Battlefield Bad Company Demo Review

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By doobiwan

Battlefield: Bad Company arrives

Call of Duty 4 got lucky. I mean it no disrespect, it’s a good game, but it was a case of right game right time. Riding on the first big next gen Xmas wave, after somewhat disappointing Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2, CoD4 hit the shooter button on the nose with its tight gameplay, good looks and excellent multiplayer. But for a veteran of the battlefield franchise CoD4 was nothing new. It took everything that was good about the Battlefield 2 infantry experience and distilled it into an intense easily consumed cocktail. Well, CoD4, thanks for the thrills, but daddies coming home and it’s time to get out of his chair. For those console gamers who may have overlooked the franchise in the past (with fair enough reason), this is not that battlefield. Bad Company stands proudly next to the PC Battlefields, which after 2 years are still the second most popular online PC shooter franchise after Counterstrike.
 
So the first thing someone usually asks is “what’s the difference between CoD4 and Battlefield? They look the same.” The answer is “CoD4 is a First Person Shooter. Battlefield isn’t”.


Your going to need the radar

By DICE’s definition, Battlefield is a “Battlefield Sandbox” it’s not just about running and gunning. Vehicles, strategy and tactics are all as integral to the experience as controlled burst fire. These aren’t vehicles like Halo where they’re there effectively as short term power-ups that don’t really drive the game, the vehicles in Battlefield are game makers. Tanks, APC’s, anti aircraft guns, Hummers, dune buggies, artillery and choppers  all have specific roles to play in bringing about victory. The vehicles, along with the player kits, balance the game with rock-paper-scissors mechanics that see no two games ever playing the same. Is your infantry being harassed by too many snipers? Bring in the tanks or the artillery. Are your tanks struggling against a horde of demolition RPGs? Bring in the Assault or support guys to flush them out, and so on. Battlefield is a game of teamwork. A small well co-ordinated squad will dominate any number of the most skilled specialists. The thing that always attracted me to Battlefield is simply that you don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over.  You don’t feel like sneaking around with an assault rifle? Then go grab a jeep and play crazy taxi, carting your team mates around. Don’t feel like mowing through forests in a tank? Grab a jeep and go steal or sabotage your opponent’s vehicles. Every game presents new opportunities.
 
Battlefield: Bad Company Beta Reviewed

On the demo itself, first off it’s 1.5Gb, which is a bit of a commitment, especially on 384. The demo comes with one Multiplayer map “Oasis” the same one that was in the beta. Graphically I was surprisingly impressed with Bad Company. Considering the scale I was expecting something akin to Frontlines, but in many ways Bad Company equals and then surpasses Call of Duty 4. At first glance the terrain looks a match for CoD4, but the maps in comparison are huge. Consider on Oasis alone it’ll take about a minute to drive from one end to the other in a jeep. Then factor in all the vehicles, the character models and the amazing explosions. 
 
Oh the explosions. While some have been critical of the lack of absolute destructibility, make no mistake destructible terrain is a game changing feature. I don’t mean like Frontlines radio control toys, or Quake Wars deployables. Gone are the days of bunkering down in a wooden shack. Towns crumble, walls shatter and the debris flies everywhere, absolute chaos. It becomes increasingly difficult to hold the line when it keeps disintegrating right under your feet. It’s great. Add to that some amazing in game sound, and that little spine tingle as you feel a tank drive by the controller rumble, it’s an immersive experience bar none. If I was to niggle about anything, they’d be silly things like the character animations are a bit stiff and the spotting shouts can get a bit repetitive, but you really don’t notice them. The controls are also a little bit different to what we’ve become accustom to, especially for the vehicles, but I think it’s for the better, they’re a  great way of allowing you to drive, aim and shoot all at the same time without making everything fishtail like a warthog.
 
Oh and it’s got a single player bit, but this is battlefield, who cares!?  😉
 
I guess the two big questions for South Africans are “what’s the lag like?” and “will there be a local community?”  I’ll put it like this; I’m yet to play a South African hosted game. The netcode is excellent. Occasionally you get a laggy server, but of the dozen or so sessions I’ve played, only one was so bad I had to disconnect, one was a struggle with guys teleporting, but the rest, a good 8 or more sessions, the lag was barely perceivable, it’s an absolutely remarkable feat. By the looks of things, hits are resolved on the client, in other words “what you see is what you hit” which takes the frustration of having to lead your shots right out of the game. Based on my experience with the demo, Battlefield is the only game I would recommend as an international multiplayer shooter, surpassing even Halo. As for local hosting, I cannot confirm anything, but as I understand players will be able to host matches, but I don’t know if they will be ranked or not.
 
As for the question of local community, regardless of platform, Battlefield: Bad Company represents the best shooter to be released this year on any platform. There are no challengers to that claim until the end of the year when Resistance 2 and Gears 2 are released. So what do you want to play for the rest of the year?
 
Verdict: Why are you still reading this? You should be preordering and planning sick leave.
 
Footnote for collectors: If you get the demo and rank up to level 4 you get an unlock code for a weapon in the full game.
 
Footnote for PC Battlefield veterans
So if you know the way around the PC Battlefield, here’s a few things to note. Firstly BF:BC is only 24 player, but as anyone who’s played on a 64 versus a 32 before, size isn’t everything, the map is tight and well balanced. There is no “classic”/Conquest mode at the moment (no dashing around to cap the back flag) but it is going to be included at a later date via a patch. There are fewer kits, medic and support are now one kit. There is no “Commander”, instead, artillery is treated like a vehicle (with exposed driver in case the ‘tard keeps hitting his own team) There are also no jets which is either a positive or negative depending how good your flying skills were. With the smaller maps, the choppers provide enough air support while still being vulnerable enough to be balanced. Squads and Spawning have been improved, now you have two options, a base or “squad” not just the leader, in addition there is now a spawn cam which lets you see where you’re going to spawn so you can look out for those annoying campers! All in all I think it’s a case that BF:BC has been streamlined for console, without having been dumbed down.

Last Updated: June 11, 2008

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