by Al Warwick
previewed on X360
First Person Shooters
Of all the current gaming genres available today, the FPS has undoubtedly grown in size and stature this last decade. While there used to be a few flagship titles across the platforms (Half Life, Unreal, Doom, Quake, Medal of Honor, Halo), the climate now is fuller and far richer. Quality titles arrive much more often, and downloadable expansion packs and multiplayer map packs are the norm.
Thus, it is now increasingly difficult for FPS's to truly stand out and garner serious recognition. The current generation of HD gaming and super sophisticated engines has raised the bar to an almost impossible level. Visuals, storyline, multiplayer resources, and a plentiful bounty of photo-realistic locales and time periods are now demanded, as well as the obligatory plethora of weapons, vehicles and customizable content.
While one could argue that visuals used to mattered most - games on average had yet to breach the lines of reality – today, with the hardware available such realism is more easily achieved and the gameplay itself takes a more vital role. Look no further than the all-conquering Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which has successfully compensated for outdated graphics with gameplay punch and unparalleled atmosphere and presentation values.
The challenge is still a fresh one for other rivals in the FPS war. They cannot simply look the prettiest or to have the best storyline; they must somehow outgun the big boys in other areas. The campaign mode is a feature that the Battlefield series has often overlooked, in favor of a robust multiplayer component. 2008’s Bad Company was the first in the collection to feature a single player campaign mode as well as the multiplayer modes on which the series was built. It was a treat, and propelled the series into the lofty heights reached by the aforementioned FPS giants.
Released on the PC, PS3, and XBOX 360, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 continues the action immediately after the events of the first game, with terrain-hopping set pieces taking place anywhere from the snowy mountains of Russia to dense jungle and unforgiving desert. The series’ trademark destructible environments and buildings (one of the many examples of one-upmanship over Call of Duty) are given an extra boost with this sequel, as buildings can now be completely destroyed, as opposed to just having their walls knocked through. Other aspects have been tightened up too, in both story and multiplayer modes – the amount of kits available has been reduced to four: Assault, Engineer, Recon and Medic, with the experience points and dog tag systems also present.
The Battlefield series sells itself on realistic battles that allow players to fully immerse themselves in an online skirmish so intense and unpredictable that it represents the real thing. The game succeeds repeatedly with its conviction, and an ultimately more rewarding delivery; it shuns gimmicks for brutal action.
The squad mode of deathmatch is a needed innovation that will work on countless levels. Similar to the squad feature of Killzone 2, you and up to three friends join together to form a mini team amidst the 50-strong online group. Within the small group, you can notify your colleagues of an enemy with a tap of a button and even more impressively, players can select one of the squad as a respawn point allowing any one of the four to instantly join a colleague in an intense firefight. No longer will players have to traipse for ages just to help out a buddy on the far side of the map.
However, some of Bad Company 2’s aspects are borrowed from the master, and whilst this is no bad thing, it does show that few titles can challenge Modern Warfare 2 without copying it a little bit. The perks system is included here – with weapon (red dot sights), vehicle (more armored transport) and player enhancements (greater accuracy) delivered up with every milestone reached – in both story and multiplayer modes. Though unoriginal, these extra incentives are a necessity for any modern shooter than wants to make an impact.
There will also be a hardcore setting for the game that combines the perks system with a formidable set of challenges. No kill cam after deaths, a non-existent HUD and a greatly reduced damage allowance are just some of the ingredients that make for a tougher experience.
Overall, the title looks to be a genuine challenger to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. This is most apparent in the online section, where the latter has yet to hit the sophistication of Battlefield and certainly cannot contend visually. It remains to be seen if Electronic Arts and DICE have really done enough to wrestle the crown from Activision’s stunner just yet, but Bad Company 2 will certainly satisfy Battlefield fans returning for more desert combat fun.