With the subtlety of a tank, EA is making it clear: Battlefield Bad Company 2 is the company's contender to Call of Duty's throne.

A few weeks ago in New York I had the opportunity to try a map of Bad Company 2, the PC and console military first-person shooter from EA's DICE studio. The sandy Chilean map, called Arica Harbour, is the one that will be available in the game's PlayStation 3-exclusive multiplayer beta later this month.


A preview event gives a casual first-person shooter player like myself little opportunity to assess the quality of the map. I fought in the almost desert-like environment in buildings, on a bridge, all under a seemingly hot sun. I drove tanks, stormed across the bridge and knocked down walls. But I can't say whether it's balanced or whether it will prove as addictive to play as the best arenas in the genre.

I can say, however, that the feature list for this game and the sensory impression it leaves make clear what this game's potential is. EA's Medal of Honor series might be missing in action, but with Bad Company they've got a game that can gun for Activision's Call of Duty.

Screenshots and even the animated stills from yesterday's beta announcement already show how good the game looks. Bad Company 2's engine, an enhanced version of its predecessort's, supports the chipping and collapsing destructibility of any building in the game. Rockets punch through walls, as they did in the first Bad Company. But now tanks can crumple support beams to level even the interior frame. And, more subtly, an engineer with a drill can poke a hole in a wall and then shoot through it.


Multiplayer combat in the game is class-based. Each class, be it soldier, medic, engineer or recon can be outfitted with several items and attributes. Before entering combat you might switch your soldier's rifle but also alter his radar to add motion detection. Perks are unlockable, secured as the player earns experience points in each battle and levels up. Upgrades are scheduled and unlocked per class. As we reported last month, the limited edition of the game will provide gamers with six upgrades, including some that enhance the arms and armor of vehicles, immediately.


Players can also earn pins during battle, which serve as more granular Achievements or Trophies, rewarding, say, good shotgun performance. You gain these for bragging rights.


The essence of Battlefield is the openness of its combat zone. Players can fight on foot, in helicopters or on tanks. They can command any vehicle or post in the battlefield, opening the scene to a variety of tactical encounters. The map I played was set for a Rush challenge, which involved one team trying to secure several locations by reaching them and holding off any attackers. I had my moments, gunning some of the rival team down on the sidelines. But I'm the kind of guy who rolls in on a tank and then gets blasted by the RPG trooper hiding around the corner who somehow knew I'd be there.

Bad Company's battlefield is an impressive site and one theoretically open to a wide variety of multiplayer strategy. The brand may not have the momentum of a Call of Duty yet, but the intent to compete is there. call of Duty is still the king. This one's the hungry hopeful.


Bad Company 2 will be released in early March 2010.

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