So far, I'm torn on BF:BC2.
I loved BF1942, BF2, and even BF2142 (despite many people not liking the sci-fi theme). I thought MW was okay and found MW2 better, except for all the hacks and the PC matchmaking.
There are a few things I look for in an FPS:
- Guns that shoot where I'm pointing them
- Bullets that hurt what they hit
- A decent assortment of weapons, terrain, and scenarios to keep things interesting
- Anything that encourages teamwork
- Nothing that is inherently better than anything else (e.g. weapon X always kills more than weapon Y)
I thought the Battlefield series was great for all of these things and I generally found Modern Warfare was similar. The major difference was that Modern Warfare was more about "I" than "team" and it was more fast-paced run-and-shoot with guns blazing, rather than Battlefield's sneak up and make a coordinated attack. Both could be a lot of fun.
Compared to the previous Battlefield games, Bad Company 2 is a lot prettier. The textures are high-resolution, there's beautiful smoke, plenty of foliage, and everything else that makes modern games nice to look at. Unfortunately, I thought it went too far. It uses bloom like there's no tomorrow, making every level feel like purgatory and making it difficult to see anything. The colors are very much black and white or brown and tan, making it difficult to pick out the enemy. And with all the fog and smoke, it is difficult to follow the action because it's usually hidden behind a cloud of smoke. Overall, I found the looks are generally pleasing, but sometimes get in the way of the game.
The unlock system once again disadvantages the new guy. Just as in previous games, when you first start out, you are at an additional disadvantage because you don't have the better guns. Heck, you don't even get your classes characteristic gadget until you level up. It's bad enough that you are a noob and get killed by all the (already) experts, but now you have an additional disadvantage. For being an experienced FPS player, I spend a lot of time dead because I don't yet have all the unlocks.
The guns also feel much sloppier than in previous games. I think it's a combination between the bullet drop (new in BF:BC2) and the spread/hipfire/recoil/damage rolloff factors. Add these all together and you're left with a lot of ways to screw up a shot. For example, you can be standing toe-to-toe with an enemy as a medic with the first light machine gun. If you shoot from the hip and hold the trigger, you'll be lucky to hit the enemy more than once or twice. This feels very unrealistic: I don't care how big the gun is or how inaccurate the firing is, if an enemy is up in your grill, it would be difficult not to hit them. Despite this, it's still possible to pick off enemies from extremely long range using a spray-and-pray-style sub-machine gun once you get the hang of it (assuming you've unlocked the worthwhile guns), which also seems completely unreasonable. I can't hit the broad side of a barn from 20 paces if I hold down the autofire, yet single shots give me head-sized precision at a quarter mile?
All that said, they've also improved a lot. The knife is much better, with a reasonable distance to attack (not like BF2, where you could only hit around 10-15 feet away) and with a comfortably predictable lag to the attack (it takes a moment to swing, but you can see it happen). I instantly fell in love with the knife. No more dancing around waiting for a lucky strike or being knifed by somebody who was too far away for you to shoot properly. I have yet to experience somebody knifing me while running into my stream of bullets, which is much better than in BF2.
The destructable buildings are also quite an improvement, though they are somewhat of a mixed blessing. You can blow up just about anything, which is especially satisfying when you are driving a tank. It used to be quite aggravating for a tank to be stopped by foot-high cement wall, but now even full-size buildings can be quickly demolished and driven over. On the one hand, this is fun and visceral and helps flush out the snipers and other campers who hide in buildings. On the other hand, it makes "cover" a much less useful option. Years of FPS games have ingrained in me the practice of running behind a wall to reload and pausing a few seconds in case the enemy follows me. Now, running for cover is a death sentence. Just as quickly as I get behind my chest-high wall, the enemy launches a grenade at it, sending both the wall and me flying in small chunks. I find it has a tendency to make stealthy, calculated game play less useful and encourages going for the quickest kill possible. Without cover, whoever shoots first, wins.
