Battlefield: Bad Company – a view from the trenches
Firstly, I should probably explain that though I completed it in under a week, the game is not a short one - the missions are quite long, and it\'s so much fun I didn\'t want to stop playing half the time! Essentially, you play the new recruit to a team of soldiers in a unit comprised of troublemakers, delinquents and those too lazy, inept or dangerous to make reliable soldiers. Consequently, during a war in Eastern Europe with the Russians and their allies, you pull all the really awful jobs.
This is how the game starts - you are sent with your squad of three to take out various military targets. Then, you discover a mercenary unit famed for being paid in gold... And carrying some of the yellow stuff too. Eventually, you go AWOL, leg it into a neutral country and end up facing off against EVERYONE in your pursuit of wealth. The storyline is fun, playing out like a cross between Kelly\'s Heroes and Buffalo Soldiers, with a dash of Behind Enemy Lines for seasoning. It\'s a bit generic, and all the stereotypes are there (tough sergeant on the verge of retirement; ill-educated, explosion-loving redneck; geeky, highly-strung techie), but it\'s fun for all that, perhaps more so because of that familiarity.
Playing the game really is like controlling a movie - everything moves along at breakneck speed, and you do really get to like the characters and their quirks. The black sense of humour that is found in the films that inspired this game is very present here too - the squaddies bicker incessantly, and a tinpot dictator has a gold-plated Hind chopper with a glitterball inside. Sometimes it borders on the ridiculous, but it all comes good in the end.
Gameplay is pretty basic for a first-person shooter, but with some pretty serious omissions - while you can pilot any vehicle you can find, and the environment is roughly 90% destroyable, you can\'t go prone or lean around corners. The enemy AI is good, perhaps too good - a tank quite happily started shelling me despite me crouching behind a rock in a forest on a hill overlooking the road it was on - and this is without any movement or aggressive action on my part. While that kind of reactivity does keep you on your toes, it can make it a bit hard to come up with any kind of tactical plan aside from \'steam in, grab a LAW, get out, blow tank up\'. Given the number of sniper rifles you can find in-game (new weapons are \'collectible\', as are crates of mercenary gold, and are found scattered around the large maps or taken off dead enemies), it was obviously intended to be a viable option to take out enemies from range. Perhaps this becomes more of an option in the multiplayer game (which I have yet to try).
Having your team-mates around does help considerably in part, even if you find the bulk of the work falling to you - they're not exactly great at taking enemies down, but will average a few kills here and there to make life a bit easier for you. In another nice touch, there is an extended mission where, following a failed attempt to escape from pursuers, the team is taken captive, with only you, armed with pistol and knife, left at liberty to rescue them.
In short, it\'s not a perfect game - it does nothing to revolutionize the genre, but it is really good fun. The action is intense, and you really get into the plot. If I want a good, tactical shooter, I\'ll play Call of Duty 4, if I want to drive myself mad co-ordinating the tactical assault of a dozen SWAT team members, I\'ll plump for Rainbow Six: Vegas. But, if I want to have a blast on a shooter where I can race along a fairway in a golf cart, while being shelled by 2 MBTs, or take down 3 tanks in an urban environment with whatever I can lay my hands on (RPGs, LAWs, fixed TOWs, mortar strikes or laser designators for air strikes) while taking fire from a small army of mercenaries, it looks like being Bad Company for me!
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