There is no shortage of online destinations for those who enjoy first-person gun-wielding combat, but no matter how many opportunities you get to shoot another player in the face, there is always room for one more. Especially when that one more is as exciting and intense as Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The online multiplayer in this modern military shooter is a standout, featuring huge maps, incredible destructibility, powerful vehicles, and excellent sound design. These elements combine to foster the sense that you are fighting on an actual battlefield, making many other online shooters seem more like combat arenas than believable war zones. Multiplayer battles are invigorating and addictive, but they aren't all that Bad Company 2 has to offer. The sizable campaign takes you to beautiful and exotic locations where you'll be sorely tempted to take a break from shooting bad guys and blowing things up to admire the scenery. Your hilarious and endearing squadmates are great companions, giving the campaign a rich sense of character not often found in the genre. The result is a very entertaining adventure that, coupled with the excellent multiplayer and top-notch technical presentation, makes Battlefield: Bad Company 2 something special in the world of shooters.
The beginning of Bad Company's second tour finds Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard stationed in a wintery valley, supposedly serving out Sarge's last tour of duty. Lofty mountains loom high against the bright blue sky as you sneak your way between snow-laden trees and out across a frozen river. As you infiltrate a small village, the snow muffles the sound of your footfalls, and when a firefight breaks out, your ears ring from the concussion of nearby explosives. One daring escape later, you're dropped into the Bolivian jungle, where mosquitoes whine in your ear as you walk in the dappled light of the jungle floor. Gunfire doesn't echo very far in the forest, but beneath the corrugated tin roof of a logging outpost, each bullet is a cacophony unto itself. This vivid, engaging world is a testament to Bad Company 2's remarkable technical presentation. The stunning landscapes are matched by the diverse, intriguing terrain in both rural and urban environments. The excellent sound design further enriches your sense of place, and each gunshot, footstep, and exclamation fuels your battlefield awareness and informs your tactical decisions. Though there are some blurry textures, occasional screen tearing, and awkward moments caused by the pervasive environmental destructibility, these are mere blemishes on the ambitious look and immersive sound of Bad Company 2.
Of course, just because the scenery is great doesn't stop you from wanting to blow it up. Trees, barricades, vehicles, buildings, and bridges all splinter and break apart when exposed to gunfire or explosives. Not only is it immensely fun to destroy things, but it's crucial to your survival and success. Say there's a sniper perched in a tower covering your approach. You can try to pick him off without exposing yourself, or you can bust out your underbarrel grenade launcher and blow the platform to smithereens. The explosion showers debris in a realistic and satisfying way, and the sniper is taken care of. Destruction is a double-edged sword, however, as you'll learn the first time that the window you are shooting out of explodes and becomes a gaping hole through which your enemies are more than happy to shoot you. Most buildings can be completely leveled this time around, provided you have enough firepower, though metal structures like shipping containers are nigh impervious. Occasionally the rampant destructibility will get a bit too ambitious, leaving objects stuck in strange positions. Yet the scale of destruction you can wreak is impressive, and the best part about it is how your destructive power becomes a seamless part of your battlefield strategy. It makes you feel powerful in a logical, invigorating way and makes Bad Company 2 unique among its peers.
Humor is another way that Bad Company 2 distinguishes itself. Your squadmates each have great personalities, and their banter is witty and entertaining. You may have to wait for a quiet moment to hear some of their best conversations, but it is well worth it. Haggard's love for the Dallas Cowboys and command of the Spanish language are two amusing subjects, while a conversation about respecting the dead adds enough emotional depth to elevate these characters above one-dimensional stereotypes. They are competent and helpful on the battlefield, and though the squad-based action seems a natural fit for cooperative play, you won't lament playing solo because the men of Bad Company are such delightful companions.
The campaign is a focused, largely linear adventure that takes you to a variety of gorgeous locations. The aforementioned arctic and jungle landscapes are standouts, but other places live up to the high standard. Driving a tank through a countryside in the full bloom of autumn provides eye candy and cannon fodder aplenty, while speeding around a dry seabed in an ATV brings strange sights, not to mention a particularly fierce firefight in the courtyard of an old fortress. You have to be sharp to defeat the smart, aggressive enemies who use destructibility to their advantage and avoid your line of fire. The action is challenging but not overly so, ensuring you have plenty of time to revel in the havoc you are causing. Despite one oddly forced situation, the campaign moves through exotic locales at a great clip, providing ample opportunity to flex your firearms and enjoy some intense vehicle sequences. This is a very entertaining, very exciting adventure.
