Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Multiplayer Hands-On

We hop on a four-wheeler and cruise through the snow in Bad Company 2 multiplayer.

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Battlefield: Bad Company marked the first entry in DICE's first-person shooter series to be designed solely for consoles. As part of that transition, the franchise's trademark 64-player online matches were scaled down to 24 in an effort to keep things running smoothly on trickier network configurations. Despite this, Bad Company's online multiplayer managed to preserve a lot of that chaos by way of newly destructible buildings and the remaining presence of vehicles. Now, after going hands-on with Bad Company 2 at a press event held at EA's Los Angeles offices, we've got a good idea of what to expect out of the sequel's online offerings. While the max number of players remains the same, a host of enhancements should make the combat even more frenetic.

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What we played was the Rush gameplay mode on a snowy Alaskan map dubbed Port Valdez. Rush, if you recall from Bad Company, is a mode that divides players into attacking and defending teams and has them fight over a series of crates. The attacking team is out to destroy these crates in order to push the defending team deeper into their own territory, whereas the defending team's job is to withstand the onslaught until the attacking team runs out of respawns. Like in the Conquest mode featured in the earlier games, momentum is a big factor in Rush.

Although Rush is a familiar feature for those who played Bad Company, Port Valdez's snowy landscape is a marked departure from the green forests and brown desert maps that made up the first game's combat zones. But once again, vehicles are your best option for traversing the terrain. On this map, we spotted the tanks and helicopters that you'd expect, plus a new vehicle in the form of a four-wheel ATV. These zippy little quads are much quicker and nimbler than the vehicles seen in the first Bad Company, which seems to add a bit more unpredictability when you see one flying around the corner. They make it easier to get from point to point, but unlike taking a seat in an armored jeep, you're pretty much a sitting duck on one of these things.

Always ride quad ATVs with a buddy in tow. He'll help soften the crash.
Always ride quad ATVs with a buddy in tow. He'll help soften the crash.

Upping the pace of combat is one of the new goals for DICE. One way the company is seeking to do this is by making players a bit easier to kill, which in turn makes the flow of deaths and respawns a bit faster. The medic needle that was used to restore health in the first game has been done away with in favor of regenerating health, but when you take damage it takes a good, long while to restore yourself--noticeably longer than other shooters that sport regenerating health. You'll also see a streamlined control system that includes the ability to knife people with a dedicated melee button, keeping you from having to switch from gun to knife and back again.

The class system has been given a bit of a jumble, with the number of roles dropping from five to four. Those featured in Bad Company 2 will be Assault (traditional soldier class), Engineer (repair vehicles), Recon (sniper), and Medic (heal your teammates with a defibrillator). But despite the fact that the number of classes has been reduced, you're actually given quite a bit more flexibility with additional customizable kits. Not only can you mix and match primary and secondary weapons more easily across different classes, but you can also customize a good many parts of your gun such as the scope and grenade-launcher type.

Port Valdez is set against an industrial Alaskan backdrop.
Port Valdez is set against an industrial Alaskan backdrop.

During the course of battles, you'll notice that the game's destruction engine has been improved. In the first Bad Company, you could destroy the walls of a building to your heart's content, but no matter how many grenades you lobbed at it, the frame of the building would remain stubbornly intact. Now you can take down entire buildings with enough persistence, whereas on a smaller scale, cover will chip away more realistically if you continue hiding behind a small object for long enough while being fired on. This should help to further increase the frantic level of combat even as the maximum number of players remains at 24.

Based on our initial look, there's a lot to like about where the multiplayer is headed with this collection of clever tweaks and enhancements. EA and DICE still have some tricks up their sleeves in the form of a new multiplayer mode and what's said to be vastly expanded persistence and stat-tracking, so a few more drastic upgrades could still be around the corner. Until we get a look at that, you can expect Bad Company 2 to arrive in the first few months of 2010.

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