• My history with the Battlefield series goes way back to 2002 and the appearance of DICE’s Battlefield 1942. Firing that game up for a quick reminisce recently, the core gameplay is still as rock solid and incredibly satisfying as ever it was.

    The series has gone through several sequels and add-on packs since then. Battlefield 1942 had two main additions (Secret Weapons of World War II which was awesome and added some really bizarre fighting machines into the mix and Road to Rome).

    From then the series covered the Vietnam War, modern theatre combat (in the sublime Battlefield 2) and then had a bit of a wobble with the slightly less satisfying Battlefield 2142.

    Now though, things have come to console properly. Battlefield: Modern Combat on Xbox and 360 was OK but there seemed to be a certain indefinable “something” missing from it. Oddly I had misgivings that Bad Company would be a proper “Battlefield” title either but those fears were well and truly put to bed after half an hour’s gameplay in the Beta version.

    In the full retail version of the game, I’m happy to report that you should all be able to experience just the sort of adrenaline-pumping thrills that the Battlefield series carries as its trademark. Because the game features not only the usual multiplayer stuff but a whole single-player campaign, it’s better to separate the two out and cover them individually.

    Battlefield: Bad Company

    My history with the Battlefield series goes way back to 2002 and the appearance of DICE’s Battlefield 1942. Firing that game up for a quick reminisce recently, the core gameplay is still as rock solid and incredibly satisfying as ever it was.

    The series has gone through several sequels and add-on packs since then. Battlefield 1942 had two main additions (Secret Weapons of World War II which was awesome and added some really bizarre fighting machines into the mix and Road to Rome).

    From then the series covered the Vietnam War, modern theatre combat (in the sublime Battlefield 2) and then had a bit of a wobble with the slightly less satisfying Battlefield 2142.

    Now though, things have come to console properly. Battlefield: Modern Combat on Xbox and 360 was OK but there seemed to be a certain indefinable “something” missing from it. Oddly I had misgivings that Bad Company would be a proper “Battlefield” title either but those fears were well and truly put to bed after half an hour’s gameplay in the Beta version.

    In the full retail version of the game, I’m happy to report that you should all be able to experience just the sort of adrenaline-pumping thrills that the Battlefield series carries as its trademark. Because the game features not only the usual multiplayer stuff but a whole single-player campaign, it’s better to separate the two out and cover them individually.

    In Battlefield: Bad Company’s single player campaign, you play as Preston Marlow, a raw new recruit shunted sideways into B-Company (or Bad Company as they’re nicknamed), a rag tag bunch of misfits the Army quietly filed under “difficult and unstable” and shunted sideways into an outfit best equipped to deal with war’s more nefarious side.

    After enjoying the rousing Battlefield theme at the start of the game, you’re introduced to Preston and the other members of the team. Sergeant Redford is the leader of the squad, a grizzled no-nonsense battle-hardened pug of a man who takes no crap from any of his recruits.

    Next you’ve got Sweetwater, a motor mouth smart-alec communications expert with a penchant for sticking his nose in where it’s not wanted and getting into trouble. Then there’s Haggard, a tough grisly huge slab of meat and the team’s explosives expert who also just happens to be able to pick the legs off a flea with any heavy machine guns you might have lying around. Rounded off with Preston, this gives the game more of a tightly-knit feel than before and in single player mode gives you a bunch of squad-mates to identify with rather than the nameless bots you’d have fought alongside in Battlefield 1942 et al.

    During the game’s opening few missions, directed by a luscious-voiced Radio Despatch officer, you find out that the “Russian” military troops you think you’ve been fighting are in fact ruthless mercenaries paid by illicit gold. Naturally when you find a tiny bar of the stuff you realise that your army pay doesn’t mean diddly compared to a few tons of the good stuff so the hunt begins to scour the battlefield and nail as much of the stuff as possible (while obviously trying not to get killed).

    If I’m honest, I couldn’t really have cared less about the “Three Kings” style story, because any Battlefield veteran will know that the game’s all about action, whether on foot or in the game’s wide variety of different offensive vehicles. You can commandeer Armoured Personnel Carriers, Tanks, Choppers, Jeeps, Boats and all sorts of other fixed / stationary weapons as you encounter them.

    The controls might feel a bit weird at first (pressing the left trigger to accelerate while the right trigger controls guns in stuff like tanks and choppers) but once you’re used to them, the vehicles form an integral part of the Battlefield experience – much as it’s always been. Because of this, the actual gameplay areas are massive, far far larger than anything you’ve probably encountered in the likes of Call of Duty 4.

    What’s more, everything on the battlefield can be destroyed. DICE’s new ‘built from the ground up’ Frostbite game engine is truly incredible, and in any huge confrontation the battlefield is soon torn into bite-sized chunks of flying mud and rubble, and any buildings are reduced to a pile of bricks and a shattered framework.