But the most exciting thing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has to offer is online multiplayer competition. Up to 32 players compete in squads in a few different match types. In Rush, the attacking team assaults an enemy position in an effort to destroy two targets of opportunity. If the attackers succeed, two more targets open up, as well as an entire new section of battlefield. These progressive contests are fierce and engaging, and each new area offers new challenges to which both teams must adapt. (There is also shorter, equally intense version of this mode called Squad Rush.) In Conquest, two teams strive to hold three control points while fending each other off. The natural ebb and flow of combat is unpredictable here, as points can be captured by a lone soldier or by a heavy armored assault. These battlefields are more fluid, and because the action doesn't move on like it does in Rush, they tend to be more thoroughly ravaged by destruction by the end of the match. The last mode, Squad Deathmatch, pits four squads of four against each other in a more traditional, yet still very fun competition. Jumping into a random game doesn't always work properly, and you won't always find a good match, or any match at all for that matter. Fortunately, you can easily call up a list of active servers and consistently hop into whatever game type you like. Each mode offers a different take on the core combat, providing a great variety of ways to do battle.
Bad Company 2's technical excellence is on full display here as well, and the spacious, well-designed maps make superb stages for combat. There are dense snowy forests, debris-laden deserts, coastal industrial complexes, swampy jungle villages, and riverside settlements that play host to the intense action. These maps are impressively varied, offering diverse terrain and more buildings than you would ever need to go in. Each weathers the destructive forces of battle differently each time, making the combat incredibly dynamic and demanding constant adaptability. These maps are excellent, as is the spot-on sound design, which is perhaps even more crucial in multiplayer than in the campaign. A distant crack indicates that an enemy sniper has a bead on you, footsteps inside a building can clue you in on where to aim your grenade, and friendly soldiers shout calls for ammunition or warnings that a building is about to collapse. In addition to the rich audio clues, you can use the unique spotting mechanic to increase your team's battlefield awareness. By getting an enemy in your sights and tapping a key, you put a temporary marker over his head that your whole team can see. It's a simple yet potent move that is immensely helpful to your team, and if it leads to his death, you'll get a nice little point bonus for your troubles.
Earning points enables you to unlock new weapons, gadgets, and attribute-boosting specializations. Some of these are class-specific, while others can be applied to any soldier and create some flexibility between classes. The four classes in Bad Company 2 fall into familiar archetypes: soldiers who wield assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammo kits; engineers who stealthily kill enemies while sabotaging or repairing vehicles; medics who lay down machine-gun fire and revive downed allies; and snipers who sneak around making long-range kills and setting up close-range demolitions. You get points for killing enemies, supporting teammates, and earning medals for your battlefield prowess. Unlocking new gear not only makes you more powerful, but it gives you more ways to be effective in combat. Enemies won't expect the ghillie-suited sniper to be packing a shotgun, for example, and increasing the radius and healing speed of your health kits can extend your teammates' life spans significantly.
There are plenty of tactical decisions to be made beyond the loadout screen, including where you spawn, which buildings you destroy, and which vehicles you pilot. ATVs, gunboats, Humvees, tanks, and helicopters all spawn on the battlefield full of deadly potential. Exactly who dies depends on your driving skills and the enemy's demolition prowess, but there's no question that vehicles can change the flow of battle very quickly. A quick flanking run with a Jet Ski can catch the enemy off guard, while an unmanned UAV can end a helicopter's reign of terror before it has a chance to begin. With all the different classes, vehicles, and stationary weapons (like heavy machine guns and mounted rocket launchers) at play, there is a dazzling array of ways to wage war. These tools, coupled with the threat and promise of destructibility, make Bad Company 2's battlefields uniquely chaotic and electrifyingly fun. The action is top-notch in both campaign and multiplayer alike. Whether or not you're looking for a new shooter in your life, you owe it to yourself to play Battlefield: Bad Company 2.