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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
trange as it may seem, “Battlefield 2: Modern Combat” was the very first FPS that I took a liking to, so when DICE announced that they’d be moving the “Battlefield” franchise in a new direction with “Battlefield: Bad Company,” I was both excited and worried. Then came word that “Bad Company” would miss its initial release date, and my excitement quickly plummeted. Thankfully, it seems there wasn’t much truth to all that negative buzz making its way around the Internet, and though “Bad Company” isn’t quite as spectacular as more recent war titles like “Call of Duty 4,” it’s still a solid shooter that will grow on you the more you play it.
Unlike most war-themed first-person shooters that place you in charge of an entire unit, “Bad Company” puts you in charge of just one man: Preston Marlowe, the latest member of the titular Army unit made up of all the insubordinates and troublemakers that can’t fit in with the other soldiers. Getting transferred to the “B” Company is punishment, and as such, they’re also the first men thrown into battle. Currently at war with the Russians, Preston’s unit (including the cool and collected Sarge, heavy arms expert Haggard, and techno nut Sweetwater) discovers that a dictator named the Legionnaire, who just so happens to pay his men in gold, is backing the Reds. More interested in tracking down the source of the gold than serving their country, the “B” Company goes on a wild goose chase through Europe to find their own fortune, fending off Reds, neutrals and even some of their own men along the way.
If there’s one major difference separating “Bad Company” from past installments, it’s the single-player campaign. This is the first time in the series that an actual story has been included, and though some people will likely ignore this option and jump directly into online play, others will find it refreshing to have another mode available. Too often games rely solely on their multiplayer environment, and as a result, completely ignore the small population of gamers who actually enjoy playing alone. The campaign isn’t just hastily stitched together, either. The story – which is reminiscent of war films like “The Dirty Dozen” and “Three Kings” – is a fun detour from the usual fare, your fellow teammates are rarely annoying, and with seven missions in total (each taking an hour or two to complete), it doesn't feel short-lived.
Basic gameplay should be familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up an FPS before, but “Bad Company” has included a few new things in the mix. First, and perhaps most importantly, “tactical destruction” is now very much possible. This means that almost everything you want to blow up, you can, and that becomes a useful tool when attempting to expose sneaky enemies hiding inside buildings. The other major change is the addition of the health injector – an exaggerated dopamine shot that regenerates your health with the press of a button. The injector can be used infinitely, but it’s inactive for a short period after every use. It doesn't take long to recharge, but learning to make the most of your health injector is still very important since (a) your “teammates” aren't much help, and (b) enemies always spot you first, no matter how stealth-like you may be. The difficulty level is definitely ramped up in the later stages, but with the combination of the health injector and some very generous checkpoints, “Bad Company” probably won’t cause any fits of frustration.
It’s too bad you can’t say the same for the game’s online mode. Multiplayer is still very much a work in progress (from EA’s spotty servers to the inclusion of only one game type on the disc), and while they’ve already taken the necessary steps by making the ever-popular Conquest mode available via download, it doesn’t change the fact that this is something that should have been taken care of long before launch. Still, if you can forgive and forget, “Bad Company” delivers an average online experience. The task-based Gold Rush – which finds one team defending gold caches, and another team trying to blow them up – offers a unique twist on the Capture the Flag format, while the option to respawn in camp or with squadmates out in the field puts your risk-taking skills to the test. Choose the latter and you might just luck out and score some extra points assisting a teammate on a kill, but more often than not, you’ll probably just find yourself dead again within seconds.
Oh well, it’s all part of the fun, and that’s exactly what “Bad Company” is about. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should the people playing it. While criticisms about the multiplayer mode are completely warranted, the inclusion of an exciting single-player campaign more than makes up for the content that’s missing. You just have to ask yourself: is it worth it? For many, it will be, but if all you care about is playing online, then “Bad Company” probably isn’t for you.