Monday, March 08, 2010

Bad Company 2: Single Experience

Having played Battlefield 2, 2142, and the first Bad Company, I have some bit of knowledge as to what I am getting myself into.  Knowing the Battlefield series, I know that the focus is going to be mainly on the multiplayer aspect rather than the single player.  Despite that, I will try to review the single player aspect of the game to the best of my ability.  This is not intended to be the be-all-end-all review.  I also do not have known recognition or the kind of reputation that people would know and trust.  This is just a fan and gamer's review of the game itself.  Why?

IGN posted a review that gave Bad Company 2 a 8.9 out of 10 when compared to the monstrous Modern Warefare 2 and its 9.5 score.  That 9.5 score seems outlandishly high given all the hype and publicity that went with it.  Most of that hype was unnecessary but people, like lemmings that they are, bought into it and played it to their heart's content.  There are big differences between the two giant franchises.  But in recent days, it seems all that people would talk about is whether or not this will be the game that beats Modern Warfare 2, or if any game can beat Modern Warfare 2.

This fan and gamer's review of Bad Company 2 is to provide people who just so happen to stumble upon this an insight into how I view the game from the viewpoint of a fan and a gamer.  Well, I don't know if I would call myself a fan of the franchise.  Still, I like games that plays well and works well.  I detest broken functionalities and mechanics.  I loathe unbalanced gameplay and I despise, most of all, online cheaters.  Now that we got that out of the way, there are some additional information that people must know beforehand so they will know the kind of experience that I am getting on my personal setup.

The game is running in 1680x1050 resolution with 4x Anti-Aliasing at first, turned off perhaps 2/3 or 3/4 through the game.  Anisotropic Filtering is set to 16x at first but reduced to 8x at the same point.  Custom/Advanced settings were used and various visual quality settings were set to "Medium."  Two custom tweaks were used on the latter portion of the game, which were made by editing the "settings.ini" file and setting "Bloom=false" (default is true) and "FOV=60" (default is 55).

The PC runs Windows 7 x64 on an Intel Core2 Quad Q9450 which is overclocked from 2.66GHz to 3.2GHz.  It has 8GB of DDR2 RAM branded by Patriot with timings of 12-5-5-5.  A Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi XtremeMusic audio card is present running the latest drivers (dated June 2009) available.  There are 3 Western Digital 250GB hard drives installed, two of which are set up in RAID-0 where various games and Steam are installed on.  The remaining hard drive serves as the drive to house both the OS and other files using separate partitions to isolate the OS from files which require retention.  The keyboard and mouse connected to the rig is a Microsoft ComfortCurve 2000 and a Logitech G5 rev2.  Two Dell 2007FPW Rev A03 monitors are connected to a single EVGA GeForce GTS 250 1GB video card with a fan speed statically set at 75% when the system is in use.  NVIDIA's ForcewWare 191.07 were used up until the aforementioned break point, at which the 196.75 drivers were used. The case that houses all of this is an Antec 300 case with 3 Noctua NF-S12B FLX on the front, side, and rear of the case.  The heatsink that cools the CPU is a Xigmatech HDT-S1283 with a Noctua NF-P12 fan installed instead of the bundled fan.  All this pretty much sums up the basic premise as to the type of hardware that I run.  It's not all high-end stuff but it is beefy nonetheless.

Now all of that is out of the way, let us start.  Bad Company 2 begins somewhat where the first Bad Company has left off.  But oddly enough, the crew of Bad Company returns to give the players another run through some crazy missions to find out why they are doing all of this still.  If you have seen the trailers and whatever preview footages, you'll see that the job was a simple recon mission.  The game will take you through various environments and landscapes which is nothing short of amazing.  But having seen so many visually stunning games in the past, this one is no different than the rest of bunch.  It doesn't really stand out much nor is there anything that really defined this game.  If you've seen or played through Far Cry, Crisis, Unreal Tournament 200x, DOOM 3, and UT3, you'll come to a point where you're just not really amazed by the graphics now.  But do not get me wrong.  The Frostbite engine is pretty good.  And I like that they stuck to their large landscapes and worlds idea to give everyone room to explore and run around.  But if you're looking for something visually new, you'll be disappointed.  The visuals for Bad Company 2 appear to be just the same and the textures and graphics are as crisp and sharp as before.  In the moments that you stand atop a high point to look down at the landscape ahead of you, it almost feels as though you can really stand there and soak in the scenery.

