So far, Bad Company fares well on the graphics front, DICE's Frostbite engine allowing for detailed outdoor scenery with some gorgeous and thickly sprinkled vegetation, rich HDR lighting, an extensive draw distance, nicely rendered and animated characters and a pretty rock solid frame rate - both on the 360 and the PS3. It's a tough call whether or not it looks better than CoD4, but it certainly leaves the rather brown-obsessed Frontlines looking bland. Throw in some robust physics simulation and you have a strong package technically, though only more time spent in-game can tell us whether the AI will be strong enough to adapt enemy movement and tactics to the actions of players in such an open game world.
Even should Bad Company's single-player campaign fail to set the world alight, it will still have a strong multiplayer option to fall back on. Again, however, it's a subtly different Battlefield this time around. The big news here is the all-new Gold Rush mode. Each map is divided into several areas, with each area containing a pair of gold crates. One team must protect these. The other team must destroy them, and in so doing unlock the next area of the map. The attacking team is limited in terms of resources and reinforcements, but with each crate destroyed they earn more of both. The defending team has unlimited respawns, making their task one of attrition. Can they repel the assault until the attacking team run out of reinforcements?
From the demo this has all the multiplayer madness you expect from Battlefield, with tanks, humvees and helicopters racing over the map towards the crates and enemy respawn points, lots of folks engaged in ridiculous do-or-die endeavors, explosions and firefights everywhere you look. The player cap only goes up to 24 players, but the Gold Rush structure helps make the maps feel busier because players usually only have two objectives - the gold crates - to attack or defend at any time. This keeps everyone working in a single direction, and helps alleviate one of Battlefield's biggest problems; that in less organised games, everybody scatters everywhere and the action spreads out over several capture points at once. Gold Rush helps keep things tight and intense. There have been other changes made to suit the console audience - for instance, troop types have been kept down to a manageable five - but with persistent profiles, unlockable weapons and promotions, this still has enough depth to get the existing CoD4 or GRAW2 fanbases interested.
All in all, this is a very promising FPS package and one that might make up for the disappointments (mild or otherwise) of Frontlines, R6: Vegas 2 and Haze. Bad Company might be the name, but this is one game I'm looking forward to spending more time with.