Considering how Battlefield games have always been known for their robust multiplayer, it makes sense that the majority of Bad Company's prerelease coverage has dealt with ways you'll be duking it out with friends and strangers online. But lest you forget, DICE is also devoting quite a bit of attention to Bad Company's single-player campaign. The trailers released showing the game's main characters have displayed the offbeat sense of humor they're aiming to achieve, but other details on how the single-player experience will play out have been a bit scarce. Last night, though, we got the chance to play one of the levels from the Campaign during EA's Spring Break press event.
The level we played is called "Acta Non Verba," which is the second chapter in the campaign. It takes place in a dense forest setting in Eastern Europe, much like the Ascension map found in the recent multiplayer beta. The first thing we noticed was that, aside from dialogue and cutscenes, the campaign doesn't feel a whole lot different from multiplayer matches. Much of that has to do with the way the game handles a player's life and several subsequent deaths. Rather than placing a heavy penalty on dying in the Story mode, DICE has opted for maintaining a high level of difficulty in terms of enemies, allowing you to respawn as many times as you'd like. When you die, you simply respawn nearby just as you would in a multiplayer match. You don't lose all your progress, however, because buildings you destroyed in your previous life will still remain demolished after you come back.
If you don't want to keep dropping dead when enemies show their faces, you'll need to get in touch with your inner medic class. Your health will not auto-regenerate, and you won't find health kits on the ground to heal yourself. Instead, you'll need to cycle over to the adrenaline shot you're carrying at all times and thrust an injection right into your chest. This will restore your health, but it can't be used over and over again in the heat of battle because the needle needs a good 20 seconds to refill its life-saving liquid. This process lends a bit of class responsibility to the single-player campaign. In addition to the way you respawn, it also helps blur the line between the single-player and multiplayer experience.
You're given a good deal of freedom to choose your path during the story. The two things you'll need to focus on are required objectives and optional treks to go searching for gold. The objectives tend to fall into the standard categories of taking out all the enemy personnel in an area or destroying certain targets, such as weapons depots. These are laid out helpfully on your minimap, but the way you get to them in Bad Company's expansive levels is up to you. You and the rest of your squad can foot it out by running to certain points on the map, but you can also choose from the variety of vehicles at your disposal. In the level we played, we took a boat downriver from a rural residential area to a haggard old factory that housed a cluster of missile launchers. This choice saved us plenty of time but also meant we missed some of the optional gold crates that would have helped to trigger unlockables and achievement points.
When you hop in a vehicle, the other members of your squad magically appear in the passenger seats no matter how far they were from you a moment beforehand. This is one of the ways the game's team aspects try to help rather than hinder you. Another way is that you don't need to keep a constant eye on the health of you squad members; they'll be perfectly fine if left alone. They don't need to be given orders either because they simply follow you most of the time when you're not following them. The EA rep we spoke with was quick to point out that this is not a squad-based tactical game; your teammates are there to provide a helping hand and an occasional laugh rather than being the constant focus of your attention.
All in all, those who devoted at least a few hours to the public beta should feel right at home in the Campaign mode. Like the Gold Rush mode featured in the beta, you're essentially working with a handful of teammates to push the enemies back until you've claimed the entire level as your own. The main difference seems to be the story rather than actual gameplay mechanics. Battlefield: Bad Company will be released on June 23, while a free downloadable pack featuring the classic Conquest multiplayer mode from previous Battlefield games will follow sometime thereafter.