Sunday, May 1, 2011

Practicum #6 - Jeff

I've been playing a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 this semester, and it came out as being my favorite game I played for the practicum assignment. I've actually been a huge fan of the series since it came out at the beginning of the decade, and I think the series experimental transition from PCs to consoles has been pretty successful.

BC2 is currently the biggest competition for Xbox LIVE giants Call of Duty (Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2) and Halo Reach. According to Raptr, a site that tracks playership, it ranks just below those games in popularity on Xbox LIVE. It is also similar to those giants in the sense that it is a first person shooter, which says something about the dominance of the genre over LIVE.

BC2's greatest difference from COD is in scale. Maps are enormous to the point where walking from one side to the other is downright impractical. There is a huge emphasis on vehicles, which range from ATVs to attack helicopters. I found the addition of vehicles added a great layer to an already deep game, and added emphasis to the teamwork aspect.

Teamwork is key. Players can decide to play as one of the game's four classes: Assault, who can give extra ammo to teammates, Medic, who can heal and revive dead players, Engineer, who has a rocket launcher and can repair friendly vehicles, and Recon, who has a sniper rifle. Players on the same team can organize into four player squads, which enables voice communication. Squad members are allowed to respawn on each other if they die, and are given extra points on top of the base value for doing teamwork actions on squad mates (giving ammo, reviving, etc).

To further encourage teamwork actions, players can point at certain objects in the game world and hit the "back" button on the Xbox controller and their avatar will say something logical about that object. For example, if you are low on ammo and you look an a teammate who is playing as assault, your character will shout that you need ammo, and the other player will be notified both audibly and visually on the game's radar. Similarly, if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and see a friendly vehicle driving by, you can press "back" on it and ask for a pickup. This type of communication is so efficient that I find most players prefer it over using the headset when possible.

The action is very intense in BC2. As you can see in the video, the game uses various visual and sound effects to heighten the excitement. Unlike most games, holes can be blown in walls and entire buildings can collapse. Again, this game was most fun when I played as a team member, because there would always be someone willing to get points for reviving me or giving me ammo, my squad mates were always happy to have me respawning on them to back them up, and there are very few things as relieving or terrifying as having a player controlled helicopter operating in your area.

BC2 also has an add on expansion pack on sale on Xbox LIVE which takes players back to Vietnam. What makes this add on particularly entertaining is that all vehicles will play music that was popular during the era when you are driving them, and your enemies can hear you too. Yes, that does mean that it is possible to play "Ride of the Valkyries"as you fly your Huey helicopter over the North Vietnamese Army. The expansion costs roughly $12.

Hulu Plus also recently became available on Xbox LIVE. As part of the promotional program for the service, all Xbox LIVE members can try the service for free from now until May 6th. I'll try to have a look at it in time for my last post.

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