When I first started playing the multiplayer portion of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I had some very strong, negative reactions. I was ready to post up about them immediately, but decided to wait and see if my opinions tempered. Some have vanished entirely, others have not. Prepare for some serious analysis after the break.
1) Rush mode favors the Attackers too much on two counts: methods of avoiding the basic mechanics of the game type, and ticket counts.
The objective in Bad Company 1’s Gold Rush mode was to seize and hold the territory around the gold crates for the amount of time needed to plant a charge and allow it to detonate or protect someone while he used C4. Either method required a squad to play sneaky and smart, not giving away their position to the Defenders until it was too late.
The fact that you can destroy M-COM units in Bad Company 2 by bringing down the buildings that contain them has partially unbalanced Rush mode by removing this pivotal aspect of seizing and holding hotly-contested territory. Savvy players can park armor at locations with natural protection from anti-tank fire and rain shells down on buildings. Defenders have to either extend themselves pretty far to take down armor at these locations, or prioritize protecting their Engineers and static anti-tank weapons to deal with the threat from range which, in turn, leaves the Attacker’s total position more vulnerable to enemy foot mobiles and decreases their ability to effectively defend the M-COMs.
UAVs can be loaded up with C4 and used to destroy buildings, or even the M-COMs themselves when the explosives are detonated – and the UAV survives intact to turn around and load up for another run. This startling lack of practical consequence to the Attackers, i.e. losing the UAV, is strikingly unbalanced. A good UAV pilot can maintain his invisibility for as long as he wants to. Again, the pivotal aspect of the Rush game mode – seizing and holding territory – is made obsolete.
In Bad Company 1, the Attackers began with 100 tickets, and when they destroyed a pair of gold crates they received some, but not all, of those tickets back. If they kept up a steady pace they could effectively keep their tickets maxed, but the consequence of receiving some but not all was that the Defenders could slowly bleed the Attackers out. If the Attackers were not mindful to avoid wasting lives, it would eventually cost them the match. They had to be tactical and skillful against a competent Defender team.
In Bad Company 2, Attackers start with only 75 tickets, but receive all of their tickets back when they destroy a pair of M-COMs. The decrease in total tickets was ostensibly meant to balance this change, but it fails to prevent the unbalancing created by a complete refreshing of the ticket pool. It makes attrition tactics viable until the final pair of M-COMs are reached. I, personally, find attrition tactics boring both to utilize and defend against.
This also effectively makes every pair of M-COM units a fresh battle for the Defenders. It is extremely frustrating when my Defender team is doing an absolutely solid job of holding off the Attackers, fighting them down to 10 tickets or less, only to have our opponents bring a building down with the aforementioned long-range tank shell or improvised C4 delivery system, and the fight starts all over again from square one.
On most Rush maps, the final pair of M-COMs are usually housed in buildings which cannot be brought down, and the Attackers are provided with no further opportunities to refresh their numbers, so Rush games often effectively boil down to that final pair. There is an argument for Defenders to simply not bother trying until the final set of defenses, and then actually put some effort into it when their efforts are guaranteed to matter. This is the sort of psychology that becomes very attractive when you have a majority of Defenders sniping rather than doing their job of protecting the M-COMs. A tight squad of four Defenders can win a match even if the rest of their team is not playing to the mission, but not until the Attackers are deprived of reinforcements and the ability to win without actually seizing and holding territory. I’d rather be playing a whole match than just waiting until the end when it matters.
2) Holding flags doesn’t mean as much as it should in Conquest mode.
In Bad Company 1, when the enemy held a majority of the flags it was a cause for instant com chatter, organizing to take them back, assigning flankers to harass the enemy as they attempt to disrupt your capture attempt, setting up sniper cover…an immediate reaction was demanded because our ticket count dropped dramatically for every moment our opponents held more flags than we did.
In Bad Company 2, I hardly notice when my team doesn’t hold the flags if we’re bleeding the enemy out fast enough; or my team can be doing a far superior job of holding the flags but still manage to lose via slow attrition because we’re exposing ourselves by actually playing to the game type rather than hanging back.
Holding the flags should count for more than k/d ratios in Conquest mode. If I wanted to play Deathmatch, I would play Deathmatch. I’d actually suggest that Conquest mode eliminate the ticket system altogether and rather having a score system based on flag possession. First team to 100 wins, and the score increases exponentially faster the more flags that are held.
3) Server re-population is awful. Just awful. With all the people playing BC2 right now there’s no reason why I should not consistently be playing in full matches; yet even when playing at peak hours am I added into full games.
Did DICE bring too many new servers online to correct for the launch day crashes, and spread the population too thin? I find this almost inconceivable in the ineptitude it represents, especially with DICE wanting to portray themselves as defining online multiplayer FPS combat.
The re-pop issues truly need to be fixed. They become especially problematic in Rush mode. With 12 people per side there are plenty of Attacker targets for the Defenders to whittle down and get that ticket count to 0, and there are three full Attacker squads to play off each others’ tactics and overwhelm the Defensive line. With less-than-full teams, it can take forever to find and kill enough Attackers to win the match, or Defenders can simply be overrun and never have a fair chance of winning.
Part of the appeal of Rush mode is its frenetic pace. That pace is tied heavily to the number of players in the match.
4) The spotting mechanic is absolutely essential to success in Bad Company 2. Players can’t eat bullets – they die very quickly when exposed. Intelligence, as in the real world, is often the lynch pin for victory.
I’m sure the manual identifies the “spot” button, i.e. Select, for the XBox 360…but I don’t read game manuals anymore. I don’t know anyone who does. It’s an evolution of gamer culture to eschew manuals and count on an in-game tutorial to teach you the ins and outs so that a player can get right into the action. Manuals serve as needed reference to, or reminders of, those lessons from the tutorials.
There is no such tutorial on spotting in the multiplayer mode of Bad Company 2. I’ll be honest with you – I don’t ever remember spotting in BC1. I couldn’t tell you if there even was such a thing; but when Pixel Enemy released this video which included advice on the spotting mechanic, and my squads began to use it, the change in our efficiency was immediate.
Unfortunately, the spotting function doesn’t always seem to work. I’ll have my reticule squarely over an enemy, hit Select, and they will not be marked for my teammates to see on the radar. What did I do wrong? Do I have to hold the target in my sights for a set amount of time to mark them? Do I have to be at a certain range? Is there a limit to how many spots I can make in a certain amount of time? I have no idea. The game has never told me.
I’m limiting my criticism to aspects of the game which are, in my opinion, unique issues with Bad Company 2. I have other issues which are more general in scope – lack of matchmaking for equitable skill distribution; unnecessary inclusion of perks with their potential, destabilizing effects; over reliance on snipers (I actually believe that it should be a “locked” class which is only open to a few players at a time on either side)…but neither these general nor specific criticisms have shown up in any review of Bad Company 2 I have read online.
Perhaps it’s time that reviewers be given a few weeks to get into a game before they commit to a review. None of these issues would prevent me from purchasing Bad Company 2, but I certainly question some of the high numbers BC2 has earned in review scores. Considering this game’s reputation is based on the quality of its multiplayer, I think that digging deep, in a critical fashion, into the multiplayer gameplay is entirely appropriate.