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Battlefield: Bad Company

Is this summer shooter the game to keep you away from COD4?

Last year, PSW rolled out a first-look at EA's revamped Battlefield from the trenches of DICE studios in Stockholm and we were impressed. The sheer level of destruction the DICE team had implemented into the game through its hardware-pushing Frostbite Engine left us chomping at the bit for more time with its PS3 debut. It really looked amazing.

Twelve months later and it's finally arrived - and while the silly story, drab voice acting, contrived dialogue and limp characterisation made us wince more than once, the world that it takes place in is more than enough to compensate for said errors.

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For the uninitiated out there, the story of Bad Company is this: you play Preston Marlow, a new recruit in B Company (hence the title) working with a ragtag threesome of war vets in the midst of a fictional war in the equally fictional country of Serkozache in Eastern Europe. The war itself isn't really the issue in the game here, instead your primary prerogative throughout the game is to track down and rob a cache of extremely valuable gold bullion Three Kings-style.

A sound of thunder
Marlow's crew are what you'd expect: Sarge, the obligatory shouty boss man of the platoon, Sweetwater, the dorky, spectacle wearer who tends to stick to the background during heavy fire fights, and Haggard, the stoopid hillbilly with a penchant for blowing things up and thinking about the consequences later.

Normally the Battlefield franchise is best known for its multiplayer, so this is a step forward for the series in that DICE is really pushing its single-player campaign.The gamble has somewhat paid off despite the chequered storyline and characters, making for an immensely immersive experience thanks to a number of technical nuances woven into the gaming tapestry by the Swedish dev team. How so? By utilising HDR audio and lighting, DICE has added extra oomph to the standard shooter DNA.

What does this do? It alters the way you hear things like gunshots, explosions, reloading and speech depending on whether or not you're indoors or outdoors. It makes an amazing difference in terms of heightening the realism of the various encounters. For example, launch a rocket from your grenade launcher inside a tight space and the blast will leave your ears ringing until they gradually normalise.

Step outside and the sound shifts. It works in exactly the same way for the lighting, walloping the senses in multiple ways making for a full-throttle experience akin to the battlefield maelstrom of Infinity Ward's COD4.

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And with the serious power of the Frostbite Engine, this is certainly a contender (technically, at least) for one of the year's most impressive shooters so far, that will undoubtedly find slivers of itself in the DNA of imitators before the year's end.

Keep on truckin'
And like previous Battlefields that came before it, there are plenty of vehicles for you to get to grips with including jeeps with mounted guns, tanks, armoured trucks, helicopters and boats; all of which come armed to the hilt and operate fairly straightforwardly. Acceleration and braking are confined to both the LI and L2 buttons while steering stems from the left stick with multiple point of view options, including third and first-person options - best for raging around the map in tanks.

There's nothing quite like running amok through a map in a tank, crashing through walls, crushing enemy troops and levelling entire buildings with deafening cannon blasts. There are more vehicles too, at one point in the game when I had to storm a grand palace via a golf course, I found myself hurtling down the green in a rickety golf caddy. Sure it's silly, but it's still a right giggle.

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