Sunday, November 8, 2009

Favored Games: Bad Company

You may have noticed that I include both video games and traditional tabletop RPGs on my list of Favored Games. The criteria for this list involves my personal tastes. These are not the greatest games of all times. Sometimes, a game on the list has had an influence on me creatively, but not all have; some are on this list for that reason. Others represent, to me, just what a game should be. They establish an objective, and meet it head-and-shoulders. Hell, I may even put a few games on the list that are complete, howling messes, just because they're fun. All of this is just a long-winded way of saying "I like these games."

Battlefield: Bad Company made one basic promise: 95 percent of the environment can be destroyed. I, for one, have always disliked games where the environment remains unchanged, no matter what you do. I'm in a tank, I fire the main gun, hit a building -- and it remains standing. I chuck grenade after grenade, and the trashcans survive better than the people.

I understand why it has to be this way. It's a limitation of the medium. Computer game levels are basically like mazes, and it can be hard for the program to handle the maze being destroyed. But I don't accept this anymore. If Bad Company can have destructible environments, so can Halo, Fallout 3, and Modern Warfare 2.

Why is this seemingly insignificant element make me so happy? First, because I revel in the destruction. There's a mission in Bad Company where you have to advance on a town, and the enemy has set up machine gun nests throughout. But, you have a target designator, so you can call in artillery strikes. I blew up every single building in that town. Even ones I knew had no one inside. Just for the joy of it.

Second, I hate the scenario where you're pinned down by this bot, and you just can't get to him. You don't have a clear line-of-sight, because he's under cover. In Bad Company, you can vaporize that cover and leave him exposed. If you're really fortunate, the bad guy gets caught in the blast.

Bad Company added the extra bonus of a great engine, with excellent weapons. The latter are scattered throughout each level, so you must find them. It's a great Easter Egg feature. Find the gun, and you get to use it. I was less engaged by the whole "find the gold bars on each level" aspect, because you couldn't do anything with them.

Finally, the game has a wonderful sense of humor. Aside from the dialog, which is hysterical, I rather enjoyed escaping from two tanks by driving a golf cart to safety. It wasn't my only option at the time, there was a APC on hand, and I wanted to see if I could do it. Not only that, but you get to adjust the radio dial and listen to different music while you do it.

In the end, Bad Company is on my list because it delivers on its premise, and then some. There's nothing extraneous or out-of-character. Nothing feels tacked-on, or left incomplete. I wish more games did that.

I can't wait for Bad Company 2 (which promises full environment destruction!).

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