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Battlefield Bad Company PreviewWriter: Gordon Craick » Blog
Posted: 9th Jun, 2008
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Digital Illusions
Release: 2nd Quarter, 2008
Electronic Arts has just released a demo for the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company through Xbox Live. The game will be released as a console exclusive for both Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 – the first time a PC version won't get a look-in. We sat down for a few hours to play the demo on 360, and here are some of our thoughts.
Battlefield: Bad Company continues the Battlefield series, that has been so popular on PC. While it's also appeared on the Xbox 360 previously, the last console release, Battlefield 2 received a more mixed reception. This time around the emphasis is on a tighter single-player story, whilst also offering the strengths of the comprehensive multiplayer title.
The single player has you following a rough storyline, as you accomplish key objectives with your squad "B Company", or the Army's front line cannon fodder. Included in Battlefield this time around is various buddy banter, and attempts at humour (in the style of Gears of War or say, Jarhead). The main focus of the single-player campaign is collecting gold bars, after destroying various sub-objectives. The gold bars can be collected from the shady mercenaries you run up against – although this is only touched upon in the demo.
One of the key new features in Bad Company is the brand new Frostbite game engine, developed especially for the game, and written to take advantage of multiprocessor platforms. Frostbite allows detailed and expansive open environments, detailed objects, and most importantly, fully destructible environments.
Buildings can be blown up, trees shredded, and silos can explode in spectacular fashion. In the demo, we saw this running to good effect. Trees in your way can be chopped down simply with machine gun fire. Mortar shells can leave a big pothole in the ground you can duck into. Machine guns chip off a walls plaster, and concentrated fire can blow through objects as well. Explosions are frequent and spectacular, leaving large fireballs and debris shooting everywhere. The overall effect of the Frostbite engine is impressive, and really adds to the "war is hell" feeling well. Graphics were quite impressive in general with plenty of grass, trees, and water spread across wide open spaces. The character models are also especially impressive, with sharp details and mapping.
Weapons are your usual selection of machine guns, rocket launchers, and explosives, with quite a few models of each type. Different classes can choose from a different selection of weapons (or by picking them from a killed enemy) and this allows some differentiation between players, and some opportunities to form complementary battle teams. Weapons are gradually unlocked as you level up, by achieving a certain number of points. Points are awarded for things such as a kill, destroying an enemy vehicle, assisting a kill, or from completing, or preventing your enemy from achieving an objective.
From playing the demo, we saw that the destructible environments can make a difference to the multiplayer experience, and it may be what will separate BC apart from other similar titles. As with most shooters, often it's safer to simply hide behind a wall, pop out, shoot vigorously, and duck back to safety. But in BC, ducking behind a wall is no longer a safe option. One tank shell can quickly mean your shelter can become a tomb, and you can easily be crushed as it's blown to pieces. Climbing on top of buildings has always been a favourite position for snipers in other war shooters, but now that shells can take out part of an entire building without knowing exactly where the enemy lies, that strategy is not always so safe.
One of the big parts of Battlefield, and indeed Bad Company is vehicles and artillery. During battle, you can hop into tanks, MPV's, boats, artillery and even helicopters, to help accomplish your objectives faster. The Gunship is especially powerful, allowing you to quickly get across to your enemy's base and rain down hell from above. Vehicles were great fun in multiplayer, and in the final game, many more vehicles will be included.
With the multiplayer map Oasis included in the demo, there is included the "Gold Rush" mode. One team must defend their boxes of gold bars, and the other team has to destroy your crates and steal your gold. This is really just a variation of attack and defend, but was entertaining and competitive enough to make it quite furious and adrenaline fuelled. Balance was quite good, and it required a quite concerted effort from a number of players to achieve the objectives.
For multiplayer, you choose your specialisation (Assault, Demolitions, Recon, Specialist, and Support), and get thrown into the thick of things. Up to 24 players can be on the map at once, making some very intense battles possible. Clever use of vehicles, weapons, positions, and team-play are all important to be successful during multiplayer.
Similar to Call of Duty 4, at the start most weapons are locked, but as you get more and more kills, you are rewarded by unlocking further weapons. One of the weapons in the full game can also only be unlocked by scoring enough points in the demo.
From the demo, everything was very polished and working pretty well. There was nothing disappointing, but likewise, nothing too outside the square from what we could see so far. Everything moves very quickly, and chaotically, with many players on the field at once, continuing what has made the Battlefield series one of the most popular multiplayer franchises over the years.
For those that for some reason haven't played a Battlefield game before – Bad Company has a feel somewhere between Call of Duty 4 multiplayer, Unreal Tournament 3 and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory. Not surprisingly, some of the inspiration for these titles probably have come from the original Battlefield on PC.
One of the complaints previously about the series on PC has always been the very steep system requirements, and sometimes laggy network play. Thankfully we can report that the Xbox 360 version offers a very high frame-rate, and during the demo, network lag seemed to occur pretty infrequently.
While the demo is limited only to a two-part campaign for single-player, and one level for multiplayer for your 1.5gb, we somewhat had the feeling of "seen it before". Let's hope Electronic Arts has held across some of the more exciting missions and features for the final game. The single player campaign looks like it may achieve in offering a better experience than Battlefield 2 for consoles, but like the rest of the series, most players will find themselves spending the bulk of their time with multiplayer.
Battlefield Bad Company will be released in the last week of June worldwide. Look forward to detailed coverage and information from Sliced Gaming closer to the release.
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