New York Times Sides with Bad Company 2

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New York Times Sides with Bad Company 2

Post by Administrator on Sun 11 Apr - 18:20


"Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a better game than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2." Those are the first 15 words you will see when reading the In This Electronic War, Momentum Shifts to the Underdog New York Times review. The review also mentions how great the PC experience is, especially with a three-monitor setup.

Yup, I went there. Iím not taking refuge in nuances. Unlike many critics, Iím not weaseling out of making a tough call by saying that they are both great games.

Of course they are both great games, but no one can honestly reply, ďI donít careĒ when asked if you should pull into Burger King or McDonaldís. (Other suitable analogies: Toscanini versus von Karajan, Red Sox versus Yankees, Ginger versus Mary Ann.)

When it comes to these global mass-market products, everyone has a favorite. And when it comes to the latest generation of hard-core first-person combat shooters, I find Bad Company 2, released recently by Electronic Arts for Windows PCs, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, more sophisticated, more immersive, a boatload funnier and simply more interesting than Modern Warfare 2.

I think that phone ringing is Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, publisher of the Call of Duty series, calling to tell me that heís going to eat my heart for breakfast tomorrow while he enjoys his world-class art collection. O.K., Iím just joking about the threatened ventricle roasting. But those are the sorts of passions involved in the fight between E.A. and Activision for the loyalty (and money) of the serious shooter fans who collectively spend millions of hours every day playing these games.

The Call of Duty franchise, after all, has sold more than 55 million copies and generated around $3 billion in retail sales over the past seven years. The most recent game in the series, Modern Warfare 2, was the biggest commercial hit of 2009 and has already become one of the best-selling games of all time.

John Riccitiello, the chief executive at Electronic Arts, had only one hope of cracking Modern Warfare 2ís stranglehold on todayís shooter fan: the Stockholm game studio E.A. acquired in 2006 that is known as DICE.

As recently as five years ago the Swedish companyís Battlefield series was riding high. If you were a serious online PC shooter fan in the middle of the last decade, you were certainly playing Battlefield games. But then Activision swiped the market. Moving the Call of Duty games from World War II to the modern day made the games more exciting for many players.

The Call of Duty games included a robust offline component, allowing players to progress through a scripted story surrounded by computer-controlled opponents and comrades, while the most popular Battlefield games were essentially built to be played only online against other people. And players of Call of Duty were able to build a persistent online identity, so their virtual soldier would become more capable and deadly over time; earlier Battlefield warriors would almost always begin with the same abilities.

With Bad Company 2, the Battlefield series has now matched or exceeded the Call of Duty series in each of these areas.

First, modernity. Each franchise is actually quite similar in its fictional setting. In both series you play a Western soldier confronting a menace originating from the former Soviet Union.

But Bad Company 2 allows players to use a much broader range of modern military materiel, including tanks, helicopters, Humvees and other vehicles. More important, the virtual environments in Bad Company 2 are much larger and more diverse than those in Modern Warfare 2. Multiplayer battles in Modern Warfare 2 feel like chaotic arenas with people running all over the place looking out for themselves. In Bad Company 2, teamwork and voice communication are essential; the combat environments are more interesting and feel more akin to what I imagine a modern war zone to be.

Yet the biggest leap in Bad Company 2 is in its single-player campaign. It is only six or eight hours long ó comparable in length to the main story in Modern Warfare 2 ó and while it is not propelled by scripted set pieces as cinematic as those in the competition, Bad Company 2ís narrative glistens. The characters in Bad Company 2 ó the redneck, the hippie pilot, the geek, the weathered sergeant ó are profane, quirky and usually hilarious. By contrast, the characters in Modern Warfare 2 are somber, even dour. War is obviously serious business, but the characters in Bad Company 2 seem to be having a lot more fun.

And third, DICE has now fine-tuned the persistent role-playing components of the online game, by giving players a panoply of ways to advance their characters and garner recognition from other users around the world.

One final technical note for consumers: Bad Company 2 is a game that needs to be played on a powerful PC, rather than a console, in order to be fully appreciated. I played mostly on a big rig from AMD, the chip maker, that was able to produce some of the most beautiful graphics I have seen in a shooter. Perhaps more important, the AMD machine came with an ATI Radeon HD 5870 video card that is able to support three monitors at once.

The experience of playing on three monitors, with the peripheral vision it allows, has simply been a revelation. I will continue enthusiastically to use Intel and Nvidia-equipped computers as well, but it may be impossible for me ever to return to a single-monitor setup.

As for the battle of the first-person shooters, let it rage. It is players who are reaping the benefits of this arms race between Activision and Electronic Arts. For now Bad Company 2 is on top.

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