....Destroying your surroundings is a major part of the gameplay. From the get-go Preston Marlow, the role you'll assume in B-Company -- the squad of misfit soldiers that drives the plot along -- is taught that when things blow up in the environment they have the expected affect on their surroundings. You awaken from an enemy attack in a trench and have to go through the requisite "look up and down, crouch here and jump there" before diving into the action.
Before we knew it Preston, Sarge, Haggard and Stillwater were all hopping into a hummer, replete with swiveling machine gun on its hood, and making their way to an enemy encampment. Along our way it seemed appropriate to get a feel for the weight of our newfound mode of transport. To do this we stomped our way through a row of fences and another wooden structure that was gone before we could take note of what it was. Needless to say the destructibility isn't limited to the walls of buildings. As our journey on the hummer came to a close it was time for my crew and I to take to our first encounter with the enemy in what appeared to be a civilian village. There were less than a handful of buildings and even fewer soldiers but it was a fitting starting point. The emphasis on destruction is made clear from the start as no doors in the game are actually able to be opened by conventional methods. They all have to be blown open if you want to get to what's on the other side. It may sound a bit dramatic, but it's a quick way to get you acquainted with the idea that walls aren't quite the impediment that they have been in the past. In our last few play sessions with Bad Company we couldn't help but feel as though the game moved at a slower clip than most FPSes. Almost like it was trying to be more of a tactical and slow-paced shooter than we would have expected from a typical Battlefield game. All of that has changed now. Maybe it was the unfinished software code handcuffing the action but all is right in this latest build. Aiming is quick -- we even toned down the sensitivity a bit -- and responsive and lets you move from target to target without much of a worry. Health injections and other equipment are also at the ready in the campaign, unlike multiplayer where you need to level up to earn certain items. The destruction is still largely based around your grenade launcher that's attached to your default machine gun in Bad Company, though things like the shotgun are relegated to the standard grenade tosses. To get to a bad guy firing through a window all you need to do is launch a grenade into the side of the building, Wait for the loads of debris to clear and land a few well-placed shots, it's that simple. As our journey through the introductory level continued we were shown more and more of our company's lighter side through quips and anecdotes from our three armed brethren. Stillwater apparently has a crush on the army dispatcher and Haggard is clearly the heavy weapons guru of the group and has a fetish for people who "smell very clean." The end of the first level showed our quartet of heroes finding their first stick of gold, which then launches them off on their defunct path in the hope of riches and glory. Rewinding a bit: after our first encounter with enemy forces had concluded and we'd pretty much laid waste to the surrounding buildings we journeyed onward to a bank of mortar installations. While we were tasked with destroying a few of them, the real point of our mission was to protect an underlying city from incoming tanks. To do this we had to hop in our own launcher and fire off a few mortars of our own via a top-down satellite view of the town. The real challenge was to see if you could fire off a few shots ahead of the incoming tanks and lead them into the explosion. In true Bad Company form the surrounding buildings could also be laid to rest despite the fact that they weren't a part of our objective. The rest of the first level presented one of our real problems with Bad Company and that's with the general level design. Every level that we've seen, and this remains true with the rest of the first stage,is rooted on the idea of battling in small villages and shanty towns. We haven't seen any large refineries or skyscrapers in urban areas to blow apart, just small shanties and miniature warehouses that all look similar from one another. Granted we haven't seen more than a couple levels of the single-player, the multiplayer levels seem to follow in a similar tone. The last fight sequence from the opening level was a welcome change as it provided for a wide open area with explosions going off in the distance and a smoke-ridden landscape. It was a multi-tiered environment with solid draw distance and plenty of enemy filled spots to enjoy. We're guessing that Bad Company will also employ its vehicles as a method to offer diversity as it did with the first level through the use of boats. There will also be the requisite tanks, helicopters and ATVs to wrestle around with in both the campaign and multiplayer. On the aesthetic side of the coin everything was looking much cleaner than it had in the past. Previously Bad Company featured flickering lighting and textures throughout the game world and cutscenes. The introductory helicopter landing is now smooth and fluid, as is with the rest of the fast-paced gameplay. Even when you fire off a grenade shell into the side of a building and the innards come flying out like last night's dinner. The color palette seems confined to greens, browns, and hazy blues, but that seems consistent with the desert-like surroundings where the action takes part. With its inspiring environmental interaction and overall graphical flair as well as the awesome use of HDR sound to bring the battles to life, Battlefield: Bad Company is hoping to breathe life into an otherwise stagnant June in the way of first-person shooters. We're still a bit concerned with the ability of the gameplay to stay fresh and exciting, but with the land-based infantry combat and the fairly wide breadth of vehicles at your disposal, chances are that Bad Company will have legs for months to come after its June 23 release.
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