Saturday, March 6, 2010

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (review)

Tactical Destruction
Part 2

Although with the recent midst of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 dominating the first person shooter market, Battlefield developers DICE was working on the sequel to their 2007 console breakout Battlefield: Bad Company. Containing memorable characters, a unique style while pertaining to the series ethic of large scale vehicular combat, and fun multiplayer, a sequel should be anticipated. Now released it's indeed a hell of a good time.

Following a quick and surprising prologue, the player controls again soldier Preston Marlowe fighting with a rag-tag squad formerly of an Army's B-company (nicknamed Bad Company) After going rogue and escaping with mercenary gold from the previous Bad Company, it's implied that they eventually got caught. Impressed by the squad's activities, the military assigns them to a special operation involving a Russian terrorist and a mysterious weapon of catastrophic proportions. In return for succeeding, the squad is able to retire from service.

The first Bad Company had a comedic feel and seemed to have been influenced by the war film Three Kings. Bad Company 2 takes a more conventional action movie route removing some of the little nuances that charmed the original including the in-game radio (surf music during battle is awesome). The interaction between the squad is still retained yet much applied in a more subtle fashion than in the previous game. It's hilarious to hear conversations about Harrison Ford, the pronounciation of 50 Cent, and what would be the best mixed martial arts nickname for squad leader Sgt. Redford. It's up to committing some downtime to hear their comrade because of the game's much more confined level structure.

Unlike the first game's single player, Bad Company 2 removes most of the large scale semi-linear formula and takes a 180 degree turn. The choice results in a double-edge sword effect where although it goes outside Battlefield's tradition of big free-form action, the pacing is well timed and the action is much more fun. The completion time with the changes applied is shorter than the original Bad Company but the memorable moments throughout many beautiful environments kept me going back.

Some moments outside the gunplay and just seeing the mountain ranges, it almost looks photo realistic. Much detail has been taken care of for the updated Frostbite Engine with effects that I would have never thought would work on consoles. DICE did an excellent job in making a great looking game while running at an always constant 30 frames per second and allowing anybody destroy the world to their whim.

Just like the first Bad Company, the sequel makes use of destructive environments once again and increases by two-folds. Not only the walls can be destroyed, now with enough explosives, buildings can collapse killing anybody inside which is a great alternative for one of the multiplayer modes.

Without the gold, the Rush gametype follows the same format with some fixes including the defending team able to recompose and prepare for an attacking base. A smaller variant called Squad Rush is intense and requires everyone to work together on four on four combat. Versions of maps accommodate the mode as opposed to being tacked in. The conquest gametype originally absent at the first game's launch is here and does it job just fine. The last surprising mode is Squad Deathmatch where four squads of four members attack one another for the highest kills. That mode is great for a quick pick up and play without committing too much time.

With four classes specializing in different ways of playing, there is thought in picking one for a particular situation. Medics can heal and revive teammates while providing suppressing fire. Assaults use high powered rifles and grenade launchers to destroy enemy cover. Engineers are able to fix vehicles as well as destroy with rocket launchers. Recon units can snipe enemies from afar and infiltrate bases with spotting tools. The classes are simplified and much more accessible from the previous game.

Vehicles like in multiplayer as well as single player are threatening. Along with the usual tanks and helicopters, newly added is a small unmanned aerial vehicle which can provide missile support and suppression fire by means of a machine gun from above. For an attacking team, it's a godsend while the defensive side can feel overwhelmed if not destroyed.

The multiplayer grabs some elements experimented with downloadable Battlefield 1943 including squad member spawining which helps in very tight situations. It helps improve the communication and cooperation factor of Battlefield which is the key to success as opposed to running and gunning.

There is also unlocks that seem to be grabbed from Modern Warfare 2 but with a twist. Each experience gained in a class is added to getting a class-based upgrade including kits and weapons. Included are all kit perks and weapons for which someone who would like to go all out with a Thompson submachine gun while looking like a recon class is great.

Even with an emphasis in multiplayer (the box art says "Defining Online Warfare") and a single player that is lacking in length, the overall package in Bad Company 2 is excellent. It's a great alternative for people who want to try other high profile shooters in the market now besides Modern Warfare 2. There is enough variety and charm which will keep me going back for more building destruction online or offline.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Toy Soldiers (review)

Fine and dandy ol' chap!
Similar to the Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade program where a block of high profile Xbox Live Arcade games are released next to each other, the Spring season of 2010 has the Block Party containing such pieces as Perfect Dark and the tower-defense style game Toy Soldiers. Despite not being a fan of that genre, I gave Toy Soldiers a chance and in return was a really fun hybrid game.

Set in a World War I themed diorama containing toy soldiers and vehicles inside a bedroom, the single player campaign follows the British army defending against the attacking German forces. It plays out as more of a tower defense game where units can be built to prevent a set number or a boss entering and destroying the base (aka the toy box).

With the construction of defending machine guns, howitzers, and gas units, the said units along with tanks and helicopters can be fully controlled to help turn the tide in battle. That said, it comes with a price as it can increase the odds of loosing (especially during boss fights) if not treated with moderation; and it plays very well with that mentality.

The artificial intelligence and the order of attacking Germans were intimidating which forced me to make quick decisions of either constructing a particular unit or controlling an existing one. The boss fights not being dynamic in actions provide a sense of struggle because one bad move can ruin the match. If the boss destroyed, I felt relieved as well as invigorated of how I completed something that looked impossible.

Multiplayer follows the same basic fashion but give the possibility of attacking a base. With two players max on splitscreen and Xbox Live, both players have to defend and create attack plans which can be stressful but really fun.

Although being figurines, all of the working units look like a shrunken version of their real counterparts. With that and how the camera uses a macro-like focus, it reminded me of when I played small figurines when I was younger but much more visceral (although cartoon-like). To compliment the classic visual style is a snappy classic-style soundtrack which made me feel very dandy if I lost my base.

This is the closest game to commanding an army without feeling like some disembodied higher being. The charm it carries greatly benefit the overall experience. Coming from a very small studio, I am impressed at what Signal Studios done and is looking forward to the game's downloadable content and any future products.