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Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Review

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

Here’s another report from the front lines, by your local war correspondent Benjamin Sloboda.  I was recently shown a letter from a marine featured in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Private Marlowe:

 “Hey, I’m Preston Marlowe.  I’ve been with the Marines for several years now, and I have to say I love it.  I get to go to all sorts of interesting locales, from the frozen tundra, to the middle of the desert.  It’s never a dull moment with my squad, Bad Company.  We’re sort of the misfits if you will, but we all have our own talents.

Me?  I’m a shooter; a marksman if you will.  I point my gun at the enemy, and with a simple click of my trigger finger, they’re deleted.  We have Terrence Sweetwater, our communications specialist.  He spent a couple years at MIT getting his kicks with computers, but the Marines snapped him up, put an LMG in his hands, and sent him to us.  He’s a rich kid caught in a war he neither cares about or is interested in, but he’s family.  We also have an explosives expert fromTexasnamed George Gordon Haggard Junior, which is an apt description of his personality and appearance.  Hags just likes to bust everyone’s balls, but he knows what he’s about.  Then there’s Sarge, or Sergeant Samuel D. Redford, with his sultry “Midnight Man” composure. Sarge only has a few days until retirement, and he’s planning on fishing every river and lake in the United States.

 Our Squad was just reassigned to the Special Activities Division.  It’s unclear what General Braidwood wants us to do, but our first assignment is to find Major James Aguire somewhere in South America.  I’m not allowed to share details at the moment, but our pilot, Flynn, seems to be a little short on brain cells and I’m not super-excited to be getting in his whirly bird. 

 Well, my flight’s about to leave, so I hope to see you on the other side!

 

Cordially,
PrivatePrestonMarlowe
Bad Company”

 

Isn’t that a wonderful sentiment?  I have a first-person account of how the representation of Private Marlowe’s exploits on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 have turned out.  The gameplay is good.  The controls can sometimes be a little tricky when getting shot at from everywhere, but the realism…it’s war, baby.  The hard part is not knowing who’s shooting at you and from where.  The HUD indicates possible directions, but sometimes, it’s a shard from the wall behind you that’s caused you the hurt.  It’s not a complaint; this level of realism is hard to fake.  The new Frostbite Engine developed by DICE has made this level of gaming top notch.  The amount of destruction you can hand out is epic.  A machine gunner got you pinned down? Blast the floor from under him…problem solved.  Taking sniper fire, but don’t have a clear view for retaliation?  Blast a hole in the wall and create one!  This is where the hit marker direction can play you a little false.  The guy shooting at you?  Your hit detector says you’re getting shot from behind, but that’s actually from the wall behind you exploding outward from his grenade.  He’s still in front of you, but the time it takes to turn around and back again will prove fatal. 

Again, as with Modern Warfare 2, I’d have to say the US Military must have been hard-pressed to allow the type of mil-spec weaponry to leave the coding floor.  Some of the toys you get to play with are truly astounding, especially in multiplayer.  I piloted an Apache helicopter loaded with Hellfire missiles over a base inRussia, and brought a certain flair to the scorched-Earth approach.  I hijacked a jetski and snuck in behind enemy lines to provide a mobile spawn point for my team.  I drove a Bradley tank through a shallow river and ran over a few infantry in the way.  I piloted a Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV via remote computer terminal, loaded with a minigun and Hellfire missiles, enough to take down a few buildings with enemies inside.  I played as a Recon sniper, a Medic loaded with LMG and defibrillator, an Assault class with assault rifles and ammo boxes, and an Engineer class able to repair any vehicle.  The unlock system is a little hard to understand when you first start playing, but much relies on the similarities to the US Military.  If you do your job, you get rewarded.  If you are loyal to your squadmates, you reap the benefits.  A medic throws out a first aid kit: another soldier uses it by standing very close, you get ten points; a squadmate uses it, you get twenty points.  The rules are simple: do your job, and you can move up faster.

