While we generally lavished praise on the first Xbox 360 Battlefield, Modern Combat, back in issue 38, we had to admit to being slightly disappointed that the single-player game amounted to nothing more than an aperitif for the very, very tasty multiplayer main course. This has always been Battlefield's intention though, and Modern Combat was after all just a straight port of a PC game with the barest sprinkling of next gen magic in the visuals.
Bad Company, on the other hand, has been built from scratch with DICE's brand new Frostbite engine, which not only significantly ups the stakes graphically and where the game's physics are concerned, but also finally allows Battlefield to offer a single-player Campaign every bit as free, involving, impressive and satisfying as the infamous multiplayer always has been.
Bite the bullet
The greatest use of the engine's power is evident in Bad Company's destructible environments. Sure, just at the mention of those two words, the more cynical of you out there will already be yawning and sneering simultaneously (quite a trick if you can do it), but when they say that the Frostbite engine creates a completely destructible environment, they're not talking about a bit of smashed glass and some dodgy fences - this world is there for the obliteration (or at least 90% of it - which is still unprecedented).
It seems that there's barely a particle of any massive battlefield that hasn't had its physics studied, and replicated, and torn apart. And, depending on the firepower you're spewing, are you going to feel the effect. A grenade chucked through the right hole can blow out every window in a house, whereas a well-placed tank attack can blow the whole house away, brick by brick - a misplaced incendiary will even sear and churn a cornfield perfectly. Go there - see the scorch marks, examine the soil. It's an unprecedented level of realistic vandalism.
Every man for himself
One of the best things that Bad Company has going for it, though, is context. We've all been growing mightily sick of having to play as jingoistic meatheads tossing out grenades and wisecracks in the name of the good ol' US of A. Bad Company is more akin to the movie Three Kings, in that your team aren't a bunch of heroic freedom fighters, or over-the-top gang of corporate mercenaries - they're the B Team, the shirkers, the real, believable guys thrown into a war about which they're positively ambivalent.
It's a uniform set-up - the central character is squad newbie Preston Marlow, plus there's Sarge, wise-cracking weapons expert Haggard, and Sweetwater the back-up guy; losers to a man. So when they discover a truck stuffed with gold, they decide to supplement their army pay with a daring campaign to get the loot. See, personal greed beats xenophobic patriotism every... single... time...
We don't want to drop too many jaws, but... this really could really be up there as a Call of Duty 4 contender. Could. Be.
Even if Bad Company's plot was a run-of-the-mill tale of terrorist-splatting model soldiers, the awesome level of destruction offered by the Frostbite engine would mark it out from the glut of modern warfare titles on 360. As it is, we're marching towards playing the game for next issue's review with supreme confidence.