While the original Battlefield: Bad Company may have been a console exclusive, the sequel looks set to shine on the PC. During our visit to developer Dice in Sweden, we talked to a dedicated PC team whose job it is to make this the definitive version, thanks to improvements such as 32-player multiplayer (compared to 24 on the consoles), a menu system customised for mouse and keyboard, and support for 3D using Nvidia technology. Even better, we got to put all of these features to the test thanks to an exclusive hands-on.
In this preview, we'll focus on the PC-specific elements of the game, so if you're new to the franchise or want details of the single-player game, make sure you check out our preview from earlier in the week. Our time with Bad Company 2 was spent on a high-end PC, with the game running at 1920x1080 pixel resolution and on max settings. Needless to say, it looked amazing, with extra details such as soft shadowing on character models, as well as an improved frame rate over the console versions. Thankfully, though, you shouldn't need to remortgage your house to play Bad Company 2, as the team is keen to stress the scalability of the technology with support for systems running DirectX 9 to DirectX 11.
In terms of multiplayer, Dice has been vocal about its support for custom servers. EA didn't miss a trick when it issued a press release highlighting Bad Company 2's support for custom servers, just as Activision announced it would deny Modern Warfare 2 players this luxury. Dice assured us that everyone will be able to use its servers in the PC version, but those who want to tweak away at the game's settings will be able to set up their own custom servers. Our demo took place across Dice's local network, which allowed us to experience the PC's 32 player limit, which is six players more than the consoles' 24 player count. The six extra players may not sound like a huge increase, especially when compared to previous Battlefield games which have had 64 player counts, but according to Bach, this is due to map sizes. The maps in Bad Company 2 are built for cross-platform use, and because the console player count is traditionally smaller than on PC, the maps have to be built to fit.
Thankfully, this seems to be the only area where Bad Company 2 is hamstrung by its cross-platform development. If you're the owner of the latest audiovisual technologies, then Bad Company 2 is going to offer the workout your system was built for. It supports Nvidia 3D Vision, so if you have a compatible graphics card and monitor, you'll be able to take advantage right out of the box. If you've got a really high-end, money-is-no-object system, then Bad Company 2 also supports three monitor setups. The audio has also been customised for the PC, with more bandwidth available for detailed effects. Bach explained how the new sound system has been built using decibel ratings for each individual effect, so if footsteps are rated at 20dB, they'll get drowned out by a tank rolling past at a much higher rating.
We got to don the special glasses for a full 3D hands-on with the multiplayer, and we were impressed with what we saw. The sense of immersion was great, as long as you get past marveling at the scenery and actually start shooting things. We also like the work that has been put into tweaking the menu system so that it works better on PC. More information can be shown on a monitor than a TV, so you can customise your loadouts quickly and easily. This becomes more important the more time you spend in the game, because you unlock more equipment and weapons as you progress.
Battlefield fans may remember that the original Bad Company never came out on the PC, so it's great to see that the sequel will be coming to the PC on the same day as the console versions. The beta will be coming out on January 28, which should allow plenty of time to practise for the game's release on March 5 in Europe and March 2 in the US. In the meantime, you can find out more about all versions of the game by watching the video interviews from our recent trip to Sweden.