Okay, so it seems a lot of people like explosions in their game. And guns. And military conspiracies, secret weapons falling into the hands of enemies, and lots of shooting. Look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - it sold exactly a kajillion copies late last year. With that kind of moolah floating around, it's no wonder that other companies are going to stand up and say, "I want me some of that!"
If you've already read other articles about Battlefield: Bad Company 2, you're probably already sick of the numerous comparisons to Modern Warfare. But it can't be helped - these games are, in many ways, much the same thing. It's like going to the movies to see two near-identical action movies, both starring a pair of loveable-yet-flawed cops as they work out their differences to take on the evil gang/corporation/grandmother.
Anything wrong with that? Not necessarily! Sure, Bad Company 2 borrows a heck of a lot from other games in the genre, but there's room in this town for more than one gun-slinging cowboy, particularly if it gets a few key things right.
All this is a roundabout way of saying that Bad Company 2 is better than Modern Warfare 2 in some ways, and worse in others. Judging it on its own merits, the game is a fairly entertaining - if horribly cliched - romp in singleplayer, and a hugely engaging experience in multiplayer.
Let's start with the campaign. It takes you through a wide variety of locales, from mountains to jungles and everywhere inbetween. You play as a member of Bravo Two, who are fresh from their adventures in the first game and looking to wind down a bit. However, the US military has other plans, and pretty soon you're on the hunt for a secret weapon of Unimaginable Power that needs to get extricated from the wrong hands, and put into the altogether more safe hands of the good guys.
Stock standard military popcorn plotline, right? Right. But it's a spectacle, and you can safely ignore much of the chatter of your squad when you're trying to hunt down that bastard with a rocket launcher who keeps killing you. So while I would have liked to see something a bit different with the storyline, rather than just a narrative that largely fails to reach Modern Warfare's level of polished bombast, I would argue that it doesn't matter one bit.
It's the gameplay that will keep you going through each mission, appropriately enough. Things are more linear this time round - you're constantly being pushed along from set piece to set piece. It's a very familiar setup, and when BC2 gets it right, you won't mind at all. Happily, the whole campaign can be breezed through in about 7-8 hours if you know what you're doing - which is much better than gunning down another 100,000 bad guys just so the game lasts longer.
The big thing BC2 has going for it is destructable structures. It's great fun getting hold of a rocket launcher or something else that goes boom, and just letting rip on some enemies entrenched in a building. Mind you, it means they can do the same to you, and some generally smart AI mixed with cover that doesn't stick around gives the battles a very dynamic feel. While it might be the only big thing that differentiates this from other games in the genre, it goes a long to making things feel fresh.
But while that's all well and good, this is a Battlefield game, and that means one thing: great multiplayer. Seriously, you should be buying this thing for the various online modes included here. Combined with the destructable environments and solid gameplay, they offer great value for those who love sniping strangers in the back of the head.
Much like the PC games of yore, the Conquest mode involves capturing and holding key locations on any given map. Doing so nets you more victory points and starts draining them from the other team. It's classic Battlefield gameplay, complete with squad tactics and customisable classes - it's just combined with buildings that fall apart. Personally, I really love the ability to neutralise a damn sniper by blowing up the tower he's hiding in.
Rush is a slightly different kettle of fish, involving sometimes ginormous maps and a lot of vehicles ot get around with. There are also the usual deathmatch modes if you like to keep things standard - but seriously, if you can deal with the typically steep learning curve found in online shooters, I can't stress enough how fun Conquest is.
Graphics, sound, music: they're all good. What else is there to really say? It's a triple-A shooter, after all - you expect things to be polished. BC2 does feature some really beautiful vistas in the game - if you can avoid being shot at for a minute, take a moment to sit back and soak it all in. The voice acting ranges from okay to cheesy, as you might expect. As usual, it's the sound effects and dramatic sweeping music that are the aural stars here.
Do we recommend this game? That's an easy one. If you're a fan of military shooters like Modern Warfare, and/or are looking for an extremely solid multiplayer game, look no further than Battlefield: Bad Company 2. If, on the other hand, you get overly bored by generic (if polished) storylines, or are sick of FPS gameplay that doesn't really change much - well, I'm not quite sure why you're still reading this review.