There’s something suspect about the phrase with which the Bad Company sub-franchise is often associated, ‘tactical destruction’. It’s the ‘tactical’ bit, basically. ‘Tactical’ lends ‘destruction’ a veneer of complexity we’re not entirely sure it deserves. Being able to explode cars at people, or shoot fist-sized lumps out of concrete tank barriers, or level houses from the kitchen windows upwards is undoubtedly a thrill, but there’s not a whole lot of nuance to be extracted.
Talking up the first Bad Company, EA DICE explained to a baying public that its patented Frostbite engine would give players ‘total freedom to be daring and innovative, adapting to and tackling challenges in unexpected Battlefield-style ways’. A less sensational way of wording this – and thus of approaching the highly similar sequel – might be that players have ‘total freedom to blow up stuff to kill people or make them easier to shoot’.
Because that’s what the concept boils down to, doesn’t it? It’s the difference between there being something solid ‘twixt you and The Enemy (and you staying put) and there not being something solid ‘twixt you and The Enemy (and you running screaming for the horizon while The Enemy admires the cut of your trousers through an M95 rifle scope). It’s the difference between some bastard crouching in one corner of a bungalow, sub-machine gunning you as you enter, and you calling in a few favors with your good friend the F16 pilot, marking the camper’s hideout through laser beam binoculars and cackling as the entire building implodes in his face.
We’re not saying this sort of free-wheeling topographical butchery is a bad thing, because as the above thumbnail sketches suggest it most certainly is not. Few games are as exhilarating, as surprising as Bad Company 2 online. One instant you’re enjoying a mental cigarette break behind a warehouse, the next somebody’s driven an APC right through the wall. Defending one of the game’s obligatory Important Crate-like Objects from a team with a field gun or two in the holster is as edge-of-the-seat as it gets, beleaguered infantry clinging to jags of door frame while those outside do their best to see through clouds of brickdust (incidentally, EA, some sort of infra-red visor would be a great multiplayer unlock, providing it’s appropriately balanced).
We’re just not convinced the ‘daring and innovative bit’ extends further than ‘now I’m in shelter, now I’m not, better do something about that quic – AARGH I’m dead’. Other games (indeed, other Battlefields (indeed, this Battlefield)) inculcate much the same mentality by laying out maps in such a way that every cluster of cover points has its rear entrance, its secret tunnel, its inconvenient overlook. Flattening the area with artillery shells might induce more in the way of manic giggles, but you’d be pushed to distinguish between methodologies from the outcome alone.
You’d also be pretty pushed to distinguish between Bad Company 2′s single player campaign and that of any other console shooter, fluctuating numbers of holes in the scenery aside. OK, that sounded a little harsh. You’d be pushed to distinguish between the Bad Company 2 campaign and that of any other enjoyable console shooter, then.