Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC) Review

Author: Gabriel Vega
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, March 12th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/bad_company_2_pc/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Battlefield has forged a legend on the PC platform; endless user customizations and servers dedicated to the series populate the Internet. From World War II all the way to 132 years in the future, players are able to experience shooting games on a massive stage. While some games boast about 32-64 man servers, Battlefield helped popularize the idea on the PC platform. Using dense landscapes and aerial combat, gamers were able to fall in love with chaos in Battlefield 2 on the PC. Today we take a look at what DICE has been able to produce in their latest creation, Bad Company 2. For those wondering, EA skipped the PC audience last time around, bringing the original to only the 360 and PS3. In a try to make peace with a loyal following, they’ve brought Bad Company 2 to the masses, bringing dedicated server hosting with them.

For those taking a look at the story driven Bad Company for the first time, there’s a decent story to drive the game. Gamers jump into the mind of Preston Marlowe as he takes them through the life of the Bad Company squad as they perform guard detail on the Russian-American demarcation line in Alaska. Soon things start to heat up as they stumble across new weapon plans from the Russians that may turn the tide against the United States. With no time to spare, the Bad Company crew sets off across North and South America in hopes of stopping the Russians from scaling the war to new levels. For PC fans, the story may not be the most in-depth tale but it presents an experience that has been lacking in war based shooters on the platform.

Before we jump in with the impressions and verdict, we’re running over the requirements and scaling.

Minimum requirements:

Recommended specs:

It’s also worthy to mention that Bad Company 2 supports NVIDIA 3D Vision technology.

Our test system falls in the middle of the technology gap giving performance results for users with older systems or on a budget.

We adjusted the HD3850 using Riva Tuner, pushing the card to 750/1900 at 75% fan speed. Our resolution in-game was 1920x1200 with max settings 0xAA and 16xAF.
 

The Bad Company crew drops into many dangerous realms in this installment, and DICE has thrown in the new Frostbite engine to ensure that all of them shine with incredible detail and immersion. From the arctic stretches of Alaska to the wet rain forests in South America, the action has players drawn into the large maps and detailed terrain. For PC gamers, this sticks to the natural order of Battlefield: hard combat with large maps to explore and run routes through. As we explored the SP campaign of Bad Company 2, we found that often we were able to bypass standard expected lines of attack by cruising over walls and fences until we reached a higher ground behind the enemy. With a heavy gunning tank after us in the jungle we were able to break behind the tree line and drop charges on it instead of using the RPG.

Graphics are an important department; it gives ideas of what players can enjoy now and ideas of what to expect in the future from DICE for the series. While the console ports have limits on video memory and power, the PC side has lush forests and our play experience saw no draw issues. The span of each environment is vast; the wide span of land encourages exploration to find perches and key points that showcase the details. With models reaching high polygon levels, the presentation feels like Crysis as the crew walks through war torn city streets and navigates through impossible odds. DICE made it a point to spend extra attention on making facial expressions and gestures feel natural.

A huge stress point for Bad Company 2 comes in the form of graphic scaling as well, with the Frostbite engine tailored to support everything from hardcore DX9 cards from yesteryear to the latest DX11 cards. We gave Bad Company 2 a ride on the X1800XT and while it needed to scale down in resolution, the result was worth the trade-off for the presentation given. Without breaking the bank for the newest hardware on the market, a smooth and enjoyable frame-rate of 35fps came in around 1280x800 for the card while pushing 650MHz core speed to boost up the power. We were able to run at 1920x1200 but the visual trade was not worth it given how wet vegetation makes the world so much better. Our adventure pushed the 3850 hard and throughout the game our overclock helped us keep an average of 32 FPS.

Bad Company 2 wraps up in the visual department as a strong push from DICE to reassure gamers that PC gaming is still alive with some developers. They've brought the magic of next-generation engines to the masses, including the ability to wreck the landscape with explosive ammunition; load bearing walls in city buildings buckle with intensive fire and grenades take down sections of wall with snipers perched on top. DICE also gives players the ability to choose what they want out of their shooter, whether it's destroying trees and a gunner nest before rushing in, or charging in and watching their hiding spot take heavy fire.

The good always meets a bad in these instances; the physics in Bad Company 2 are some of the most questionable in a finished game. Having a tree fall down and walking through it only to send it flying a few feet, for one, is an experienc. If DICE could have settled on what they wanted the collision models to behave like, the game would have kept a consistent feel of depth; having our dramatized war experience shattered with sparklers and funny hats when the world flips out for a moment doesn’t carry out that sense of intensity.

