Battlefield Bad Company 2 First Look: DICE Upgrades to Destruction 2.0

A week ago, I had no idea I was only running Destruction 1.0, or that I was in need of an upgrade. But so goes the industry: just when you think your explosions are big enough, the Joneses come along with their fancy 2.0 mushroom clouds.

It's not a stretch to say the original Battlefield: Bad Company received attention mainly for its Frostbite engine, which allowed battlefielders to blast through brick walls and level buildings piece by piece. DICE's sequel predictably improves on the technology, while increasing the scale of said explosions. The Battlefield developer seems to be following the Gears 2 school of sequel design with this one--watching a ten minute stretch of gameplay last week, the "bigger, better" mentality was clearly on display.

Bad Company 2 continues the series' fictional war between the United States and Russia, a conflict established in the first title. This time the Russians are invading through Alaska, the snowy setting of the ensuing demonstrative battle.

The demo began with a fade to white, revealing a small wintry village set before a squad of US soldiers. There was a short in-engine cutscene, a few squadmates shooting the shit about the war--and then the inevitable shooting at shit.

As the Russians launched their attack, and the freezing town went to hell, the Bad Company 2's over-the-top intensity became immediately apparent. In fact, the demo moved so fast, and was so loud in presentation, that it was difficult to take notes more detailed than: "Jet bombs village, shit falling everywhere." This series now feels far more like Killzone than Battlefield.

Of course, the Bad Company trademark explosions were evident at nearly every moment. Early on in the level the player quickly maneuvered into a house, clearing the lower level of Russians with a spray of bullets. As he approached the front door, an RPG made contact first, blowing the player backwards and creating a much larger doorway. It was a punchy sequence, and highlighted the ability of Frostbite to create dynamic pants-soiling moments.

Our demonstrator then began picking off soldiers from behind the ironsight, giving us a chance to check out the new Frostbite engine improvements--the "Destruction 2.0" features. DICE has primarily added "micro-destruction," allowing players to chip away at pieces of cover, bullet by bullet. Big booms have also been improved, with entire buildings thunderously collapsing into highly detailed piles of rubble. The larger-scale explosives have some new flare, with bombs and other detonations boasting impressive secondary air-burst effects.

After the gun battle, the player's squad jumped into the back of a truck and began a hasty retreat through a mountainous pass. Russians riding on ATVs followed in hot pursuit, triggering a setpiece that will be familiar ground for Gears or Resident Evil 5 fans--shooting at mobile attackers from the relative safety of a scripted vehicle.

Following the demise of the ATVs, the Russians set an attack helicopter on the truck. At one point the truck entered a covered mountain overpass, the helicopter hovering just beyond a series of concrete columns that were too thick to fire through. Then the chopper simply flew inside the tunnel to chase the truck, the demo ending there, on a moment of pure over-the-top battle fantasy.

As someone that played only a few levels of the original game's single-player component, the most I can say about the demo was that it seemed somewhat more directed in design. The end result was a level pacing more in line with other big-name shooters--less of a floaty afterthought than Bad Company's campaign, but still nothing to get overly excited about.

The developers noted that Bad Company 2 will sport better vehicle handling, single-player AI, and other such improvements. The multiplayer component, the strongest part of any Battlefield game, won't be revealed until E3. And that was that.

Bad Company 2 certainly seemed "big" enough to compete in the bloated shooter market, where the scale of your sales is often measured by the size of your fireballs. Whether the game at large represents a significant upgrade over the original couldn't be determined from such a quick look. But then again, who can resist moving up to Destruction 2.0?

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is set for a winter release on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

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