This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
Duke Nukem, all is forgiven. The one-liners, the average running speed of 60 miles per hour, even all the stripper business that meant I had to play with one hand hovering over the reset button whenever my mum was around. I’ll wait as long as you want me to, just please let me play another shooter where I can have more weapons than eyeballs, where if I get bored I can clear out a room with a transfunctionated cyberblaster bollocks cannon I was saving for the next boss fight, where I can run out into the open with the tactics of a suicide bomber and suffer no damage that can’t be fixed by cellotaping a first-aid kit to my chest.
I’ll be glad when the Modern Warfare bubble blows over and we can end the tyranny of realism. I’ve spent more time making U.S. Marines lurch slowly through desert and jungle environments looking for bits of wall to hide behind while their legs grow back than I’ve spent having sex. I’m starting to get aroused by damaged masonry. As you may have already extrapolated, Bad Company 2 is a realistic war shooter. At least, I assume so. It’s hard to tell through all the dust. The Russians have taken over large chunks of the world and are starting to give the borders of the U.S. some funny looks. What is it with modern war games and Russia lately? Last time I checked, it hasn’t been 1979 for at least 10 years. It’s like America is some washed-up prize fighter trying to smack-talk an old, retired opponent who’s just trying to get drunk and play tennis in peace. But to dwell on the politics is to miss the point. Russia is just a convenient label for an amorphous, antagonistic mass to drive the plot. There’s no evidence of any kind of ideology or motive for the conflict besides, “Because they’re just dicks.”
The focus is on a little bridge club of four soldiers, and there’s an emphasis on characterization, meaning that each of the soldiers has precisely one character trait that they bring across so often they might as well just wear sandwich boards. The nerdy one, the Southern one, the sergeant who constantly tempts fate by going on and on about his upcoming retirement although curiously enough never actually dies. And the actual protagonist, whose distinguishing feature is the ability to talk without moving his lips. So it’s another realistic, cover-based shooter, because apparently we can’t fucking get enough of those, where the gameplay time is entirely split between gunfighting in collections of small buildings and chest-high walls or traveling to the next one. You need at least one unique feature, though, even if it’s just a gravy cannon or an enemy wearing Deely Bobbers, so Bad Company's thing is destructo-scenery, like what Red Faction Guerrilla did. This time, however, you are not a thunderous Norse god, to whom the laws of physics kowtow 'neath his mighty todger. In this game, the explosions have their piss-pipes aimed resolutely at your breakfast cereal. Explosions tear up both your cover and the enemy's, and you don’t have the super homing X-ray vision bestowed by the NPC gods.
With the Battlefield series being so snipe-happy, gameplay becomes akin to crouching behind a desk trying to read a Where’s Wally? book from a house across the street. And every time you raise you head to look at it for longer than two seconds you’re savaged by a flock of vampire bats. And occasionally you fail to notice that the Truckosaurus has chewed a perfectly square-shaped hole in the side of your house that has permitted the ingress of a raging panther.
In fact, there’s a general visibility problem. I mentioned dust earlier, and I’m going to mention it again. Dust! It’s ridiculous. It’s like rascally children have run through all the levels letting off dry-powder fire extinguishers. And the slightest explosion throws up impenetrable pea soup fogs that take about 10 seconds or 15 bullets to the head to clear. Are you trying to hide something from me, Bad Company 2, you coy little strumpet? Do you maybe not want me to actually see the destructo physics in action, in case I notice that it’s done by some kind of fairy godmother making entire sections of wall vanish magically into the ether? And even when there aren’t any explosions going on, when you’re scanning a distant compound with your sniper rifle, trying to decide which soldier will be the best one to kill first before every enemy in a two-mile radius deduces your exact position like a vodka-drinking sextant, everything from a certain distance disappears into this weird, glowing haze, like the Russians are occupying the surface of Mercury, which is beyond even the most liberal interpretation of lebensraum.
A lot of the game can be summed up with the phrase, “Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare, cluck cluck, gibber gibber, hello, bang, dead.” It even does that same loading screen thing Modern Warfare did, where it zooms into a satellite map of your next location, like you’re being stalked by Google Maps. But while Bad Company 2 seeks to ape Modern Warfare’s approach of railroading you into spectacular set pieces to slacken your peasant jaw, it forgets that this works best if the set pieces do not murder you. There’s a sequence where you and your squad have to run down a street that’s being mortared, which was supposed to be a quick, exciting moment, but which took me about fifty tries, because surviving a shell to the face takes a little more than can-do spirit and a big moustache. I try to run through it, I get pounded into the dirt. I try to run to cover and wait for it to pass, it plows through my cover, I get pounded into the dirt. I follow directly behind my teammates, but they can’t die, so it’s the blind leading the blind and the second blind guy is a sparrow with brittle-bone disease who gets pounded into the dirt. The best part is it was apparently a friendly mortaring being conducted by the goodies. Is there not some third side to this conflict I could join, preferably one that isn’t full of dicks? I’m on the cock express, sharing a cabin with Errol Flynn.
Perhaps "Realistic" Shooter isn’t the right term for games like Bad Company 2. In a truly realistic shooter, you’d get shot once, then laid up for six months before the hospital you’re in gets blown up by an IED and you’re forced to crawl to safety with half a leg missing before you’re shot by twitchy border patrolmen. All of which is preceded by about six months of doing push-ups with a load of sweaty people you’re not allowed to make love to. A better name for the Modern Warfare thing would be "Deranged-Paranoid-Power-Fantasy-For-Right-Wing-Shut-Ins-Who-Would-Blow-Their-Own-Nuts-Off-The-Moment-They-Were-Handed-An-Actual-Firearm-And-Probably-Already-Have-Done" Shooter.
What additions Bad Company 2 does make to the tired formula only serve to annoy, and how many more times are games going to make me shoot rockets to helicopters? It almost makes me want to research and develop a new form of military-grade aerial transport, just so games can give me something else to shoot rockets at. I would respect a war game that let me fire rockets at a giant Gatling gun-equipped pink dirigible shaped like a naked woman. Or perhaps "respect" is the wrong word.
A bad influence on his friends: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
I think I'd be OK with Russian rule as long as they kept that sweet national anthem of theirs
Ironically my penis resembles a mosaic filter