And let’s not forget the multiplayer option, either. We may be limited to 24 players per map, but the maps are cleverly designed to concentrate the action into a number of choke points. What’s more, there are still plenty of humvees, tanks and helicopters to take for a spin, and the new Gold Rush mode makes this arguably the most action-packed Battlefield yet. As we mentioned in the preview, the idea is that the two teams are either attacking or defending several sets of two gold chests. With each one the attacking force destroys, they get more resources to use to attack the next. The effect works a little like the frontlines in Frontlines; players aren’t skirmishing over a number of objectives spread across a map, but are encouraged to battle over the same key points, and while you could argue that this dumbs down some of the tactical finesse of Battlefield proper, it does mean that you’ll have those objectives under constant assailment from tank rushes, air bombardments or sneaky devils with demolition charges.
Attackers are encouraged to improvise. The defenders have to stay on their toes. Throw in the destructible environments and you have an online component that is even more frantic, furious and blood-crazed than the single-player campaign – which is saying something. And with a full set of classes, unlockable weapons and persistent stats, it should have legs as well. If Bad Company doesn’t steal more than a few players from Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, then something is going very wrong with the online gaming world.
For me, Bad Company has been one of this year’s most pleasant surprises. I didn’t expect anything more than a decent effort at a single-player Battlefield tied to another spin on the classic online action. Instead I found the first modern-day FPS to give Call of Duty 4 a run for its money. It hasn’t quite topped Infinity Ward’s classic, but that’s no disaster when Bad Company has such a strong flavour all its own. The most hardcore fans of military shooters might get annoyed by the mediocre AI and respawn mechanics, but for more casual action gamers this is the first must-have FPS of 2008.
Frantic, furious and stupidly explosive, Bad Company is the most extravagantly entertaining FPS of the year so far. Throw in an excellent online component and you have an unmissable package.