The story begins with a preface, which starts in a World War II era.  This environment was known via leak and may have been constructed as a companion, a teaser, and a foreshadow as to what to expect from the PC release of BF1943.  The weapons and assets from the game seems to be taken from the BF1943 game.  Once completing this one single mission, you begin in the present with you and your Bad Company crew as you go through your missions and orders.  Having finished the single player campaign of Bad Company 2, I do find the story to be a tad short and lacking in some respect.  To make up for the short storyline, there are various weapon "collectibles" scattered about the game.  Finding them doesn't do anything at all with regards to what you can do in multiplayer.  But it merely serves as something of a replay value for those wanting to collect all the special weapons in the game.  Maybe for the PS3 or Xbox 360 owners, there are achievements for this.  For PC players, there is no such thing.

Maybe it's because that it's a video game that you cannot really expect much out of it in terms of story.  Or maybe I am just not involved enough to really grasp how great the game is.  But I have to be honest.  There isn't much to the story.  It does feel lacking in some ways and there's not a whole lot of impact.  There are quirky references here and there as jabs to a competitor's title.  But other than that, there isn't much.

The gameplay feels solid, and takes a bit to get used to.  There are several points in the game where you do not know where the enemies will jump out at you.  But there are several points where the enemies are simply spawned in rather than spawned in first.  In some ways, this takes away from the actual feel of trying to be alert.  I guess if at some point that you end up dying, you won't go in guns blazing and hitting every enemy before they have a chance to do anything.  Still, I do feel that the game could use some improvements on the matter.  The enemy AI is quite good but sometimes too good.  There are times when I cannot find a single shelter and have to sit back while I shoot the ones in front of me.  The downside to that is you won't get anywhere as the enemy will consistently spawn in to keep the pressure on you until you move up.  This is the same method that was used in the first Bad Company.  At first this was fine but later times it just simply becomes more of a bother than a challenge.  There should be at least a set number of enemies so that one can hold out a location longer and take their time in proceeding with the game.  Sure it would introduce the feeling that the game may be deemed to easy but at the very least, even the most careful of all players can enjoy the lengthy firefight and know that they can outgun them.

Saving the best for last is the audio.  How I love how things can sound.  For the longest time, I have held The Matrix as the standard bar for surround sound audio mixing.  I have yet to see a movie that surpasses this in any way.  Sure there are some potential contenders but none of them really made great use of surround sound the way The Matrix did.  For gaming, sound has to be good.  At random times, my headphones, an Audio Technica ATH-A900, would bring out what ever potential any game has when it comes to audio.  And none of them had any impact.  That is until the Bad Company 2 beta was released.  It was then that everything audibly changed.  The guns you fire would have echo and you suddenly feel like you're in a different world.  It didn't feel like what you're hearing is a simple sound sample being played with some added effects applied to it afterwards.  It felt like what you hear is what you should be hearing when firing a weapon.  You have that loud impacting pop and then a residual fading effect that follow.  It all felt like it made sense when you hear it.  It didn't feel like it was a simple sound sample being played when you fire a gun.  It felt like something else.  And what it was, I cannot put my finger on it.  It was because of the way the audio sounded that it got me to seriously considering getting a 5.1 surround headset.  It just sounded that good.

Overall the single player campaign seem average at best and isn't by any means stellar.  The sound system is simply fantastic and I wish more developers would take a listen on how it should be done.  While destroying buildings and objects is fun, I find that destruction to be a natrual progression on how gameplay is improving, especially when you top out on what visual eye candy you can tack on to wow the players.  This concludes the first half of my Bad Company 2 review.

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