July 31, 2008

Review: ‘Bad Company’ Leaves Heroism Off the Battlefield

By Jessica Severs, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 31--A lot of war shooters take themselves seriously -- war is, after all, a solemn affair.

Then there's "Battlefield: Bad Company," which stars a motley squad of miscreants who have yet to be court-martialed. Let's just say, B-Company isn't so much motivated by love of country as it is by love of the enemy's gold.

In the "Call of Duty" franchise, you feel like the fate of the free world depends on your meeting your objective; here, the reason you're fighting Russian-speaking enemies doesn't matter. As for your squadmates, Sweetwater flirts with the dispatcher; Sarge dreams of reeling in marlin; Haggard runs, arms flailing, after a glimpse of gold; and your character, Preston ... well, unfortunately, his backstory falls short with little ambition or attitude.

It's odd to hear your crew quip and joke as hell unfurls all around, but it's a nice change of pace from groans and screams.

What "Bad Company" does take seriously is destruction, with the Frostbite engine letting you lay waste to the environment. Every grenade you chuck and missile you launch tears up everything in its path. No more clearing houses the hard way -- just blast 'em open.

Of course, this means you can't depend on cover, either. So, instead of lying low to recover like in some shooters, you have a hypodermic needle to stab into your chest. And it's limitless, save the few seconds it takes to refill.

For the most part, the controls are pretty standard, except that you cycle through main and secondary weapons and tools with the shoulder buttons.

The A.I. does a fine job of making enemies a hard target, and they're well-camouflaged.

Throughout the game, you'll come across collectible weapons and cases of gold, which breaks up the go-here, do-that monotony. What detracts somewhat from gameplay -- and I can't believe I'm complaining about this -- is that, when you die, you restart pretty much where you left off: Enemies stay dead, damage stays dealt. There's really no motivation to not get killed. Just go in guns blazing, pop a few enemies and respawn -- no penalty.

The graphics are above average in quality. The environments are right on the mark and maps are the standard fare, but the house interiors are a bore, and I would've liked my smart-aleck comrades to display a little more life.

There is, oddly enough, no co-op mode, but the multiplayer accommodates as many as 24 players in Gold Rush, where one side defends crates of gold while the other side tries to steal them. You start out with bare-bones equipment, unlocking additional weapons and tools -- like the health injection -- as you earn more points.

"Bad Company" offers a unique comedic romp in the war shooter genre, and what it does, it does well: solid mechanics, few flaws and a fulfilling, if somewhat shallow, multiplayer.

It's not polished to perfection, but if you feel like makin' war, then get busy.


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