Battlefield: Bad Company knows exactly what it is. From a very early stage in the game, an offhand conversation takes place between two of the principle characters who solemnly ask each other exactly what they're fighting for in the war they're part of. Unable to come up with a decent reason, one sighs with defeat and laments: "At this point we're just a couple thousand guys in Europe, blowing things up." The response from his teammate?
"Oh. Okay. That's good."
A roll of the DICE
As you can tell from that exchange, developer Digital Illusions CE (DICE) isn't looking for serious, grim and gritty warfare. Battlefield: Bad Company is fully aware that it's a videogame and follows first person shooter conventions with a wink and nod to the player, offering a lighter-hearted slant on a crowded and typically jingoistic, po-faced genre, satirizing its clichés in the same vein as movies such as Kelly's Heroes and Three Kings.
Make no mistake; Bad Company's tongue is placed firmly in its own cheek, rather than offensively sticking out at its audience or war itself. This is something hinted to from the main menu's music, which opens not with the expected Sturm und Drang of dramatic drums and booming trumpets, but with the smooth tones of a restrained piano and string driven number, slick with the confidence and swagger of a jazz standard.
It's different and somewhat refreshing, easing you into something that refuses to battle against other titles of its type and dance to its own beat. Because while Battlefield: Bad Company makes its statement on the futility and pains of war, it's aware in the knowledge that ultimately... you just want to blow things up in fancy ways.
"No need using a door, just make your own!"
Set in the fictional conflict against Russia and placed in a squad of soldiers full of misfits and insubordinates (called B-company, hence the title) who are basically used as cannon fodder, you're taken along for an adventure which revolves around your four-man unit who stumble across some mercenary gold and look to get a piece of that action for themselves rather than fight in a war they're seen as expendable in.
Set in a detailed and luscious looking world full of flora, water and various structures, Bad Company swiftly follows through its promise of parody by letting you blow the merry heck out of all these things in a massively destructible environment. Trees collapse, buildings are turned into hollow husks, flowers and grass get shredded whether you mean it or not - and it all looks spectacular.
This element adds an excellent degree of tactics to your proceedings (in both single player story mode and the superbly comprehensive 24-player online multiplayer), meaning cover isn't something you can always rely on and fire fights are constantly changing as holes in roofs are blown out for sniping vantage points, walls are forcibly removed by explosives and the battlefield reshaped.
In good Company
The deformable surroundings change the way you would typically play a first person shooter and it's perfectly within the tone of the game's comedic take on the genre, which also has you firing artillery installations on convoys, planting explosives on designated targets, riding around numerous vehicles (including vans, tanks and, erm, a golf cart), making repairs on said vehicles, watching your AI controlled teammates play Rock, Paper, Scissors in real time cut scenes and more.
Given the pedigree of the Battlefield name, it should also come as no surprise its multiplayer is a fantastically polished affair. Rich and varied, the Bad Company's nuances shine through a welcoming interface and intelligent, intuitive gameplay.
It's a big, loud and fun package throughout and a different look at first person shooters thanks to its refusal to take itself too seriously, some nicely written narrative and excellent presentation in both convincing audio and sharp visuals. Bad Company? Nah. It's all good.