As a gamer growing up, I owned mostly Nintendo systems after I got my first Sega Genesis. I started with a Super Nintendo, moved to an N64, then graduated to a Gamecube. Because of my system preferences, I have had the privilege of playing many top-notch platforming games ("Super Mario 64," "Banjo Kazooie," etc) and many top-notch adventure games ("The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," "Donkey Kong 64," "Jet Force Gemini," etc), but basically NO first-person shooters or racing games. Once I got my Xbox 360 about a year and a half ago, I basically underwent my Gaming Pubescent Rebellion phase; if you were to take a look at my library about four months ago, you would find mostly FPSs and racing games.
One product that I picked up during my I'll Stay In My Room And Listen To The Sex Pistols While Posting Self-Portraits On Myspace Because I'm Sixteen days of gaming was "Battlefield: Bad Company." "Bad Company" is another modern military shooter on a console thigh-deep in modern military shooters, but the thing that struck me about "Bad Company" initially was the incredibly high Things Exploding Per Capita ratio. Most of the environments are totally destructible, meaning that you can blow the hell out of them with your oh-so-convenient under-barrel grenade launcher that's located on almost every gun. Here is a game in which the best way to get the guy who's shooting at you through a window is to blow out the wall that's giving him cover and shoot him in the face.
Once I had finally broken into the single player mode, I found another pleasant surprise: this game does not take itself seriously AT ALL. Most shooters nowadays go out of their way to let you know that you are in an epic conflict and how the fate of the world rests on your shoulders and war is awful and blah blah blah blah blah. "Bad Company" is like one of those cheesy action movies from the 80's that went straight to VHS: the bad guys are caricatures, the good guys often throw out quips during even the most intense firefights and basically give each other noogies during the cutscenes, and everybody's just having a good time shooting at each other and blowing things up.
Just another day at the office.
Just another day at the office.
The game has your character Preston Marlowe joining a lesser-known branch of the Army called Bad Company, a group of degenerate soldiers that are meant to serve as cannon fodder while the other branches do the actual heroing. While out on assignment with cigar-chomping Sergent Redford, Steve Buschemi-esque Sweetwater, and walking Redneck-If joke Haggard, you manage to single-handedly invade a neutral country (don't ask how) and are disavowed by the Army unless you can track down a mercenary leader called The Legionnaire. Coincidentally, The Legionnaire pays all of his soldiers in gold bullion, so your deal with the army could end up lining your pockets...
Your cast of lovable losers: Sarge (left), Sweetwater (middle), and Haggard (right). Yes, Haggard and Sweetwater are playing Rock Paper Scissors.
The story is pretty ridiculous, but it's also very lighthearded with its bad jokes and wanton destruction. The game also has a system that, when you die any enemies you killed before you died will stay dead when you respawn. Many hardcore will cry foul at this feature, saying that they never feel challenged or in danger, but I personally prefer it to Veteran Mode on "Call Of Duty 4," with the enemies John Elway-ing grenades into your pocket at 300 yards, causing you to reload your save ever two-and-a-half minutes. Even if it never "feels like I'm in danger," I'm still having fun because death doesn't cause me to render my last 15 minutes of playtime useless.
Let me explain. I play video games to unwind after kicking around all day, and "Bad Company" is the perfect unwind game. You can basically run around blowing up walls and driving around vehicles to your hearts desire without having to worry about reloading your game if you try something that doesn't work. I did this for probably three or four hours one day during Fall Break last year, and I had an absolute frustration-free blast. Other games that I play for hours at a time usually end up rubbing me the wrong way in spite of my coming back for more, but "Bad Company" was as perfectly happy to let me tool around as I was to do the actual tooling.
Call in a Russian mortar strike for even more fireworks!
The game also has a robust multiplayer mode, one that also is pretty frustration-free. The main mode is called Gold Rush, where two teams take turns attacking or defending two crates of gold in a specific section of the map. If the attacking team succeeds in blowing up the gold, the defending team is pushed back to another section of the map until there are no more crates left. The defenders win if the attackers run out of guys. Most maps are big and have lots of tanks and jeeps lying around for people to drive, but that's not why I like it.
No, why I like it is the team-based approach. I would always play Team Deathmatch in "Call Of Duty 4" multiplayer, and it would always result in me getting my kneecaps shot off about 7.5 seconds after I spawn on the map. "Battlefield's" Gold Rush mode makes the objective not to kill everybody but to attack or defend the gold, a nice single-minded approach to task management that I can appreciate. Instead of trying to cover my teammates and not twitching fast enough to avoid certain death, I would defend my teammate while he plants a bomb on the crates, trying to spot a guy who would run in guns blazing to spoil our plan. To summarize, "Bad Company" makes me not feel like a liability, which I appreciate.
Players can still play the traditional Conquest mode that's been in every "Battlefield" game, but Gold Rush is the real winner.
Actually, the same thing can be said about the whole game. It encourages you to wander around and HAVE FUN, which, incidentally, is why I play games anyways. The game isn't mind-shattering the way Infinity Ward games usually are, but I don't think it's meant to be, and for that I'm grateful. And fortunately for you stingy types, you can find "Bad Company" on Xbox Live for about $20 now. Buy it and practice for when the sequel comes out in March.
Here are some prerelease videos to give you an idea of how seriously this game takes itself:
Parody of those Gears Of War commercials from a couple years ago.
Parody of the Tom Clancy's brand of tactical shooters.
Good old-fashioned trailer.