Having cleansed my palette with both Halo Reach and the annual Call of Duty, returning to Bad Company 2 has granted me a revelation about multiplayer: Design-philosophy used in single-player games can be applied to multiplayer with surprisingly favorable results. Let’s analyze:
FPS campaigns usually set the stage with one goal in mind; provide a visceral, intense experience. The more a shooter excites my survival instincts and compels me to kill these d-bags shooting at me, the more that shooter has succeeded.
The Call of Duty series popularized the approach of pushing the player through heavily-scripted sequences to achieve this effect, a design-method that has become widely used for all action titles, shooter and otherwise. When scripting is used successfully, the player can be manipulated to think and feel just what the game wants him or her to, and thus can be provided with the aforementioned intense and cinematic experience.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 also sports a CoD-clone campaign (final mission set on an airplane anyone?), however, the most filmic moments are found in the online multiplayer.
Though praised by critics, Bad Company 2’s multiplayer offering pulls a trick so clever it passes right over many gamer’s heads:
Where FPS multiplayers traditionally dump a load of hopefully-balanced guns and maps in players’ lap and asks them to make their own fun, Bad Company is more ambitious:
Every map, from it’s building placement to vehicle-spawn time, is designed to make multiplayer matches feel like Hollywood battle-scenes. More precisely, to feel like scripted video games aping Hollywood battle-scenes.
In BC2, the most effective ways to play are almost always the most spectacular and rewarding. As a player, I could camp in the second floor of a remote building and earn myself a few points for killing unsuspecting enemies walking through the door. However, a more fun option would be to play as an engineer and maintain my teammate’s tank, putting myself in danger, but crucially, earning a lot more points.
Employing a risky and team-oriented playing style will reward you both with thrills and points, paradoxically making team-play the most selfish option.
In Call of Duty campaigns, soldiers on screen are AI-chess pieces playing out a script the game demands you follow, in a Battlefield match, those helicopters swiveling out of control and exploding in fiery clouds are being piloted by real players on the other sides of internet connections.
The sniper on a faraway rooftop headshot-ing the enemy soldier in front of you is a flesh-and-bone human being, as is the enemy soldier himself.
Through the magic of carefully thought-out design, all of these people are brought together to shape battles worthy of the silver screen. And when it works, it gives the sensation of scale, intensity and immersion found in triple-A single-player experiences.
Yes, the odd match might be populated by jerks who would sell their grandmothers for perfect K/Ds, but the number of – and I hate to say this – epic moments far outweigh the frustrating ones.
Multiplayer games rarely hold my attention for long before I hunger for another single-player adventure, freed from the constraints of other people, but Battlefield fills out the story-craving part of my heart as well as the competitive one.
Coming from Norway, it is in my blood to despise our Swedish neighbors, but when they make games of this calibre, I am content with fighting them virtually.