Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Update

Squad Deathmatch and a pair of new maps are the focus of our latest hands-on with DICE's upcoming shooter.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Fans of online shooters have had a great past few months with games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Modern Warfare 2 occupying the disc trays of consoles the world over. Those post-headshot cackles of glee shouldn't be letting up anytime soon, because a number of intriguing shooters are slated for release in early 2010. One of the most promising of the bunch is DICE's Battlefield: Bad Company 2, a game we've had our eye on for quite some time. Previously, we've covered some of the new vehicles you can expect to see on the snowy Port Valdez map, and we've detailed the new class customization options on the dusty Arica Harbour map. Our most recent look at Bad Company 2 gave us a chance to see two new locales and a new gameplay mode: Squad Deathmatch.

Laguna Presa is one of the new maps in BC2.

As the name implies, Squad Deathmatch is a twist on the most basic of shooter modes. The difference here is that it's not a free-for-all, nor is it a one-team-versus-the-other situation. Instead, it's four teams of four all duking it out to be the first squad to reach 50 total kills. It makes for quite a different style of combat and a much more tense and unnerving experience. Even if you manage to survive an encounter with an opponent from one squad, you never know if there's a member of another squad just waiting in the bushes for the right moment to pull mop-up duty. You also feel much more connected to your squadmates knowing that it's four of you, and 12 of them.

Another thing that makes Squad Deathmatch interesting is the way certain endgame scenarios change your play style. Say your squad and another squad are both tied at 45 total kills, with the other two teams so far behind that they're basically out of the competition. Suddenly, the strategy becomes seeking out the losing squads and trying to avoid the one that's close to you in total kills. Who cares if you die while going after the weak guys? They're already out of it. But a death against the team that's tied with you suddenly matters a whole lot more. There's also one single tank in Squad Deathmatch that acts as a sort of centerpiece for the action, allowing one team to both go on a rampage and signal to the other teams with a very loud voice where they are and where they can be killed. Overall, Squad Deathmatch adds a few very interesting risk-reward dynamics to the usual Deathmatch formula.

Panama Canal isn't the greatest place for boats when tanks are firing everywhere.

We played Squad Deathmatch on the new Laguna Presa map, an area set in a vibrant jungle where a series of small islands are separated by knee-deep pools and streams. This map has a lot of small patches of foliage to hide in, as well as a number of rickety wooden buildings that don't provide a whole lot of protection from incoming gunfire. This map is a stark departure from previous Bad Company 2 maps we've seen, which were set in snowy Alaska and parts of arid South America. We also got to play on another new map called Panama Canal, which is a shipping yard set on the famous maritime passageway in Central America. This industrial-themed map offers a demolished collection of rusted freighter boats and shipping cans and gives you the chance to cruise around in several tanks and quad ATVs.

On the Panama Canal map, we played that old Battlefield standby known as Conquest mode. As fans of the series will recall, this mode sees two teams fighting for capture points spread across the map. The first team to exhaust its total number of respawns loses, and the point of maintaining capture points is that they offer a boost to the total number of respawns your team has left. In contrast to the measured jungle-stalking of the Laguna Presa map, we found Panama Canal to be a more frenetic and explosive experience. With the ATVs zooming around and the capture points serving as magnets for a flurry of incoming grenades, this map and mode certainly felt a lot more chaotic than Squad Deathmatch on Laguna Presa.

Laguna Presa: Your ideal vacation getaway.

We've seen Bad Company 2 several times now, and we've had fun with it every time we've picked up a controller. The large-scale maps, destructible buildings, and vehicle options make for a fun and varied experience that allows you to pursue victory from a number of different angles. Whether you play as a rooftop sniper, a tank driver, or a deranged medic running around zapping enemies to death with defibrillator paddles, there's a lot of room to play how you want. Bad Company 2 is due out March 2.

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