The corollary of all this destruction is that safe spots are few and hard to come by. You might think that you’re safe lurking behind the wall or ducking behind that sandbag shelter, but a rocket or tank shell will soon relieve you of any illusions. This isn’t a game of controlled duck and cover gunplay – it’s a game of constant movement and regular bouts of panic. Keep moving, keep shooting, and improvise, improvise, improvise.
Lucky, then, that it’s a game that gives you so much freedom to do just that. Much has been made of Bad Company’s large, open maps, and while the game uses an artificial ‘leaving the battlefield’ limit to keep you straying from your next objective, you’re nearly always given a pretty large swathe of landscape to traverse, a number of routes in to your target area, and a selection of approaches you can take. As in Frontlines, vehicles aren’t forced on you; instead you can use tanks or armoured personnel carriers as just another tool in your toolbox, along with sniper rifles, rocket launchers and some handy little gadgets that call in mortar bombardments or air-strikes.
“Play it your way”, the game seems to be saying, “Blow things up, get in close, play it sneaky, whatever – just have fun.” And yet the maps and objectives feel less bland and more deliberately constructed than they did in Frontlines. The action might not be as breathtakingly orchestrated as it is in Call of Duty 4, but then Bad Company is all about guiding you to create your own cinematic experience, not funnelling you through one that has been laid in stone already.
The result is noisy, bombastic and frequently hilarious. The dark humour is almost perfectly pitched, with dialogue that has actually made me chuckle out loud – not something I can say about Gears of War or CoD 4 – yet the experience can be just as overwhelming. DICE’s Frostbite engine is an incredible technical accomplishment, dishing out beautiful outdoor scenery with some gorgeous natural lighting, then using it as a background to stage an almost ridiculous level of comic-book violence; imagine Hollywood had decided to reshoot Rambo on the locations of The Sound of Music. Your three bad company cohorts are superbly modelled, with none of that rubbery-skinned bodybuilder nonsense we’ve had to get used to post-Gears of War, and if the enemy troops suffer from a relatively small library of uniforms and faces, it’s not as if you’ll spend much time looking at them before you shoot them (or likely visa versa).