Monday, May 21, 2012

5 Reasons Why Battlefield: Bad Company is the Best War Game You've Never Played

1. Destruction Physics
I'm going to be honest here: I have a soft spot for games where you can break stuff. In BBC, you can break everything (Well, almost everything). Putting holes in places where holes are not supposed to be is one of life's greatest pleasures, a pleasure we get to exercise far too rarely. So many games give you big explosive toys that you can't do anything with. I have lost count of the number of times that I shot a missile at a building, only to have it detonate harmlessly, maybe breaking a window and sending up a fancy looking smoke cloud if you're lucky. In some games, all you get in the aftermath of an explosion is a big black smudge on the wall, which disappears as soon as you look away, like a super-rare sports car in GTA.

In BBC, when you shoot a rocket at a wall, that wall is gone. If you drive a tank into a building, there will be a brand-new tank-sized hole in that building (did I mention you can drive tanks? more on that later). Not only is breaking stuff fun, it adds a whole new dimension to gameplay. Is there a wall where you want a door to be? Throw a grenade. Is a sniper hiding in the top floor of a house? Rocket-launcher time. Is there a guy lobbing grenades at you from a building across town? Mortar-strike that town into oblivion. Is there a house that's looking at you funny? Blow that shit up. Is there a tree? Drive a tank over it. Also, and I may be alone in thinking this, but it's always nice to look see all of the destruction you've caused after a big firefight.

You see that gaping hole in the building next to you? You made that.

2. Open-World Gameplay
There are two basic level designs in most modern games today. There's sandbox style (Grand Theft Auto 4, Saints Row 2, Just Cause 2), which gives you a large, unbroken world where you can basically do your own thing; then there's corridor-style (the Call of Duty series, both Portals), where you can go from Point A to Point B and that's about it. One of my biggest problems with Call of Duty is that it embraces corridor-style to its extreme. The games are basically a series of hallways connecting rooms full of people to shoot; you can only go through the game one way. BBC is sort of a sandbox-corridor style game. You have to go from Point A to Point B, but the levels are big and expansive, more like valleys than hallways. Also, how you get from Point A to Point B is entirely up to you. There are no forced set pieces; all the cool stuff happens organically, because you, the player, made it happen. This is my personal favorite type of level design, because it forces the player to think strategically and allows them to come up with a creative solution. Also, if the player wants to use an anti-aircraft gun to decimate every tree in view, well, they can do that, too.

Cut them down. Cut them all down!

3. You Can Drive Tanks (and other things)
I'm going to be honest here, too: I have a soft spot for games where you can drive tanks. Seriously, if there are driveable tanks in a game it automatically gets bumped up one letter grade. Why would you even make a war game where you can't drive tanks? There are two reasons people join the Army: 1) a deep pride in their country and a commitment to protect it 2) so that they might drive a tank. Sometimes I think the reason I dislike the Call of Duty series so much is because it's a war game with tanks in it - but you can't drive them. They just sit there, undriveable, while you run around killing things with regular, boring non-tank guns. Call of Duty is the worst.

Where was I? Oh yeah, you can drive tanks in BBC. Like, a whole lot of them. And it's not like there's one tank level in between all the normal running-around levels. There are tanks everywhere, just sitting around, waiting for you to take them on an unstoppable rampage (which, as we all know, is the best kind of rampage). There are also humvees and their vaguely-Soviet bad-guy equivalents, which are a lot of fun to drive around. Mostly because my favorite strategy when attacking an enemy compound is to ramp my humvee off a nearby hill so it lands on top of a building, falls off, and flips over, at which point I jump out, guns blazing (note: this strategy has never worked, but it is always awesome).

"Tanks" will be an ongoing motif throughout this piece.

4. A Forgiving Death System
I just want to take a moment to say this (kids, cover your ears): Fuck you, GTA4. You had the least forgiving death system of any game I've ever played. Seriously, why do I have to restart the entire mission after I die? And then drive all the way to where the mission starts every goddamn time? That doesn't add "stakes" by having consequences when you die; that is incredibly frustrating and annoying. There's nothing worse in video games than doing the same thing over and over again.

BBC, on the other hand, has one of most forgiving death systems I have ever seen. After you die, you are magically revived nearby, with all of your weapons and progress just as you left them. Not that will die very much, because your character has a magic syringe that heals all your wounds when you stab it into your chest. Too easy? Maybe a little bit. But what it does is give you the freedom to experiment. Remember my patented land-a-humvee-in-an-enemy-camp strategy? I could never try that in GTA4, because if it doesn't work, then I've got to do everything all over again. But in BBC, charging into battle, guns blazing Rambo-style, is a viable strategy. It's the reason I play Call of Duty on Easy (besides the fact that I don't feel like investing time and effort into Call of Duty); being an unstoppable badass is just more fun.

Not a pre-rendered cutscene. This can happen while you're playing the game normally.

5. A Fun Story
Now, notice that I didn't say the story was good. It's not: all of the characters are 2-dimensional stereotypes, and the plot is advanced in exposition-heavy cutscenes. But it is fun. You aren't some elite group of soldiers protecting 'Merica from evil Russians; you're a regular, run-of-the-mill grunt in a platoon of screw-ups. Also, the game begins with your platoon accidentally invading a country while trying to capture a bunch of trucks full of gold. The game never takes itself too seriously, and it's frequently very funny. For most of us, if we joined up with the military, we wouldn't be the guys in Call of Duty, we'd be these guys.

Now, many people out there might want a more serious war game, which is fine. Honestly, I wish a truly serious war game existed (Six Days in Fallujah might have been that game, if it ever came out). None of the shooters out now are serious war games; they're goofy war games that take themselves too seriously (sorry, but if there's a snowmobile chase in your games, they don't count). The thing about actual, real-life war is that it's not really very fun (also, apparently, it never changes). BBC doesn't go for realism, seriousness, or flag waving; it goes for fun.

Haha, just kidding! I know this isn't Battlefield, it's clearly Call of Duty.

(Note: BBC stands for Battlefield: Bad Company, not the British Broadcasting Corporation, which, if I'm not mistaken, features no playable tank levels)

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