The only other major issue we noticed was the particle system forgets what environment is active at the given moment -- riding ATVs and watching dust kick up from the river left us wondering.
 

With the graphical praises and the single player bringing Bad Company 2 out into the running, we only have one major hurdle ahead of us: multiplayer.

In recent history, the PC market has felt a flood of shooters relying on P2P foundations to bring home the online experience; many are with no server lists to pick from and the death of communities is around each corner. Operation Flashpoint  and Rogue Warrior tried it; Modern Warfare 2 dubbed it IW.Net.

For the community, these games failed to capture what makes the FPS realm as popular as it is. By trying to redefine things by what they wanted, these companies eventually started killing their populations. Bad Company 2 works to stick to basics; dedicated servers are available for up to 32-player combat but only approved partners may run the server code this time around to reduce cheating.

For those returning to the fray, choices such as “Play Now” are still readily available to throw anyone into the grit. Our experiment with the setting threw us over to a European server where we battled out a Rush campaign. In our battle we kept an eye on ping response and lag between kills. The net code for Bad Company 2 has a heavy focus on leveling the playing field even when we faced a ping time over 165ms. Our sniper shots often found their mark and even random assault battles did not favor the local players on the server. New players afraid of navigating the server browser need only click the button and they’ll soon find themselves in a multiplayer campaign ready to mow down the opposition.

The biggest issue that many will find in the early weeks of Bad Company 2 is that even with time allowed for the EA server issues to clear up, the system is still buggy. Delays in showing accomplishments and letting players pick a server to jump onto are the biggest bugs to squash. With such a big release one would hope that within the first week they would have larger patches coming through to get the EA login system stable. In our gaming sessions, we would often find the login server dropped after 2-3 matches, leaving us back at the Bad Company 2 menu. While the downtime lasts 5-10 minutes (depending on the load from the day), it’s still troublesome to not be able to communicate to the system to get right back into the action. DICE runs system update notices on the bottom of the main menu but it still doesn’t excuse that the EA system needs updating soon to keep the population active.

The online experience delivers variety and extended challenges to pick up medals and rewards; dog tags are a major prize in Bad Company 2. The stats menu sets an entire section aside just to recall players knifed in the heat of combat for their tags and how many times it has occurred so far. Those who enjoyed the endless amount of medal challenges in the Battlefield series will feel right at home in the latest game to join the party.

Bad Company 2 lays a foundation in the PC gaming realm that works as a compromise between the developers and the players. DICE is allowing dedicated servers and working to use their strong points with larger maps and more players, but still managing to keep a hand on the pulse with DRM systems that work to protect the game and player; Bad Company 2 offers 11 installs at any one time (determined by a once every 10,000 days per install online activation), or a disk check -- it's all up to the user. The team at DICE had a flurry of feedback from the industry releases in the fall to consider; using the key points the community cared about (from the simple but well presented story line to player control of their hosted servers with clan support and more), they made Bad Company on the PC a game that could earn respect. We can only hope that EA and DICE keep pushing for implementations of these features that drive the innovation in the genre back to the community.

Rarely did we find major disputes in our journey through the game; to test the limits of the AI, we made sure to run the course of the game on the hardest setting. Specifically, we wanted to find out how scripted the enemies were in combat and get a sense of the pain that DICE wanted players to feel as enemies came in at all sides in every map. We found a game that had many counterpoints to its own flaws. The assault team AI may be imperfect, they may even be terrible at shooting, but…they carry many explosives to make up for it. Each class works in harmony to make sure the cover fire is heavy and the assumed cakewalk is a mess, leaving the rest of the Bad Company team to swear up a storm and curse the whole mission for even happening.

DICE gives players a polished single player experience in Bad Company 2, with only a few blemishes that don’t impact the experience of the game. It is motivating enough as a game to make a wish for DICE to even consider bringing the original Bad Company over so people can get the full story behind Marlowe and crew. The online portion -- when it works -- aims for net balance and large battles between strangers or clans without having to buddy list everyone ahead of time. The EA system (again, when it works properly) gives a sense of community by allowing players to just favorite servers they like to visit and enjoy games with players they might not normally socialize with. Dedicated servers play a huge role in enjoying Bad Company 2 ; the lower latency and larger online footprint make it possible to enjoy the game beyond the first month of play. DICE brought it home for FPS gamers on the PC and one can only hope that they continue to uphold these commitments to the community.
 

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