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04/06/2008 - 04/12/2008

Battlefield: Bad Company Beta Impressions

April 08, 2008

Just recently here at FilePlanet we did something that we've never done before. We helped EA launch a console beta, and a very high profile one at that. March 25th marked the official start of the Battlefield: Bad Company beta and tens of thousands of frothing gamers worldwide were off to the proverbial races with a meaty taste of the latest in the venerated Battlefield franchise. Promotion and key rollout for the beta went smoothly on all fronts, but now that the beta is in full swing what do gamers think of the actual game itself?

Those of you that have played a Battlefield game in the past will be familiar with Bad Company's class based play mechanics, where each class is useful for specific functions in the field dependent on their load-outs, though a few important changes have been made. The most important of these changes being that some of the classes have been completely cut with their functions absorbed into other classes or combined into completely new classes to better round out and balance the game-play making each class more useful and fun with a wider range of functions in the field. Gone are the medic and engineer classes because they have been replaced with the universal support class which can heal friendlies as well as repair vehicles. The assault class now has the ability to heal themselves with a quick hypo injection allowing them to last longer in the field, which is important seeing as they generally comprise the more hazardous main thrust force of a team in battle, and more.

As you gain levels in the game your rank increases and you are given points to unlock weapons and support items such as the previously mentioned health hypo, binoculars to call in mortar launches, laser designators to call in missile strikes, and more. Some extra weapons are available with the Special Edition of the game while others are available on Live Marketplace. EA promises that all of these weapons will be highly balanced so that gamers can't just buy their way into the best gear. As you complete various tasks and objectives you also gain badges and dog tags that list your assorted accomplishments such as gaining X number of kills with weapon Y, or healing Z number of people, all of which can be seen on the unlocks screen. There are a large number of these awards, and while they serve no practical purpose they are good for charting your past experiences and progress through the game or just inflating one's ego. I wonder if these will tie in with the Xbox 360's achievement system or if they will be extra bonus awards on top of it.

Bad Company plays a lot like previous titles in the series, but even experienced players can be somewhat disoriented at first, part of witch can be attributed to the fact that voice chat is heavily restricted for the beta. There is a definite learning curve, even for BF vets that can take a couple of hours to fully overcome. Weapons are more complex than they have been in previous games and have a wider array of variables attached to them. No longer is it just accuracy, damage, and clip size that you have to worry about, but also handling and rate of fire. Handling is the biggest cause of the learning curve because, depending on their rating in handling, the weapons can feel very unwieldy and take time to adjust to.

The most touted feature of Bad Company is the environmental destruction, and while full environmental destruction is not available, what is included is enjoyable and appreciated. You can blow up, shoot down, or even cut open doors and fences, make small craters in the ground, level foliage, and blow out the walls of nearly every building leaving naught more than a bombed out husk behind. Building supports and floors/ceilings are not destructible, but that is a very important design choice, because if you were able to completely flatten a level, matches would stop being fun after 5 minutes when you were left fighting in an empty field of rubble. While it may seem like fluff to some, besides just being all kinds of fun, the destructibility actually makes up a very important part of the game on a tactical level. If you are being pinned by a sniper from an upper story window of a building, no longer do you have to make vain attempts at sniping back up at him or trying to sneak up behind him, now you can just blow out his entire rats nest either killing him in the process or leaving him completely exposed. If you are running through a building and need to find an exit you don't have to run around in circles if you get lost, just aim your grenade launcher at a wall and make one. One instance that I greatly enjoyed was a match that I decided to play a sniper, I found suitably high ground on a balcony that overlooked a courtyard that would serve as a large chokepoint as the match progressed, but as I tucked in to wait for the attack I noticed that there were several trees blocking my sight from getting any kind of shots into the courtyard. Normally if you were in this situation, you'd be screwed, but after nearly giving up thinking, "Aww crap, time to find another spot..." I remembered that this game was different, you could blow things up, and I proceeded to lob three grenades into the courtyard. As the smoke settled all three of the trees that had been blocking my view were gone. It was a great moment for myself in a game full of destruction fueled set piece moments.

Once players get comfortable the game really starts to come together, even in hectic battles involving infantry, tanks, choppers, and light attack boats, with explosions everywhere. People will find their roles and push forward on the map working together to complete objectives. The two maps available in the beta show off the environmental variety that will be present in the final game, one map being set in a small European village set into a hillside capped off with a stronghold at the top. The other is set in what appears to be a Middle Eastern or African desert punctuated by several small bases peppered along a riverbank.

The game is not perfect though, seeing as this is a beta bugs can be expected and there are a fair number of them, but with a June 08 release date EA has plenty of time to squash them all. There are other minor issues that are already being looked into such as hit detection, explosion damage and blast range, enemy identification, etc. As it stands now, Battlefield: Bad Company is tremendous fun, but feels like an unpolished diamond, though with months before release EA and Dice have plenty of time to polish it to a brilliant shine making it stand along side past games in the series with the same level of quality we have come to expect from a game bearing the Battlefield name.


Posted by at 1:53 PM PDT
Edited on: April 08, 2008 2:04 PM PDT
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