There have been few success stories as great as the one surrounding the Call of Duty series. Climbing from a pit of shooters to claim the top spot is no easy feat in this generation of gaming, but the Modern Warfare series has sold millions on the idea of chasing others around a small map and shooting their faces. Over the recent years Call of Duty has developed a new way of playing shooters that involves what most gamers like to call, twitch shooting. For some it’s all they need, for others it’s a poor excuse for exciting gameplay. I happen to fall into latter category, but it’s hard to deny that Call of Duty has a strong purpose and a high fun factor.
If the breaking up of Infinity Ward wasn’t enough of a reason for the demise of the Call of Duty series, a game called Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was another glimpse into the competition that the series would have to face. We all know that you can’t stay on top forever, but Activision is working hard to do it. Providing an addicting style of progressive gameplay and smooth graphics has soothed the itch that most gamers had after making straight A’s in Halo during college. I thought I had found heaven back in 2007 when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit shelves.
I had never played Battlefield prior to Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but I had heard some rumblings when the first Bad Company made its way onto consoles. After watching some excellent gameplay footage I decided that Bad Company 2 was the game for me. Hours and hours later I found that I had discovered a shooter that rivaled the likes of Call of Duty. With more strategy and bigger maps, BF:BC2 provides a much more expansive gaming experience than its rival. Where Modern Warfare is built upon the idea of a one-man army and kill-streaks, Battlefield has a stronger focus on tactical gameplay and teamwork. If you go into a match and think you can rush the enemy with out the support of your teammates then expect to die much more than you kill. The style of combat and match pacing is a stark contrast to what we have become used to in this generation of first person shooters, and I believe that as the Call of Duty series grows stagnant and watered-down, Battlefield 3 will rise in its place.
What will it take for Battlefield to dethrone this giant? Are jets, vehicles, and bigger maps enough to chop COD off at the knees? Will the downfall of Infinity Ward send the Call of Duty series into an uncontrollable tail spin? I think it’s likely that all of these will factor into the fall from grace, but the biggest factor of them all will likely result from DICE’s new engine, Frostbite 2. This new engine is equipped to do almost everything that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 wanted to do, and everything Call of Duty wishes it could do. From dynamic lighting, to large-scale destructible environments, Frostbite 2 hopes to finally tap into the unreached potential that its predecessor was trying to reach. Rather than simply tearing down a building, you will large chunks of debris shooting from the side of a high rise followed by a plume of smoke and dust. Sounds have been upgraded too, making it a more believe experience even though you’re sitting in your living room. Sounds that are closer will typically be louder, while it will be easier to detect the direction of explosions whether they are far away or up close. Realistic movement will also be a key feature in Battlefield 3. Rather than watching character models move stupidly across the map, soldiers will have weight to their steps, and getting up from the prone position (which is making a comeback) won’t make it appear as if your character has spring-loaded knees.
When it comes to multiplayer, developer DICE realizes that they missed the boat on capitalizing on their success. It all came down to, “too little, too late” as they released their new maps and expansion Vietnam, about 8 months after release. In a recent interview with Game Informer (Bertz, 2011), executive producer Patrick Bach admits that “Bad Company 2 was a bigger success than we anticipated.” First hand experience showed me that even the servers were having a hard time keeping up with the massive amounts of players trying to connect to games. A poorly laid out system caused many hiccups and an inability to matchmake. Let’s also not forget how the game almost completely halts progress at about level 25 once you’ve purchased your final upgrade for each class. While the battle experience alone carried me through 80+ hours of online multiplayer, DICE could have given me so much more…and I would have paid for it!
So what are they going to do to fix it? The same interview with Game Informer (Bertz, 2011) highlights the team’s ideas to provide players with continuous progression that was made famous by the Call of Duty series. They may not be giving you fashion choices by allowing you to dress up your characters with make up and have the ability to paint your guns different colors and draw things on them, but DICE promises to use that same energy in the parts of the game that matter.
I enjoyed the class structure of Bad Company 2 despite a few unbalanced features in a couple of the classes. Being able to stick close to my team’s tank and keep it alive by repairing it gave me much more satisfaction than running into a crowded building and getting a triple kill. BC2 has a wide variety of classes that offer unique gameplay when compared to your typical shooter. One particular instance had me playing as the medic class in a game of Rush while attempting to hold off the advancement of the other team. In any regular game the offensive teams would have pushed right through our defense, and we would have been pushed back all the way back to the objective we were trying to defend. Thanks to my quick thinking and my defibulators, I crouched behind some sandbags and revived my teammates as they fell, allowing us to hold the line and defend the objective. It’s moments like these that make BF2 unique, and make it the reason why it will top the charts when Holiday 2011 comes around.
I can’t do the multiplayer enough justice when it comes to words, but Battlefield: Bad Company 2 re-energized my passion for first person shooters during a time when my interest was waning. If DICE is able to fix the issues that were present in BC2 then I think that we will have a blockbuster game lined up for late this year when Battlefield 3 takes the stage. So far I have complete faith in DICE and the talent that permeates the company. They have proven over the years that will dedication and passion, comes great results, and it will only get better from here.
Bertz, M., (2011, March). Battlefield 3. Game Informer, 215, 46-55.