Posted by: KoKroach (Koratte) | July 7, 2008

Battlefield: Fuel of War. No, wait…

Battlefield - BC

So, undoubtedly most of you enjoy a good FPS, as that’s the main staple of the Xbox library, but when it comes to some games, the hype and media coverage can be overwhelmingly biased. Take Fifa. We all know it’s a load of crap, but it’s bought every year because up until recently it has totally dominated the advertisement scene on most mainstream media outlets. Now take Pro Evo. MUCH better game all-round, but only the less ‘casual’ gamers benefit from actually reading reviews and a bit of insider knowledge.

The exact same thing is true for any game genre, or indeed most industries, more media coverage means more profit – but not always a better experience or product.

Now, you’ve heard me rant about Frontlines: Fuel of War before, about how it’s the new god of massive online skirmishes, and for the most part I’m not wrong, but after giving Bad Company a considerable portion of my time over the last week or so since release, I feel I should level the playing field. Yes FoW has 50 player maps and some very well balanced kit and weapon selections, allowing for pretty sweet squad customisation, but it does miss a few of the little, but important things, and I think the people over at DICE were watching very closely…

First of all, the single player in Bad Company is by no definition groundbreaking, but it is a hell of a step up from the story included in any previous battlefield game, or indeed any other game in it’s class. It tells of a group of 4 fairly normal-ish guys stuck in B company, and that essentially makes them cannon-fodder. So the appeal of stealing a few hundred gold bars off of the deadliest mercenaries in the world seems appealing, right? Ok, so it’s still not the best story, but provides a few good laughs, and more importantly, serves as the perfect tutorial for playing online, where the heart of the battlefield series has always been.

The weapon customisation is fairly limited in comparison though, especially if you don’t own the gold edition, or can’t be bothered to jump through any of EA’s hoops. You can however unlock 10 guns and 5 bits of specialist kit by ranking up. The guns are fairly useful, one for each class, normally covering each extreme of it’s main function while the base weapons are more balanced. (For example, the sniper class gets a fairly powerful bolt-action sniper rifle as standard, but can unlock either a suppressed semi-automatic rifle that isn’t amazingly accurate or powerful, or they can unlock the uber-powerful and uber-loud Barrett M95.) The 5 bits of kit you can unlock are however a bit more interesting.

Of course you get the bog-standard anti-tank mine, and the sticky C4 charge (that strangely for an online game can destroy any vehicle with just one charge). Vaguely more interesting is the ‘life-2’ chemical dispenser that can fully heal you, but takes a while to recharge between uses, the GPS transmitter that can call in a mortar strike on a specified location, and my least favourite, the laser designator. Sure it sounds cool, but unless you know how to cheat with it a little, it’s fairly useless, as the tank driver you target with it gets a fair bit of warning to bail out and run like a sissy, plus you’re a sitting duck when you use it.

The whole ‘Frontline’ thing that was the main advantage of Fuel of War has also been surpassed, as the new ‘Gold rush’ mode offered by Bad Company is a much more efficient way of containing the fighting to a small area. It extends the combat area to the next base whenever attackers complete the objective at the previous base, causing the defending team to retreat and regroup. It also leaves all previously available terrain unlocked, so a sneaky defending sniper can linger around after the attackers push forward and cause a bit of confusion and slow their advance, but that option is only available after the attackers have pushed the defenders back, so one team very rarely has a big advantage.

Another *usually* very cool feature of Bad Company is that when playing online you get automatically grouped into squads of up to four, so you can work together with strangers to great effect, and slowly amass an army of loyal supporters (or at least a few Xbox Live friends) ready to follow you into battle next time you decide to wage war online. The reason I say *usually* is that in keeping with the tradition on Xbox live, you will fairly often be slumped with a squad that will either a. camp at your own base and render the squad spawn useless, b. all go sniper and refuse to support your strategic genius, or c. team-kill you in a fit of panic as you wander past them.

However the best new addition, in my opinion, is destructible environments. You can hide anywhere in this game, in any building, behind a wall, even in a bush – but not for long. If you’re spotted a few explosive rounds or a C4 charge can demolish almost all walls and various other bits of scenery, removing any protection you might have had. This makes every game a little different, as the amount of cover will be different depending on how often it’s used. If you come up against a few campers you can take a tank and blow holes in all the buildings, forcing them to leave cover and change tactics. Sniper in the window? Plant a C4 charge alongside, detonate, and run in with your knife.

Still, despite the remaining flaws in the battlefield games, you can’t deny that they are still producing some pretty fine work. It may be at a disadvantage to some of the features available in Frontlines, but overall, even given my previous bias, it is a more refined game with an experienced team behind it, so old man Bad Company still just about manages to beat off the competition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a close race, and both games are definitely worth a purchase, but if you only have the budget for one squad orientated, kit-based military shooter, Battlefield: Bad Company has to be the winner.

At least until Frontlines gets a sequel…



  1. Well well well, I never thought I’d see the day you’d be recommending a shooter over Frontlines (other than Halo of course). Shocking. Simply shocking.

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