Admittedly, there are a few details that prevent Bad Company’s single-player campaign from being an unalloyed triumph. First, there’s the issue of AI. Your own comrades aren’t exactly the army’s elite troops – there’s a reason why they’re in B(ad) Company, after all – but you’d think they could shoot straighter and think faster than they seem able to. With no squad control options (which would only get in the way of the action) there are times when you feel more like a one-man army than a member of a team. Your enemies aren’t really much better. Whether they’re snipers, machine-gunners, crack mercenaries or ordinary Russian grunts, they seem unable to move or outflank or coordinate tactics, relying instead on Olympic-standard marksmanship to win the day. As a result the fire-fights, while always satisfying, don’t provide as gritty a challenge as they might in some rival FPS games.
The more controversial issue is the game’s approach to health and dying. While it’s hardly realistic, we’ve got used to the Call of Duty-style health recharge system and to returning to checkpoints when we die. Instead, Bad Company features a system of Battlefield spawn points and a persistent battlefield, leaving you to respawn and get back into the action as fast as possible rather than save and reload as you might in other games. This means that you can win difficult fights through a process of attrition, knocking back enough enemy forces with each respawn to steadily whittle them down to nought. On top of this, a handy recharging syringe gives you an almost instant health recharge at any point. Sure, it gets irritating in protracted battles to have to duck behind cover and administer the medicine, but it does feel a little unfair on your rather more mortal (if suspiciously eagle-eyed) opponents. I can see one group of people complaining that this makes Bad Company a dumbed down military FPS, and another moaning that, were the AI enemies smarter and their marksmanship toned down, we wouldn’t need this sort of ‘cheating’ to get by.
Both groups have a point, but I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I’m not listening, for the simple reason that Bad Company is still an incredible amount of fun. Instead, my most serious moan would be that after a long stretch of entering villages, farmsteads, towns and encampments and killing all troops or blowing up X objectives, the action can grow a little repetitive – particularly if you’ve already been doing similar things in Frontlines or Call of Duty 4. All the same, Bad Company always has enough set piece confrontations, new items or fun new twists to keep things engaging, and there is a lot of game on offer. Each map is huge, with multiple objectives to work your way through, and on the side you have hidden caches of gold bars to discover and elite special weapons to collect, giving the game plenty of replay value after you’ve work your way through once.