By Kenny Mahoney

Imagine how simple it would be to write a scathing review of a game with the word “bad” in the title. God, that would be easy; imagine the puns! However, unfortunately for me (and fortunately for you), I can’t do that. I’ll actually have to put some effort into writing about this one.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BC2), the latest in EA’s Battlefield series, throws you where the first game in the series left you—back into the ranks of Bad Company. During the single player campaign, you take on the role of Preston Marlowe, a soldier in the U.S. Army. You are a member of bad company—the rejects unfit for service anywhere else. Bad Company is the cannon fodder, a dumping ground for anyone who’s got nowhere else to go, or who pissed off the wrong person. Bad Company consists of only four members: you, the nervous nerd Terrence Sweetwater, the redneck pyromaniac Haggard and Sergeant Samuel D. Redford, your leader, who volunteered for the position with the promise that he’d be excused from service earlier.

The single player, while serviceable, isn’t really anything special. The only thing that draws you out of the otherwise mundane campaign is the colorful dialogue between you and your squad mates. Each character has their own unique personality, and loads of hilarious dialogue to make these personalities come through. Each character is much more developed than in any other military shooter I’ve played—it’s kind of like playing through a movie-game version of Bill Murray’s Stripes.

My main complaint lies with the trial-and-error play-style, which I was forced to adopt to make it through the game. To get past most areas, I simply had to get to a certain point, die, go back to the last checkpoint and memorize where all of the enemy spawn points were, progressing a little further each time. I can forgive this in some particularly tough areas, but when it happens for more than half of the game it can get irritating.

The Battlefield series is more famous for its multiplayer capabilities than anything else, and developer DICE did not disappoint with this installment. BC2 plays mostly the same as previous Battlefield games, but adds some polish and fine-tuning to make the experience truly excellent. Multiplayer uses a leveling-up system similar to the one you might find in other games of this genre (cough, Call of Duty, cough). Each the games’ four classes: assault, engineer, medic and recon, play differently enough to offer a unique experience, based on which one you choose. As you gain experience with each class, you earn points to unlock different items that suit that specialist’s area of expertise. For example, the engineer is your heavy-weapons and vehicle repairman, so as you level him up you’ll unlock newer and better rocket launchers, as well as anti-tank mines. The medic, who heals your teammates, will not only have the ability to dispense health to friendly players, but can even zap them back to life with a defibrillator, once they unlock it. You’ll also unlock other new weapons and gadgets common to all classes.

There are five different game types to choose from in BC2’s multiplayer. Anyone who has played a Battlefield game will be familiar with conquest mode, where two opposing teams fight for control over various across over a massive landscape, where each can be taken and captured by anyone at any time. BC2 also introduces rush mode, which focuses players on either defending or attacking two objectives at a time, advancing them across a large map depending on how far the attacking team gets. And, as usual, there’s also a no-frills deathmatch. Regular, old, shoot-each-other-in-the-face action, if that’s all you’re looking for.

I’m not a big fan of conquest mode, mainly because the map is so spread out that I have a hard time finding where the action is. Most of my time spent in Conquest games involves me spawning, running for a minute and a half, getting killed by someone I never saw and then doing it all over again. Even when my team is doing well, I have a hard time telling whether or not I made a difference, because the environment is so large and full of so many players. It’s an overall detatched experience—which is why I love rush mode. Rush is able to keep the large and interesting map design from conquest, but focuses the objective and brings players together—making sure you’re always in the thick of the action. Also, the ability to spawn with a “squad,” or group of players, makes it easy to find your buddies and take on the opposition.

So, if you’ve grown tired of playing with what Terrence Sweetwater describes as “special-ops with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors” (clearly a jab at the Modern Warfare crowd), Bad Company 2 may scratch your itch for something new to play.