At the time of its release, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare received almost universal praise. War games are nothing new – we already had Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and to an extent, Wolfenstein – but Modern Warfare really did modernize the first-person shooter, and people liked that it reflected war as it currently exists in the Middle East, not war as it historically was. Electronic Arts eventually countered ActiVision’s hit title with a series of their own, the Battlefield series, and hired a developer that almost came out of nowhere, DICE. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 came out three years after Modern Warfare, and proved EA could modernize the war game genre as well as anyone else. The only bad news is it’s a lot of narrow passageways until the “battlefield” opens up, and there is a dense fog-of-war, obstructing faraway targets. Truth be told, EA and DICE proved a point: not only could Modern Warfare be replicated, it could be improved.
As the late Ryan Davis of Giant Bomb said, Bad Company 2 follows “a ragtag group of misfits.” You, Marlow, and teammates “Sweets,” Haggard, and Sarge are attempting to stop a Russian called Aguire from terrorizing the United States on its homeland, for example, by disabling the power-grid. A lot of comedy comes from Haggard, a southerner, who, for example, gets on the case of your helicopter pilot, who says he’s a pacifist. The game has you chasing clues around multiple locations in South America.
Again, you are sadly following a linear path, but open areas are in the game. You could be with your squad-mates in the jungle, and there is only one path forward. At times, if you venture out of the battle zone, the game gives you a warning and a ten-second timer to get back in fair territory. My old roommate loved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, but showed me how some open plots of land are blocked by invisible walls. It’s the same idea. Still, there are open combat areas, but now the biggest offense is “fog of war.” Probably in an effort to get away with low-resolution textures, the farther you look, the less you can see. Still, the combat really does feel modern, as you look down your sights and target the enemy.
The game actually has fantastic character models. I think you could use these exact character models in a next generation game, and nothing would look out of place. There is a realistic woven-cotton texture on everyone’s uniforms, and detail is right down to individual finger movements. The environments aren’t too bad. The game features “destructible environments,” so a house wall could crumble, exposing one’s cover. I thought it was a neat trick, but it was clear the walls were meant to break only in certain ways. It isn’t something you see in modern shooters, unfortunately. I think graphically, the game was at its most impressive during a boat ride down a river, with enemies talking on a bridge above you.
Sadly, the campaign is four and a half hours, but in 2010, that was reasonable for a first-person shooter. The thinking was, We’ll add hours of playtime with multiplayer, but I hardly touched it, preferring the single-player mode. Of course, Battlefield multiplayer is a big deal now, with Battlefield V and the Star Wars offshoot Battlefront. For me, DICE proved exactly what they needed to prove: another game’s success can be duplicated in a short turnaround time. It’s straight out of the common college business book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. One who innovates in an industry will be met with copycats who can price more competitively, sometimes forcing the innovator out. That said, Call of Duty still exists, but many don’t take it as seriously now, with the very disappointing Call of Duty: Ghosts, the silly space themed Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and the poorly reviewed Call of Duty: WWII. Any modder that can lift the fog deserves recognition. Otherwise the game is near perfect.