Opinion: Forget Battlefield 4 – Let’s Have Another Bad Company
So, it’s official then. Battlefield 4 has been announced by EA, and in the homes of every game-playing nation around the world people are dropping to their knees in praise to the heavens that another generic, soulless military FPS is on its way.
Of course, not everyone is so happy about it. In fact, plenty of dissenting voices are being heard among fans of the wider Battlefield canon – with many questioning why we are not first getting another installment in the hugely entertaining Bad Company spin-off series, which hasn’t been seen since 2010.
I have to say, I couldn’t agree more.
For the uninitiated, Bad Company follows the fortunes (and more frequently, misfortunes) of a ragtag four-man squad of army rogues and ne’er do wells, who are so despised and unappreciated by the military brass that they get all the shitty jobs that no one else wants. The player takes on the role Preston Marlowe, an upstart rookie plunged right into the line of fire from the get-go. And over the course of two enjoyable outings thus far, Marlowe and co. have succeeded in invading a neutral country, fighting off a private mercenary army, stealing away with crates of gold, rescuing a Secret Agent and defeating a Bond-esque villain hellbent on wielding an uber-weapon against the world. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? And it is.
I don’t even like most modern FPS games, and consider myself bored of both the main series Battlefields and CODs. And yet I love Bad Company. The first was the best – with its unconventional open-world environments, fresh approach to presentation and completely OTT backdrop – but both have been an absolute riot.
The main reason is the brilliant humour of the games, and their emphasis on ludicrous scenarios, insane comic-book style action and genuinely funny gags. Battlefield 3′s campaign was a dry, po-faced slog based around tiresome set-pieces and well-worn cliches – so focused on capturing the ‘epic’ and ‘gritty’ aspects that so many modern games strive for, that it completely forgot about entertainment value. The Bad Companys by contrast are like James Bond meets Buffalo Soldiers: completely reveling in anarchic offbeat comedy and far-fetched antics to winning effect.
In a Bad Company game, you spend half your time blowing the scenery to smithereens just for the hell of it, bashing into things in a tank for sheer kicks, or else gatling-gunning down a dozen forests from the seat of a swooping helicopter in the hope of securing another tongue-in-cheek achievement or trophy.
And the plot, despite being deliberately daft and overblown, has actually proved genuinely gripping and interesting on both occasions. Sure, it’s all a bit silly – but it’s also surprisingly engaging, not least because you actually give a shit about the people involved.
Yes, the supporting characters are a bunch of cliched stereotypes. Haggard is the gun-crazed redneck hick; Sweetwater is the smart nerd who has a ‘bad feeling’ about pretty much everything; and Redford is the gruff black sergeant who’s just “three days from retirement”. But that’s actually the point, and the games make a knowing virtue of this fact. It isn’t lazy writing – it’s comedy genius, and the interplay between the larger-than-life gang is what makes the cut-scenes fabulous highlights rather than tedious filler. You’d have to be made of stone not to piss yourself laughing during the exchanges between right-wing nutjob Haggard and the hippy helicopter pilot in Bad Company 2.
A rare joker in the pack among all those oh-so-serious, boring, brown-and-grey military shooters, which pride themselves on their production values and realism rather than their propensity to entertain, Bad Company is a shiny beacon of fun nestled among a pile of uninspired, humourless turd.
We all know that Battlefield 4 will be visually impressive, masterfully slick, and about as exciting as a trip to a plastics factory. DICE and EA are sitting on an absolutely killer IP in the shape of Bad Company, and they would do well to wield it again soon.
As Haggard would say: “There’s gold in them there hills!”