I am infinitely grateful that DICE chose to stick with the server browser. It works almost exactly like the one from BF2, for better or for worse. Unfortunately, it's fraught with bugs. Loading the list of servers can easily take over a minute, which is significantly longer than BF2 took. Connecting to servers is hit and miss: often, after spinning for a few seconds, it will stop trying to connect without a single word as to why; it's as if you never pressed the button. Do this a few times and the game will crash. EA has also had a lot of trouble keeping the master servers up, which is nearly as debilitating as Ubisoft's authentication servers going down. They even added the ability to filter by the name of the server, but this appears to be completely nonfunctional. There are enough obvious bugs that I wonder if it was ever tested before it was released. For being the major bragging point against MW2, they could have spent some more time on it. Still, it lets you sort by ping, filter on various options, and save favorites, so it accomplishes everything us PC gamers have come to rely on.
There are a few things that I have been entirely happy with. First, the loading times are much better than previous games and put most modern games to shame. There is a short intro logo video, but it's entirely skippable. The title screen is basically used as a loading screen and it only takes about 10 seconds, even on my E6300 (not the world's fastest computer). When joining a server, the delay can be closer to 20-30 seconds, but even this isn't painful. I remember loading times of several minutes in both BF2 and BF2142.
Second, the new stat displays are beautiful. At the end of the round, you are greeted by a simple, yet insightful display of your current progress, your closest unlocks, a breakdown of how you scored points, and the accomplishments you earned that round. It's wonderful and a significant improvement on the similar thing in MW2. Unlike the one in BF2, the updates are instantaneous, rather than taking several minutes to propagate to the server. And you don't have to finish the round for those points to count. Also, when you earn a new unlock or rank, it is proudly displayed for you while you are playing (at the top of the screen, where it is visible but not obtrusive), and takes effect the next time you respawn. Both of these things, though minor in the general scheme of things, really make you smile when you notice them. It's clear that they were trying hard to improve.
The new Rush mode is also cool. I avoided at first, because a game based around "rushing" (in the Zerg sense) doesn't appeal to me, but that's not what Rush is. Instead, think of it as a bomb defusal map in CounterStrike or the attack/defend mode of Team Fortress 2. One side is trying to defend two points from being attacked by the other side. When those two points are lost, the map extends and exposes two more points, and this happens for 3 or 4 sets of points. The defenders, who are expected to die a lot, have unlimited tickets, but the attackers only have so many. It becomes a race to destroy all of the points before running out of tickets. It is great fun from both sides and results in a fast paced, run-and-shoot style more like MW2 than the usual Battlefield Conquest maps. Both have their place, which is why it's great to see them both implemented in the same game.
All in all, it certainly isn't a bad game. It's a lot like its predecessors and competitors, but it is also quite unique. It's rough around the edges in some places, and not all of the changes are for the better, but it's still a great game that you can play for hours on end.
A word of warning to those who have yet to purchase it: it has some steep requirements. It isn't quite Crysis, but don't expect to get by with an old, cheap video card. The minimum requirement is equivalent to a GeForce 7800GTX or Radeon X1900, but they recommend a modern, mid-range card like the GTX 260 or Radeon 4870. I first played it using an 8800GT (similar to the 7800GTX) and it was playable, but choppy, and it actually overheated the video card! Turning the detail down to low helps the framerate, but the difference in quality is night and day. I since bought an HD 5770 and it works wonderfully even at high quality. And that really is the way it should be played. You may want to disable bloom (if only to prevent headaches), but it looks so much better on high quality that you'll be disappointed if you have to settle for low quality. It also needs a decent CPU. My E6300 overclocked to 4GHz works fine, but many people are recommending a quad core processor (which the game will actually take advantage of).
Would I recommend buying Bad Company 2? Not just yet. If a friend has a copy, try it out and see if you like it. Fans of BF2 and MW2 will both find things that they love and hate. Also, it has had a rough launch, with bugs and server downtime, so the early adopters aren't having a lot of fun. Wait for the dust to settle before you make your decision if you are at all worried about investing $50.