The number of multiplayer games is enough to satisfy most gamers.  Rush is a game involving M-COM stations (which look like big ammo boxes with computers on them) that either need to be attacked or defended.  A defender team has to reach 75 kills of the attacker team without losing two M-COM stations. Attacking teams must destroy the M-COM stations without dying 75 times total.  Tactics play a very important part.  If you revive a fallen attacker, you increase the number of respawn tickets (because technically you added one back since the player didn’t respawn).  There are usually four rounds of M-COM stations to destroy, and once a pair has been destroyed, the 75 respawn tickets are restored and the battle starts over in a different part of the map.  Oh yeah, and the maps are HUGE!  Conquest is a capture-the-flag game where you need to gain certain areas marked by a flag, and your respawn tickets fluctuate based on how many flags you control.  The more flags you control, the more respawn tickets you gain.  The first team to zero tickets is the loser.  Squad Rush is a much smaller version of Rush, that involved only two teams of four pitted against one another, with only 20 respawn tickets for the attackers and only one M-COM station for each of two fights.  Maps are halved for this game. Onslaught is a downloadable addition which sends one squad of four to capture waypoints along the huge maps.  The squad isn’t pitted against another team of players, though…the enemies are all AI bots.  Finally, there is a Squad Deathmatch, which sends four squads of four against each other in a race to 50 kills.  The maps are still very big for the Deathmatches.  If you can get Battlefield for $20, do so.  You won’t regret it.  Even on the easiest difficulty, the entire game can take 18 hours to play through, and with the real physics of the Frostbite engine, the learning curve is pretty steep.  One of the most amazing videos I saw on YouTube was called, “Mathematics”, and involved a player using geometry and algebra to shoot down helicopters by firing missiles into the middle of nowhere while predicting the flight paths the choppers were expected to take.  DICE did a fantastic job with this one, for sure.

This is your local war correspondant, Benjamin Sloboda, signing off.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

August 11th, 2011 Comments off

Your war correspondent Ben Sloboda here for another glimpse into the world at war.  Today, I wanted to talk about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  It’s been out for over a year and a half now, but the online community is still alive and kicking.  Even with Black Ops out for about nine months and Modern Warfare 3 looming on the horizon, Modern Warfare 2 is worth your while.  If you’re a fan of First Person Shooters and haven’t played through this game, you’re missing out.  If you haven’t played the first Modern Warfare, you are truly missing TWO great gaming experiences.  The one-player campaign is fantastic, with very little to bog you down in terms of having to slog through long-winded storylines with multiple endings and a massive cast of characters.  There are some good plot twists, but only a handful of characters you need to keep track of, and some of the cutscenes are a little long, but keep you enthralled.  The amount of military specification, or mil-spec, weaponry and accessories is surprising.  Some of the military’s top secret stuff is just lying around for you to pick up and use.  I think piloting a few Predator UAVs armed with missiles is something the military really didn’t want to give out right away, but the realism is totally worth it.

New to the series is the Special Operations, or Spec-Ops.  You can play through most of these with one person, but the multiplayer Spec-Ops really shine.  One player pilots an AC-130, blasting the heck out of the bad guys, while trying to protect player number two wandering around on the ground.  If you can’t find any online buddies to play, you can attempt most of the Spec-Ops missions in split-screen with a couch buddy, but a big flat screen is needed to truly enjoy it.

Beyond a gripping storyline and audio track, the graphics are so vivid, you might begin worrying about the bullet holes in your couch cushions.  In fact, even the multiplayer graphics are head and shoulders above the previous Modern Warfare’s single player missions.  There are still a few of those “Where do I go?” moments that seemed to plague the series, but the gameplay itself doesn’t suffer too badly. 

Then we get into the online multiplayer, which encompasses all skill levels, from the total beginner, to an elite group of players who are pulling off 360 no-scopes.  The new multiplayer has added features as well.  If you can manage to string together a bunch of kills without dying, you are rewarded with a killstreak like sending in your own AC-130 and firing its three different types of guns via laptop.  If you’re new to FPS and the Modern Warfare series, you might benefit from the Deathstreaks.  Get killed a few times in a row without killing an enemy and you’re rewarded with extra life, or the ability to steal an enemy’s loadout (possibly accessing weapons you haven’t unlocked yet).  There are so many challenges and gun attachments to unlock, that the multiplayer is where your replay value really exists.  You also get “Perks”, like faster reloading, unlimited sprinting, and invisibility to UAV, which can all be upgraded to “Pro” versions and added bonuses.  If you like to run around and shoot at everybody, Team Deathmatch is where you belong.  If you want to try and sneak around everyone to plant a bomb on a specified target, Search and Destroy is your game of choice.  If neither of those interest you, there are more than ten different game modes in Multiplayer to try out.  You’ll definitely find one you like.

This has been another correspondence from Ben Sloboda, reporting on the world at war.  If you can pick up Modern Warfare 2 for $15 on craigslist or at a used game store, it’s a worthwhile investment in fun.

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