So far, 2010 has been a nightmare for gamers. The last two months have supplied far too many high quality games for any single person to enjoy, and the trend doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon. It seems like every Tuesday there is a new AAA title being released, yet I'm still busy saving the galaxy from the Reapers, or chasing the Origami Killer. DICE certainly isn't helping my predicament, as their highly anticipated first person shooter Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was just released. Boasting a great single player campaign and an even better multiplayer component, it seems like I'm destined to complain about all the outstanding games being released for at least a few more months.

Being the sequel to 2008's Battlefield: Bad Company, BC2 does everything you'd expect from a second offering; everything that worked in the original was expanded upon, and things that needed improvement got reworked. The overall result is a polished, engaging experience that is easily the best Battlefield game ever created.
The campaign starts off in familiar Battlefield territory: World War II. The Japanese have developed a secret weapon that the Americans are desperate to get their hands on. However, your squad fails in procuring the dangerous super weapon, and its detonation marks the end of your adventure in the '40s. The story then picks up in the present day, with Marlowe and the rest of B-Company chasing after Kirelenko; a Russian soldier who's threatening to start a new world war with the Japanese weapon. Over the course of your journey, you'll visit a wide assortment of exotic locales, ranging from luscious jungles, to barren deserts, to frozen mountaintops. The campaign's well paced and exhilarating all throughout, but it ends disappointingly quickly, taking less than seven hours to complete.

There were a few annoying glitches throughout the course of the campaign that shouldn't have made it into the final release. For example, killing an enemy, causing him to freeze in mid-pose instead of falling to the ground, or having a tank simply disappear as it explodes. Perhaps the worst was when I died, and my squad mates just kept talking to me as I waited for the "Mission Failed: You are Dead" screen to pop up… which it never did. These glitches weren't overly common or game breaking, but they shouldn't have made it into the final product.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of Bad Company 2 is the campaign's story. The possibility for a great narrative is present right from the beginning, but it's unfortunately never fully realized. The characters are brimming with personality, providing witty banter as you make your way through each mission, and the game takes a much more cinematic approach in telling its story this time around. However, all of this potential is wasted on a cliched storyline and predictable plot twists. The ending leaves it open for another sequel, and we can only hope that a third Bad Company game will take more creative risks in its storytelling.

Even with a forgettable story, the single player is a blast. Frostbite, the game's engine, allows anything and everything to be destroyed, ranging from that hunk of concrete you're using for cover, to entire buildings. The sheer amount of destruction in the game adds a level of realism that's not found in most shooters, and blowing stuff up never gets old. When you're running from cover to cover and buildings are coming down around your ears, your heart will race, as it feels like you're in a real warzone. The advanced enemy AI really shines with the destructible environments too. While one enemy whittles away at whatever cover you're using, others will try and flank you. Likewise, enemies don't just sit behind cover, pop out to shoot, and duck back down. The destructible cover forces them to move around and be smart, which provides a much-welcomed level of challenge for solo players.

It might be hard to blow up everything you see in Bad Company 2 though, as everything looks so gosh darn pretty. The graphics are nothing short of spectacular throughout the entire game. The foliage throughout the jungles is probably the most realistic I've ever seen in a video game, and looks simply breathtaking. The various weather effects, which include vicious blizzards and ferocious sandstorms, are also extremely well done. The only knock against the visuals are the shadows, which are low res and appear pixilated and blocky. It's a shame, as there is so much dynamic lighting, which results in a lot of shadows. Overall, however, the visual presentation of Bad Company 2 is superb.

Equally as impressive is the sound design. Music is used sparingly throughout the campaign; often, you'll be walking around hearing nothing but your own footsteps and some birds chirping off in the distance. The music does kick in at appropriate times though, such as at the onset of a huge battle. The overall result is pretty effective, as it strikes a fine balance between feeling like you're watching a movie, and feeling like you're actually experiencing the game. The sound effects are top notch, with gunfire sounding powerful, and explosions able to knock pictures off your wall with a proper surround sound system. The voice acting is solid as well, which of course never hurts.

Once you're done with the campaign, it's time to jump into what every Battlefield game is really about - the multiplayer. The online component of BC 2 is deeply engrossing, and certainly makes up for the short single player… and then some. There are four game types online: Conquest, Rush, Squad Rush, and Squad Deathmatch. At first, four modes may not seem like a lot of variety, but after playing them for a few hours, its obvious that four is enough to keep the action from getting stale. Conquest and Rush feature two teams of 12 duking it out, whereas the Squad variants pit teams of four against each other. The maps are large and varied, and are specific to each game type. Like in every Battlefield game, you can spawn by any of your teammates after dying, which gets rid of spawn campers. And most importantly, vehicles play a big role in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. From tanks, to choppers, to ATVs, BC2 has a wide assortment of vehicles, and DICE did a great job of making them powerful, but not invulnerable. It's still a blast to hop into a helicopter with a buddy, and reign down destruction on your enemies.

The class system of BC2 takes the form of various weapon kits you chose before starting a round. The four different kits include Assault, Recon, Engineer, and Medic. During a game, you earn experience points for killing enemies and accomplishing goals, as well as class specific objectives. For example, Medics get experience for healing their teammates, and the Assault class gets experience for resupplying their team with ammo. As you gain experience and level up, you unlock additional guns, gadgets, weapon attachments, and more. The experience points come painfully slow at first, but after a few rounds of getting the swing of things, they start to come faster. And then you're hooked. Winning requires a fine balance between skill and teamwork, and is extremely rewarding when achieved.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 improves on its predecessor in every way imaginable, just like any good sequel ought to. The single player campaign, although lacking an engaging story, is still fun to play through, and the online multiplayer is deep, exciting, and fulfilling. The visuals and sound direction are both stellar, and the gameplay is exactly what'd you expect from any exceptional shooter. If you've got the time to play another game amongst the myriad of stellar titles being released, you can't wrong with Battlefield: Bad Company 2.