    Though the in-game engine still suffers from a lack of polish in some areas (notably the v-synch issues encountered in both the Beta and the Demo) it’s truly something to behold when you see an Artillery Strike coming in and smashing the absolute heck out of somewhere you’d previously been hiding a few moments ago. Though there’s probably technically no way DICE could’ve built something that can be levelled flat by mortar fire, the effects of the in-game destruction lend a more realistic and tense feeling to the whole game.

    Visually though despite the V-synch and framerate issues on occasion, the game is absolutely wonderful to look at. All the uniforms, vehicles, military hardware and in-game settings from large wooded areas to war-torn little villages are superbly put together (and equally superbly taken apart once you let loose with the heavy explosives and armaments). DICE seem to have really pushed the envelope for what’s possible on a console and this only bodes well for their upcoming PC-exclusive Battlefield game, Battlefield 3.

    As you make your way through the various missions, and B-Company’s story begins to unfold you actually feel that, as a single player, you’ve got your money’s worth from a tough-as-heck game that’s predominantly geared for multiplayer combat…

    …and of course Multiplayer is where Battlefield: Bad Company shines, just like its PC predecessors. You may well have played Call of Duty 4 until your fingers have worn away to stumps but Battlefield is a seriously different type of game. Though COD4 relies on teamwork and tactics, Battlefield: Bad Company makes good team co-operation almost essential, and if you’re playing with a squad of mixed players each taking on a class and playing that class as it should be played, it’s about as addictive as multiplayer gets.

    For the first time I truly felt like a console game had more than matched the feeling I got when I first realised how brilliant Battlefield 1942 was, and how LIVE is the perfect platform for a multiplayer game that needs to be as flexible and easy to approach for new players as it is satisfying and tough for more seasoned Battlefield veterans.

    Suffice to say that the multiplayer “Gold Rush” mode is just so damned good that I’ve barely touched the Single Player campaign at all, preferring to join a bunch of 11 other players on a team either defending crates of gold from being blown up by the enemy, or trying to tactically take out their crates with my buddies fighting at my side.

    You need good team-mates too because in human vs human play, the whole battlefield erupts into a cacophony of shell bursts, small arms fire, rocket attacks from choppers and lord knows what else – in fact 10 minutes into an intense game you’ll begin to realise just how it must feel on a real war-torn battlefield with your eyes and ears being assaulted left right and centre. This is testament to how effective the Frostbite Engine’s high definition audio system is – with even a half decent surround kit you’re going to feel physically shattered by the end of a game, sitting there in a sweat-soaked T-shirt with your nerves shot to ribbons.

    There are 8 maps to choose from in multiplayer. Valley Run is a dense forest, perfect for hiding in if you’re the sort that likes a bit of sneaky sniping.

    Deconstruction takes the fight to an abandoned Russian industrial zone, with dangerous explosive gas tanks and barrels a plenty.

    End of the Line gives vehicle-favouring combatants a chance to spin their wheels and take the enemy on in a barren landscape whereas Ascension takes place in a mountain village clinging to the side of craggy rocks, again with its own nice little sniper-friendly positions (so long as no one sees you and puts a rocket into the building you’re hiding in).

    One last map worth mentioning is Oasis, which is a river / city map incorporating just about every vehicle and weapon type in the game. As Battlefield 2 players will fondly remember Karkand, Battlefield: Bad Company players will come to call Oasis a classic. It’s just a spot on balanced map that’s immensely satisfying to play.

    In ranked games there’s a ton of stuff to unlock as well as a new set of stripes. New weapon classes and kit can be grabbed as you earn them.

    There’s just so much ground to cover when describing Battlefield: Bad Company. Your playing style can be as unique as the class you favour and there’s literally so many ways to kill and be killed that it’d be impossible for two games to play out in exactly the same way online. With custom matches allowing you to hand pick three of your friends for a squad, it may feel a little clunkier than the PC squad system in Battlefield 2 but at least it allows you to spawn with a squad if you were never assigned to one.

    Once you’re in a full on 24-player match though, you won’t really mind that essentially Battlefield: Bad Company does as good a job of bringing such an immensely difficult gameplay mechanic to consoles as it’s possible to do, you’ll be too busy grinning from ear to ear and finding out which class suits you best.

    Huge, immersive and always intense, Battlefield: Bad Company proves that you may not need the prettiest graphics in the world or design the most original game in order to provide one of the most essential purchases on 360 this year so far. Single players may feel slightly left out because the game really benefits from its multiplayer side, but even if you never take it online you will at least get a flavour of just how manic and heart-pumpingly chaotic the Battlefield series can be, and Bad Company is right up there with best of them.

    Score: 9/10

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