Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Business, Bad Company

Bad Company 2 is an example of a game that I just couldn’t bring myself to keep playing. Which is odd, because I like all the various elements of the game; the shooting is varied (if standard), the characters are well-defined (if stereotypes), and the environments and weapons are nicely rendered and all very realistic I’m sure. And yet… I can’t pull myself to play much further than the second or third level in. Not just with Bad Company 2, either – I had the same problem with Bad Company. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly. It wasn’t the pacing, though it was certainly slower than Modern Warfare. It wasn’t the graphics or gameplay. What kept me from finishing these games? What drove me to boredom?

Before I continue, I’ll just say that I am a massive fan of the Battlefield series. They’ve defined online shooters since the first Battlefield 1942 rolled out the gates. The first Battlefield I played online was Battlefield Vietnam. Though I didn’t play it as obsessively as I do, say, Team Fortress 2 (we had a dial-up modem at the time), the few games I did play, every few weeks, were fun on the bun. I especially love the vehicle sections – though why a Vietnam-era postie bike can be considered a suitable means of wartime transportation is beyond reason.

But before computer games, before Vietnam, before dinosaurs, I was a console gamer. I had a PlayStation 2. And if not remembered for its hardware, I’m sure we can all remember the PS2 for its MASSIVE back-catalogue. The last time I checked, the catalogue is still expanding, because, well, a DVD costs 50 cents and a Wii port is still going to make back the losses at $60 a piece, eh? But I digress. The point was, my first real Battlefield game was Battlefield 2: Modern Combat on the PlayStation 2. And I. Freaking. Loved it.

Technically my first non-007 first-person shooter, but again, I must digress. I loved Modern Combat. The shooting was nothing special, sure. And the graphics have that PS2-era cardboard cut-out look about them. But even worse, the story; the abysmal, catastrophic story – with a twist so removed from the established plot it was uncanny – the final nail in this coffin. For all intents and purposes, Modern Combat should be a bad game.

But obviously, like I said above, I freaking love it. Two words: “hot swapping”. Hotswapping is Modern Combat’s “thing”. Basically, it’s a hyper-advanced means of squad control. Lacking the ability to order around your troops, the game could quickly dissolve into frustration. That’s where hotswapping comes in. When you look at a nearby friendly squad member, a little icon above their head shows up. With one tap of triangle, BAM! – you are teleported into their brain and you are now in direct control of that unit. And you can do this with every friendly soldier. Want to go sniping, but building too far up to climb? Look at the sniper already on the building and BAM! – time for delicious sniper death. Enemy tank about to roll through your convoy, but your legs are just too damn slow to get there in time? Look over at the troop in the convoy and BAM! – you’re in his head, ready to unleash RPG rocket death on the pesky tank. So basically, one redeeming feature, but rendered what SHOULD be stock-standard FPS into something just slightly more – yet slight enough to warrant attention, and praise. Hooray!

So, on to Bad Company. Like I said, I like the characters. I like the graphics. I like the shooting, and it does have a gimmick (the Frostbite engine, providing all your super-destructive scenery, and is actually super awesome). Yet… I get so bored playing. Maybe I’m reaching for hotswap every time I look at a player holding a weapon I want, but that’s not true; in fact Modern Combat barely came to mind until I started writing this article. It could just be because it’s slow, or because the violence is toned down to meet OFLC “M” standards, but that’s never stopped me before. So what’s stopping me from enjoying Bad Company? It has an intriguing plot with likable characters, it has awesome weapons that tear holes in freaking walls – and the vehicle sections I like so much return too. So what is it?

In the end, I don’t think I even need an answer. Bad Company and Bad Company 2 bored me because they were BORING. There’s no reason for that. I shouldn’t justify it. I once really enjoyed Battlefield games. Just because I don’t enjoy these ones, does that make them inherently bad games? Of course not. Metacritic says they’re good. But they bored me. I couldn’t bring myself to finish them. And don’t even get me started on the Online – it’s basically Battlefield 2 with less polish (and I’m well aware of the hypocrisy in that statement). No, look, I don’t know. Like I mentioned above. I like the Battlefield series. So why Bad Company turned me off is a mystery. Maybe I would have preferred to be with the “real” army; but the real army is just as boring. Maybe it’s because this lone wolf squad of four is too small, like I feel I have to be fighting in packs of 30 or 50 soldiers before it’s a “Battlefield” game (I remember 64-player online…), but whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. Bad Company and its sequel are damp squibs in my gaming memory, games that barely registered a look-in (despite being well-received by critics), and that’s not because they’re bad games – it’s just because they bored the hell out of me. It’s a mystery of life, and one that I’m sure you guys will have fun figuring out for me as you second-guess my own opinion.


Oscar tango foxtrot, y’all.

Andrew Deavin is a gamer who despises the use of the word gamer, despite associating with gamers. He also likes coming up with this post-article bullcrap describing him, as if it somehow validates his opinions. He probably thinks it makes him look like a "real" games journalists. AHAHA, get lost buddy!

He will also take the time off now to make you listen to the excellent Nation of Gamers podcast. Seriously, go listen and subscribe. They're cool! Honest!

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