Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Updated Hands-On

We flew into the heart of Battlefield--developer Dice's Swedish studio--to check out the final build of Bad Company 2.

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At Gamescom 2009, executive producer Karl Magnus Troedsson proudly announced that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 would "deliver the best online multiplayer experience ever." With just over a month to the game's release, we had a chance to put this claim to the test, as we travelled out to Dice's Stockholm headquarters to see both the multiplayer and single-player in action.

As players of the multiplayer beta will know, Bad Company 2 doesn't change the formula too much when it comes to multiplayer mechanics. What it does offer is more of everything; game modes, customisation options, and destructibility have all been ramped up over the previous game. One such game mode is Squad Rush, a four-vs-four scramble where one team tries to capture a couple of M-com stations, while the other team aims to protect them. It may take only a couple of seconds for each point to be captured, but the defending team can neutralise the point just as quickly, making for some incredibly frantic matches in the games we played.

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The first Bad Company was well known for its destructibility, and thanks to an upgraded version of Dice's in-house Frostbite tech, the second game implements something that EA calls "Destruction 2.0." It was fascinating to see it in action--in one squad rush battle, we were able to protect the M-com station by hiding in the wooden hut that housed it. However, once the opposing team took to vehicles, including tanks and a helicopter, they were able to topple the entire fragile structure, leaving the capture point much more open to attack.

There's plenty to like about Bad Company 2's multiplayer, which offers a tactical, cerebral approach to gameplay. "We've made hundreds of changes after feedback from the beta," said producer Patrick Bach. One of these changes is the new hardcore mode, which turns off the HUD, makes weapons more lethal, and turns on friendly fire. Not that the default settings make the game easy; the health system isn't regenerative, so you have to depend on medics to lay out medpacks, which can also be picked up by the enemy. The progression system also lets you get more perks the more time you spend with each of the four classes, such as improved rifles for the sniper class. Thankfully, the humour of the original game also remains--kill yourself, and the onscreen message is just "Epic Fail.

Our visit to Stockholm also marked the first time that anyone outside of EA and Dice had played the single-player game. The story follows on "some time after" the first game, according to Bach, with the two world superpowers US and Russia battling it out. You take up the role of Preston Marlowe once again, whose Bad Company is called in when Russia starts moving into South America, where the plot to unleash a superweapon is exposed.

The first level we played took place fairly early on in the game, with Bad Company following a prisoner who is captured out in the jungle. It's your job to liberate the man, which of course you do by blowing up the entire village he's being held in. The action is punctuated by lots of little set pieces--choreographed action where you can blow entire huts apart, sending men on fire tumbling out. Thankfully, your allies also seem to boast better AI this time around, taking care of themselves in battle without any intervention and even popping out and stabbing people if they have the opportunity.

Bad Company 2 builds upon the success of the original with more game modes and class customisation.
Bad Company 2 builds upon the success of the original with more game modes and class customisation.

The end of the level saw another big set piece--as the prisoner is dragged away by his captor, time slows down so you can pop a round in the guard's head using your pistol. The man turns out to be an American government official with the inside track on the Russian weapon plot, which leads you on to the second level that we played--a snowy mountain pass. You jump into a helicopter and bring the pain from the mounted turret, which is impressive not only because of the epic draw distance, but also because of the destructability of Dice's meticulously crafted world. With the enemies dispatched, we ran through houses in the remote mountain village, taking in a nice demonstration of the game's destructibility. It was then on to another epic battle with a tank, using the rocket launchers we acquired from enemies dispatched using a sniper rifle.

Bad Company 2 is shaping up well, and if you're into shooters, it should definitely be on your radar when it's released in March. If you're looking to play the game on the PC, be sure to check back on the site later in the week for our exclusive hands-on with what promises to be the definitive version of the game. In the meantime, check out our interviews with the development team above for even more info on the game.

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