"Using the right tool, you can blow pretty much everything up," an EA DICE representative told me of Battlefield: Bad Company (PS3, X360) and its first-person gameplay. I took those words to heart.
Selecting the demolition class, I made an effort to blow a hole through every wall I saw with my bazooka. "No longer am I forced to abide by the limitations of static environments," I shouted triumphantly. It was a very crowded venue. I don't think anyone heard me.
The importance of the environmental destruction that EA DICE's Frostbite engine brings to the Battlefield formula cannot be overstated. As gamers, we have been trained that we are safe within those static barriers, that foes can only rush at us from hard-coded pathways. The explosive removal of those walled restrictions brings with it opportunities both exciting and terrifying.
Having just picked up the controller, three things were immediately obvious. First, the Attacker team was living up to their namesake. Second, I was on the defending team. Third, and most importantly, I was complete and utter rubbish at the multiplayer component of Battlefield: Bad Company.
My round began with a tentative peek outside, and the sight that greeted me was not a happy one. Just as I caught a glimpse of several oncoming enemies, a grenade exploded and kicked up enough dust to obscure my vision. Preparing for the onslaught, I readied my trusty knife and stood off to the side of the door. Striking at the first hint of motion, taking down my unsuspecting foe, I felt victorious.
Just then an explosion rocked the house, and the wall behind me collapsed, crumbling like a pile of LEGOs. The attackers stormed in through the makeshift doorway, and another rocket quickly cut through the space between them, ending my piece of the engagement.
In my defeat, I slumped back into the couch. Adding insult to failure, the abrupt motion of the attached controller cable was enough to flick a whiskey sour off the tabletop, pouring its contents into my messenger bag.
As my surroundings erupted into chaos, I swear I heard someone remark, "Epic fail."
In the confusion, I didn't get much time to experiment with the game's traditional assortment of classes: Assault, Demo, Recon, Spec-Ops, and Support. Each has its own set of items, and as always, players will have the chance to customize their weapon load-out before they head back into the match. Accuracy, damage, and rate of fire stats appear next to each weapon, ensuring combatants know the math behind their armament.
Some classes even come equipped with healing items, mysterious syringes that can be directly plunged into your character's chest. As with the environmental destruction, it's one thing to talk about, and it's another thing to actually remember to use in the middle of a battle.
I also didn't get a chance to mess around with any vehicles during the short session. However, a hands-off demonstration of the single-player mode showed EA DICE employees using a jeep and a boat to navigate a sprawling 2x2 kilometer map.
In addition to multiplayer, Battlefield: Bad Company sports a sprawling single-player campaign meant to recreate the multiplayer experience in offline realm. However, players won't have be alone in this task, with three AI companions backing them up.
The company's presentation highlighted the campaign's "play how you want" approach: Will you kill every enemy you see, or will you try to accomplish your mission and get the hell out?
EA DICE expects each single-player mission to last between one and two hours, depending on a player's approach. The sprawling maps have a number of optional gold bars hidden within it, and while that collection is not mandatory, there are bound to be those who are determined to find every last one.
Luckily for those determined few--and for Battlefield lightweights like myself--EA DICE is treating death in single-player just like it does for multiplayer. "There is no real penalty to dying," a representative explained, noting that players will respawn after a few moments. Not included in the revival process: Pride.
The title's multiplayer component, meanwhile, centers around two simply named factions: Attackers and Defenders. Attackers are out to claim the gold bars scattered throughout the map. Each bar is secured within a locked trunk, requiring the offensive team to place a timed explosive charge and protect the point until detonation.
On the other hand, Defenders are out to kill every last Attacker on the map. Oh, and the more gold bars the Attackers get, the faster their reinforcements come. At this point in the day, killing everything sounded pretty swell, so I went with the Defenders.
Presented with the choice to spawn at the base or near some squad mates, I opted to jump straight into the fight. I had just enough time to get my bearings before I was mowed down with an assault rifle from an unseen foe.
After a few more deaths, I noticed the Attackers had planted a charge at one of our three remaining bases. If not diffused shortly, that heavily-armored trunk will no longer stand between them and the gold bar contained within.
On-screen waypoints helped me quickly locate our bases, and in particular, the one about to be destroyed. Moving stealthy into the humble structure that once used to be a home, the blinking red light on the chest assured me I was in the right place. No one was around, so I disabled the charge.
Things were starting to look like they were on the up and up for the defending faction.
While I basked in my minor victory, the Attackers quickly overtook and captured our other two points. Then the wall behind me crumbled. It was not a happy moment.
When the round results popped up, I learned that I had accumulated -9 points and a whopping 1 kill. Yeah, I could definitely use some more practice.
Battlefield: Bad Company is currently slated to arrive on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 later this year