on that large rumbling sound, that you hear, causing havoc on the map.  Don’t need the team with the tank raking in all the points. After a few minutes, another tank spawns back onto the map again. This is a fun mode, but not a favorite of mine. Campers really enjoy this mode. Again, I love the objectives.

Mark enemy vehicles for others to destroy

For an added twist to any of the multiplayer modes, you can turn on the Hardcore option. If you know Hardcore in Modern Warfare 2, you will know it here. Weapons do much more damage, the HUD is removed (no more on-screen map or ammo count), and even the reticule for your weapon is missing from the middle of the screen. You need to use the sight on each weapon to aim at the enemy now. You don’t want to be running out into the open now. Turn on this option to add more action to your game.

Now that I’ve got the modes out-of-the-way, how about the game play itself. BFBC2 isn’t as fast and twitchy as Modern Warfare 2 and it’s not as slow as something like Rainbow Six Vegas or Ghost Recon: Advanced War Fighter. For me, it has just the right feel. If you enjoyed MAG on the PS3 or Battlefield 2 on the PC, you should feel right at home with Bad Company 2. I can see myself playing both MAG and Bad Company 2. They both have that large battle feel with teamwork and objectives. Bad Company just adds vehicles for you to hop into and, the icing on the cake, total destruction.

Yes, BFBC2 has total destruction… well almost. The Frostbite engine used for the game allows you to blow up buildings, knock down trees, destroy crates used as enemy cover, and break up fences as you shoot the enemy on the other side. The first time you are sniping out of the second floor window of a building, and then all of a sudden you are left in a cloud of dust that reveals a large opening, you will be amazed… and then dead, a few seconds later. If you find someone holed up in a building like this, just take your grenade launcher or RPG and blow that section of building away. Problem solved. Bad Company 2 has this type of realistic environmental feel to it. If it looks like it can be destroyed, it can. There are still items like bunkers or even sheet metal fences that can’t be knocked down. I guess there has to be some limits to what can be destroyed. With enough effort, some buildings can be totally leveled. You have the right weapons to get the job done.

Wow! That's destruction!

Speaking of weapons, BFBC2 has a whole arsenal of weapons. There are also four classes to use these weapons in; Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon.  Each class has about 7 weapons to unlock as you level them up. The more you use a class, the more it levels up, and the more you unlock. The Assault class has… you guessed it… the assault weapons. Each varies by damage done, rate of fire, and accuracy. Charts help you to compare the differences in each weapon so that you can find the one that is right for you. The Engineer class has the Sub-Machine Guns… silenced so that the enemy can’t detect your location. The Medic class has the Light-Machine Guns which can pack a wallop when needed. Finally, the Recon class has the sniper rifles for taking out the enemy from a long distance. There are also your secondary pistols that can be upgraded. Another great feature are the extra weapons shared between all classes. If you don’t want to be stuck with the default class weapons, there are shotguns, rifles, and machine guns available to use. How about a sniper with an M1 Grand instead of his sniper rifle or the Engineer class with the shotgun instead of an SMG. Pick what you want and go to war.

Each class has secondary items that can be used by selecting right or left on the d-pad. The Assault class starts with a gun mounted grenade launcher and the ability to drop ammo for others on your team. The Engineer can bring out his rocket launcher or vehicle repair tool… use this tool on an enemies’ head for an extra trophy or achievement. The Medic has a medical kit that can be dropped to heal himself or others and a defibrillator to revive downed teammates… or to zap the enemy. Finally, the Recon class has a sensor ball that can detect enemy in the area and C4 to blow up tanks, walls, or even the crates in Rush mode. As you level up each class, you can unlock other secondary items like the gun mounted shotgun for the Assault class or the mortar strike for the Recon class. You can even unlock weapon attachments as each class levels up. There are red dot sights, 4x scopes, and more to be unlocked and added to your weapons. Change these out before spawning in to help alter your tactics.

The classes also have specialties like the perks in Modern Warfare 2. These are unlocked and work a little differently than in MW2. The specialties are used in class slots.  One slot is for class specific specialties, another for use by any class, and the last is for vehicles. You can get a specialty that allows you to carry more grenades or C4, run faster or take more damage, and provide more armor for your vehicle or enable secondary fire. There are quite a few to gain. Some are unlocked when you rank up, while others are unlocked when you level your class or vehicle ranking.

What’s a vehicle ranking, you ask? Well, that is really a ranking for your vehicle usage… and there are a lot of vehicles in Bad Company 2.  Let me quickly tell you about the ranking and then I’ll get into the vehicles.  When you drive, shoot with, or just ride in the passenger seat of a vehicle, you are getting “usage” points that go into your vehicle ranking.  Each time you rank up a level, you unlock another vehicle specialty. My favorite was already unlocked with the Limited Edition and is the alternate fire for vehicles.  It allows me to shoot the cannon on the tank and use the alternate fire for a mounted machine gun. On the drone helicopter, I can fire down missiles from above or get in close and shoot at the enemy with the side gun… if I’m flying at the right angle, I can see the shells fall down to the ground. Change these out as needed before returning to battle.

