Prepare to be assaulted, Bad Company is as subtle as a kick in the head, and attempts to do so, visually and aurally, every step of the way. Don’t misunderstand, there’s grace, poise and balance throughout the game, but it’s a gritty, explosive title that attempts to re-define what we should expect from a first person shooter, raising the bar considerably.
Initially, the single player campaign mode grates, grouping you with a trio of war-grizzled vets with dialogue straight from the Haze school of sophistication, although here at least it’s tongue-in-cheek and well delivered, but soon you’re part of the team and as the other members play off each other you can concentrate on taking out those pesky Russians as you make your way through the story.
For a ‘Battlefield’ game, the solo mode is remarkably fleshed out, no longer a patched version of the multiplayer (as in Modern Combat) but a thrilling, lengthy ride into B Company’s (hence the name) own version of the war around them. Soon enough your focus will be less on the barks from headquarters and more about the gold hidden around the vast countryside – naturally you’re still following the same scripted, linear story as everyone else but DICE have done a great job in making the experience a personal one.
And the game isn’t shy about flexing its muscles – right from the off it’s a graphical showcase for the Frostbite Engine, with huge open areas deftly moving from outdoor to in without a stutter and filled with well modeled, well animated cannon fodder. Textures are astounding in places, easily matching some of those found in Uncharted, and the lighting effects can be dazzling – sure some areas are less impressive than others but when considered as a whole it’s a great achievement to have all this action running at 30fps.
And then there’s the guns – a staple of all FPS but often oddly discarded as important. In Bad Company the weapons are deadly, powerful and packed with as much feeling as you can get through a TV screen and a Dual Shock 3, but feed the sound through a 5.1 system and the game suddenly comes alive. Every single sound can be placed precisely, and the range of processing filters (such as echoes and wind) is frankly the best we’ve heard on the PS3 so far. Decent loading times, quick menus and fully configurable options round off what has to be full marks for presentation.
The only real niggles to the single player are the lack of a main focus to the storyline until the end and a few pacing issues, but given the breadth of action provided, the frequent vehicle sections and the stealthy parts, we don’t really mind. We will point out that dying isn’t such a problem, you’ll just ‘re-spawn’ back a little, and the health boosting Injector is a little bit of an anomaly, but you get used to flicking from gun to needle soon enough, and it’s just as realistic as picking up a health pack or pausing to auto-heal, it just takes a bit to adjust to.
So far so good, so how’s the multiplayer? Just as good. It’s tense, exhilarating and deliciously brutal – each 12 man team is split into smaller groups, and you’re either defending or attacking the various gold nuggets stashed around each level. This being a Battlefield title there’s a range of classes to choose from, with promotions bringing about the obvious upgrades and enhancements. The classes, such as assault and sniper, are highly specialised and you’re advised to pick with one and try to learn the intricacies of the weapons and tools at your disposal.
Team work is the key to success (and finding somewhere safe to wait if you’re the last man standing in your group so your friends can respawn alongside you) and communication is essential – bring your headset please so that tactics can be co-ordinated and try to remember this isn’t a deathmatch game, the single multiplayer game mode is won and lose with the gold bars. A second mode, Conquest, is forthcoming and should be more akin to the usual Battlefield flag retention we all know and love.
Bad Company, then, is a cool, confident game with lots to keep you occupied. The single player is a lengthy trawl but the multiplayer will keep you busy for a year – it’s a far more skillful game than the one in Call of Duty 4 and is likely to attract a more devoted crowd. It’s a really, really good shooter – although it’s a shame there’s only one multiplayer mode – and we have no hesitation in recommending it for anyone remotely interested in the genre. Great stuff.