The Xbox and Xbox 360 have had their fair share of good shooters, not the least of which is the Halo series (hello, Sept. 25!). Likewise, the Battlefield franchise has had its share of acclaim, largely on the PC. So Battlefield: Bad Company has been both on gamers’ radar and off, a multi-platform release coming in spring 2008 that seemed to sneak up on us at EA’s Studio Showcase. But we’re glad it snuck up when it did, because what we played of its early Xbox 360 build was downright awesome.
The Battlefield franchise has largely been known as a multiplayer affair, and Battlefield: Bad Company certainly has its share of online maps and modes. This time around, though, DICE is spending extra time on the campaign and story, a welcome change for gamers who like their shooters with at least as much narrative substance as online “pwnage.”
The single-player levels in Battlefield: Bad Company follow the traditional multiplayer model in that the levels are essentially open sandboxes. There are multiple objectives, naturally, but the order in which players tackle them is entirely up to the players themselves. While achieving these objectives, a story will gradually unfold that’s not unlike the movie Three Kings: a band of four soldiers is sent to war, and somewhere along they way they discover that they’re more compelled by gold and wealth than they are the “real” objectives of the conflict.
This plot takes place in a modern world and features American and Eastern European sides. As such, the game’s weapons all feature modern amenities and damage potential, and the vehicles (tanks, jeeps, helicopters, and more) all have the types of functions and weapons you’d expect from a present-day setting.
One of those functions: destroying buildings. That’s right, now you, too, can bring buildings crumbling to the ground, whether for recreation or gameplay strategy. From throwing grenades to firing rocket launchers, Battlefield: Bad Company lets players use any manner of artillery to blast entire corners off of enemy strongholds, blow the roof off of enemy compounds and take out entire second-story rooms to destroy crow’s nests. The only caveat is that the inner walls of every building will remain intact, which keeps a certain level of cover mechanics intact in each level and makes sure each mission doesn’t turn into a flat landscape from the Midwest. As a result, players must watch their exterior-wall cover but can rest assured that all interior barriers will endure.
The only downfall with this early build of Battlefield: Bad Company is certainly not the graphics; the game’s graphics were actually the most striking of any game we saw at EA. Actually, the only hiccup we noticed was the game’s controls. The right trigger is always used to fire, so if players want to use an alternate-fire mode, they must press and hold the right bumper while firing with the right trigger. In addition, the left bumper brings up a health-boosting syringe, but if players don’t pull the right trigger to inject it, they’ll simply flail about the level with a syringe waving around in the air.
Fortunately, Battlefield: Bad Company isn’t scheduled to release until spring 2008, so there’s plenty of time for DICE to look carefully at the controls. The developers might also want to consider creating a mode in which an AI squadmate’s death means he’s unavailable for the rest of the campaign. Maybe that’s a bit too realistic for a Battlefield game, but then again, with graphics as good as these and DICE’s renewed focus on the single-player story, such tweaks could very well make Battlefield: Bad Company the early favorite for Shooter of the Year 2008.
— Jonas Allen