Those heavy tanks can take a lot of damage

Vehicles are what Battlefield has always been about, and Bad Company 2 is bulging at the sides with vehicles.  There are your standard vehicles like the Humvee, Jeep, and the small, but quick, four-wheel ATV.  The larger vehicles are your heavy and light tanks with cannons, rocket launchers, and missiles. The flying vehicles include an attack helicopters and a troop helicopter that you can fly over the enemy base, let your squad spawn in, and parachute out before getting shot down. If you are a sea-faring person, then there are boats and jet skis that you can use to quickly skirt across the water. Every vehicle has one or more seats for passengers. Some of these also have mounted guns for your squad-mates to use while you drive. You will see many take an ATV, seating two, quickly across the battlefield and behind enemy lines. Just watch out for anti-vehicle mines or that guided rocket heading toward you… yikes!

How you play Bad Company 2 is up to you. You can run in with your gun and get in the enemies’ face or stay back and snipe from a distance. If you like to be a support person, run around as a Medic and heal team-mates or revive them when they’ve fallen on the battlefield.  Use the Engineer class to repair the tank that you are a passenger in or provide ammo to your guys on the front lines. Use your Recon class to drop mortar strike on that enemy outpost in the back of the map or plant C4 on the building and wait for the enemy to enter… 3, 2, 1, blast!! Change up your play style at any time. Each time you are killed, you can select a different class, modify your specialties, and pick a different weapon before you enter back into the battle again. Don’t forget to jump into a vehicle to get you across the map quicker or to give you that extra fire power you need to take down the enemy defense.

Entering the battle is another thing that BFBC2 does great. When you start a game, you have the option of joining with a squad or going lone wolf. It’s always best to go in with a squad whether you created it yourself or you are joining an existing squad. Before you spawn into the map, you can select where you want your point of entry to be. It may be your team base, a taken flag in Conquest mode, or even a squad member that is currently on the battlefield. This last one is an awesome feature. As you select each of your squad members, it shows you a view of their surroundings from right behind them. Watch what is happening before you spawn in because if they are being shot at, you don’t want to spawn in on that action. If it looks safe or if you are wanting to help them out in a tight spot, you will spawn in a few feet behind them. This is especially useful if you have a squad member hiding near the enemy base or a capture flag… the rest of the squad can keep spawning in on him and get right back into the action. A watchful enemy will keep an eye out for this and hunt down the hiding person. If your team is in a vehicle, you can spawn into any of the extra seats. Your squad members will be grayed out if they are downed or there are no available vehicle seats.

Overall, combat in BFBC2 is very balanced. The weapons seem to do more damage than in the first Bad Company game where you had to unload a full clip into an enemy to kill them. This is for games like Resistance 2 or Gears of War. You can sprint across the map to get to your destination quicker or to catch up to an enemy and knife them. Yes, the knife is there for your melee attacks and it provides a satisfying shake to your controller when going into the enemy. You can crouch but there is no prone in the game. Don’t complain, prone isn’t needed in this game where there are enough hills, brush, trees, and other debris to hide behind. I didn’t like it in Battlefield 2 on the PC because when I’d shoot someone, the first thing they would do is go prone and shoot back at me. That’s about as bad as jumping like they do in Halo to avoid the bullets. I use jump to get to higher ground or onto ledges.

Go ahead, make my day!

If you love MAG or Battlefield on the PC, you will feel right at home with this game. DICE created it to be more like the PC counterpart… less of an arcade-like feel. If you didn’t like the first Bad Company game because of the arcade feel, give this one a try. They did make a lot of changes to the game. They made it so that projectiles in any weapon arc over a distance. This means that the next time you have a bead on the head of an enemy across the map, with your sniper rifle, aim a bit higher. I like that there are more customizations and unlocks than in the first. Even if you played the beta on the PS3 or Xbox 360, you will find that the weapons do more damage and if you were a big tank repair person, you will find that the repair tool now overheats… yeah! Specifically, over the PS3 version, you will find that it takes longer to rank up now. I just hit level 4 at 5000 points and level 5 is now at 12000 points. I think they had the ranks set lower on the PS3 so that you could unlock items quicker and test them out.  This isn’t bad because I’m still leveling up my classes quick and I had some unlocked items with the limited edition and for being a Battlefield veteran. Xbox 360 users had a gimped beta because they could only rank up to level 2 and also only level up their classes to 2. These users will find much more in weapons, specialties, and gadgets in the final game. I feel the weapons are even more powerful than the 360 beta. If you are wondering about the weak gun mounted on the heavy tank in the beta, it takes out the enemy much quicker now in the final version.

We are all early in the BFBC2 game life. I can already see some updates that DICE needs to make to the game. They need to tweak a few weapons so we don’t get sniped, from across the map, by an enemy wielding an SMG or LMG. This same problem was patched in MAG, so I can see it happening here too. There will probably be areas of the maps that will need to be updated because of glitchers who find ways to exploit them. This is stuff that gets updated in just about any FPS game. It’s something you deal with when you get in early on the game. It doesn’t bother me because out of all the hours I’ve played already, those few odd glitches are really nothing. I may get sniped by a SMG bullet, but I’ve spent the other 99.9% of the time having an adrenaline rush with the game.

This is a must buy for any hardcore shooter fan. Remember that two more maps will be out in April for free. With 12 maps, 4 game modes, a bunch of weapons and vehicles, and the need to win the battle, you will find yourself spending a lot of time with this game. I can actually see myself going back and forth between this and MAG. No more Modern Warfare 2 for me. There’s also the single player portion of the game that will add about another 6-8 hours of game play. I’m just three levels into single player, so I have a way to go before finishing it. Hope to see you on the battlefield.