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3/5/2010 4:52:00 PM - Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Review

I bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) on March 2, 2010 - the day that it came out. Three days later, I can honestly say that it's the buggiest game I've ever had the misfortune of trying - and I emphatically stress the word trying - to play.

I suspected that, despite the fawning reviews, it would be a total piece of garbage and, thus far, I'd say that my expectations have been met.

Can you join a multiplayer game more than 5-10% of the time? Not even close. Three days after the launch, they finally put up a message stating that they're "aware" of the problem and working on it. Really? After three days EA has "noticed" that huge numbers of players very often can't login to EA online (which is required for multiplayer games), fail to join games 95% of the time, and frequently get kicked out of games for various reasons (PunkBuster-related bugs, lost connections with the server, etc.) if they are lucky enough to get into a game? Amazing. Good job, EA/Dice - you're certainly on top of it! Here are a couple of thoughts. First, test your code better - run a larger beta test or whatever to check the system's stability with a given number of users. Second, don't sell as many copies as you can print and then profess bafflement when your servers - designed to handle a fraction of that many players - totally keel over at the pounding they receive. Roll the distribution out in a few phases over several weeks so that you can hunt down the multitude of bugs that are still in the code (since you're clearly not going to do sufficient QA testing before your trigger finger gets itchy and you decide to prematurely release the game in order to realize the revenues.) This would also allow you to gauge how many additional servers are needed before hundreds of thousands of players are actually needing them just so that they can actually access the most desired feature - multiplayer - in a game for which they've already paid.

Want to snipe? No problem...but you can't lie down at all, or even stay crouched without continually holding down a key. So...forget lying down in grass or or bushes, confident that you Ghillie suit will let you blend into your surroundings.

Want even a remote measure of tactical realism? Forget it - you can get nailed and completely recuperate in seconds, leading to some truly idiotic exchanges. On one occasion, I exchanged fire with another guy in the distance. As each of us would get hit we'd duck down, wait for our health to regenerate in a few seconds, and then jump back up and return fire. The weapons accuracy is so poor and the health regeneration time so short that we both ran out of ammo before either of us could kill the other.

If you snipe someone - fire a round directly into their chest - while they're sprinting towards you, does it slow them down in the slightest? Nope.

Bunny hopping (jumping up repeatedly while running) is - unbelievably - still allowed despite dozens of first-person shooters in the past decade showing pretty conclusively that, given the latencies typically experienced when playing online, it's just a frustratingly unrealistic way for people to take advantage of the system. How about, say, only allowing a player to jump when running once every couple of seconds? After all, in real life, you can't do a full 3 foot leap as you take each step in a full-on sprint, right?

Want realistic weapons accuracy and damage? Forget it. You routinely blow through 15-20 rounds trying to cap someone standing 15 feet away from you. Line your aim up perfectly and fire a three-round blast into someone, and they'll usually just take off sprinting and bunny-hopping rather than falling to the ground. Even direct chest shots from distances of 75 feet or so usually require at least 9-10 bullets to take someone down.

Can you access the main menu while a map is taking its time loading - say, because you want to exit the game rather than play the next map in a multiplayer game? Nope. You'll just have to sit there with a totally non-responsive game until the map finishes loading...at which point you can finally inform the game it just wasted your time and you actually want to quit, or jump into another game.

Want realistic bullet collision calculations? Sorry - that's a no go. Sniper rifles often register hits regardless of whether or not the rifle was aimed a foot or two off target. That's a frequent design cheat for games like this that favor fast action over intelligent and tactical gameplay.

Do you still have to put up with inane game mechanics that allow, say, someone you just put a few rounds into to instantly flip around and, quite possibly, take you out despite the fact that in any remotely realistic shooter putting a few bullets into someone ought to seriously incapacitate them for at least a few seconds? Yep.

Want to play cooperatively against the computer? Sorry, it's not supported.

Want a wide variety of multiplayer maps? You won't find them here - only 10 are included.

Can you disable any of the inane "environmental effects" that have been inserted into the maps, such as a loud, constantly blaring horn or ridiculously low quality snow and fog settings? Nope. Fog is implemented using a ridiculously simplistic volumetric effect, and thus you can expect to see it drift right through the inner confines of buildings.

Is it clear which locations can be selected on the "spawn map" (specifying where you'd like to respawn)? Nope.

Want the most annoying algorithmic sway while you're running? Congratulations - they've got that. If it doesn't make you puke, it will most likely annoy you considerably.

Can you disable or even minimize the absolutely ludicrous amount of visual tags that clutter up both the primary game screen as well as the map? Nope. You'll be forced to watch friendly name and health tags, enemy tags, vehicle tags, base tags, and every other thing that the game designers - and I use that term loosely here - thought were so critical that you just had to constantly see them?

Want some highly optimized code? Hahah, hold on a second, I'm still rolling around on the ground laughing. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 runs rings around this game in terms of the visuals that it can deliver on a low-to-mid-range machine. On a mid-range machine you'll have to turn the quality and resolution so far down that the game looks considerably worse than a dozen games that have already shipped. By the way, I'm not just saying that because I like Modern Warfare 2 so much better. I actually hate Modern Warfare 2's simplistic, run-and-gun, non-tactical, arcade style of gameplay. It's just that it's clear that BFBC2 obviously tried to emulate that game in many respects, but utterly failed to match it in most regards.

Want a working multiplayer system? In three days I think I've managed to log maybe an hour of play time. The servers are constantly having major problems. Nine times out of ten I can't connect to a game. For the last several hours, I haven't even been able to log in to EA Online (which is required for multiplayer games.)

I could go on and on but there's no point. Save your money. Check back in 6-12 months - when the game's closer to a "finished" state - and if you like simplistic arcade shooters it might be worth checking out. (That, by the way, is what I did with the original Battlefield 1942 game from EA/Dice. The multiplayer was so unbelievably dysfunctional that I returned it - having purchased two copies on the day of the launch - and didn't buy it again for a year, after they had finally fixed many of the largest problems.) Clearly, quality control isn't job one at EA/Dice.

Out of five possible stars, I'd give BFBC2 zero. If they fix the bugs and you're actually able to utilize the multiplayer (which is where most of the hype on the game centered), it might be a 2 or 3-star game but only if you like Modern Warfare 2's arcade-like gameplay. If you prefer first-person shooters that are even moderately realistic, forget it - this isn't the game for you. I'd rate the original Battlefield 1942 as having a roughly 50/50 mix of realism versus simplistic arcade action - a pretty good combination (although it took the Desert Combat mod to get me to try BF1942 again after the ridiculous launch problems.) I'd estimate that BFBC2 is tilted more along the lines of being 20% realistic and 80% simplistic arcade action - a clear signal that they're attempting to move the series towards the gameplay and sales (they hope) of Activision's Call of Duty series.

- TZ

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