Battlefield: Bad Company Hands On
A shooter best known for multiplayer mayhem has added a comedic campaign. We explore the first few levels.
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Though the Battlefield series has always been known as one of the leaders of multiplayer military warfare, the newest console edition, Battlefield: Bad Company, comes packed with a complete single-player campaign as well. As the name suggests, you are part of a company, Company B, and it's your job to quell the seemingly never-ending stampede of evil enemy soldiers. After playing through the first five levels of the campaign, we come bearing impressions on the transition to single-player combat.
The most noteworthy element in Bad Company's campaign is the sheer destructive ability your weapons carry. Ancient deciduous forests come crashing down with the blast of machine-gun fire, changing the face of battlefields midbattle. The ever-changing aspect of battle adds a level of chaos to the proceedings, and because you can't interact with trees once they've been uprooted, hiding from enemies becomes a quest to find more-permanent cover rather than a tactic of simply hunkering down and waiting out the storm.
The destructive element comes into play away from forests, too. You can also level buildings, though they require a slightly more powerful weapon--grenades--which you can throw against walls and through windows to expose cowering soldiers. Unfortunately, the buildings combust in a predetermined way; we encountered one instance where a gas tank positioned in a corner tore down one wall when ignited, but left another standing strong. Still, even though we couldn't bring buildings all the way down, we could reduce them to little more than freestanding staircases and untrustworthy floors.
Aside from the standard array of military weapons, we were given a few tools that made wanton destruction the most logical strategy for disposing of enemy forces. There are C4 explosives, which can be used not only to destroy objectives (such as a missile launcher), but to destroy enemy tanks and annoyingly placed buildings as well. But even more enjoyable than C4 is the mortar strike. Though our commanding officer told us to use this extremely powerful device to dispose of tanks and other enemy vehicles that are difficult to destroy with normal weapons, we found it more fun to use against ground troops and any object we felt should be razed. Instead of being given a finite number of uses like with the C4 bombs, we only had to wait for the time bar to refill before we could unleash another attack from above. It may be unsporting, but it's so satisfying to blow up one stranded soldier with a weapon designed to decimate a bridge.
The oddest quirk in the campaign is how healing is handled. Unlike many other shooters out there, Bad Company doesn't allow your character to automatically regenerate health. But it does have another method that, when used properly, made us virtually invincible: We could jab a long needle into our character's chest whenever he neared death. There is no limit to how often you can use this important device, save for a brief timer between uses. Like the air strike controller, a time bar refilled whenever we healed ourselves. Bolstered by our speedy recovery, we found ourselves running into battle with our gun put away and the needle out, absorbing bullets the whole time, then thrusting the needle into our chest and finally knifing enemies when we reached them. Combined with the unrelenting destruction, it made for a fast-paced, action-oriented spin on a military shooter.
Anyone expecting a multiplayer-heavy game with a shallow single-player campaign tossed in will be pleasantly surprised by Bad Company. There is real depth here, and with the camaraderie of your fellow soldiers pushing the story, it makes for a riveting journey through a desolate world. With a sprawling combat zone in which you can choose your own path to destroy enemies and well-designed sound that brings the horrors of war right into your living room, Bad Company is something those hungry for military action should keep their eyes on.