Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Three Great Lies of Bad Company 2

I've been playing a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In fact, it's the only game I play when I'm not at work playing video games all day. It is a supremely awesome game that flows logically from the following core principle: it is awesome when shit blows up. Many games have been made starting from this idea (first uttered, I believe, by Siddhartha Gautama. This is one of the central tenets of Buddhism, along with "every man for himself") but this is the first to decide they really mean it. In Bad Company 2, everything blows up. Is your foe hiding behind a wall? Do you have some kind of explosive? Well, then there doesn't need to be a wall, does there? It is a beautiful kind of logic, which renders the typical mindset of an online shooter moot. At the most basic level, it is a delightful kind of wish fulfillment. How many times have you been trucking through a building and thought "Man, there should be a door here?" In BC2, you have the tools to make your own door! Or if you want to nitpick, the tools to make giant holes in things. But what are doors, really? Just glorified holes. So don't surrender to the petty tyrannies of architecture; carve your own glory hole.

At the same time, the game perpetuates a number of myths and that disappoints me. In a title with so much eyeball-searing realism, why cut corners? I'm going to take this opportunity to point out the three worst mistakes DICE made in this title. Just be assured that I do this out of love. All the scorn I pile on anything is motivated by a sincere desire for that thing to be better. There is one exception: the band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Dear RHCP: you suck. You've sucked for 10 years, and if not for the hiatus prior to "Californication" that number would probably be higher. I'm tired of your half-assed writing, which at this point mostly consists of name-dropping locations in the United States. I know why you do this: you do it to pander to the drunken frat boys who fill your shows, since they attend colleges named for those locations followed by the word "State." Your band is an unholy abomination. I hope you die of gonorrhea and rot in hell.

Yay, back to video games instead of seething elitism! In no particular order:

Everyone has a fucking machine gun
There are four player classes in Bad Company: Assault, Engineer, Recon and Superhero. The last of these, often abridged to "Medic," is the most popular. While the designers chose to outfit the other classes with the kinds of reasonable small-arms weaponry that actual soldiers might have (shotguns, rifles, pistols), Medics get fucking machine guns. These weapons handle and behave fundamentally like assault rifles, only they hold 100+ rounds in a magazine and remain accurate when fired on full automatic for long periods of time. Additionally, Medics can heal themselves (and others) as well as boasting greater toughness and the ability to resurrect their teammates from the dead. Why we haven't deployed these guys to Iraq yet, I'll never know. Needless to say, these traits do not accurately describe actual Army Medics; who (not to be critical) cannot retrieve their fallen comrades from the great beyond.

If you occasionally had to deal with one of these fuckers, that would be bad enough. But no; 80% of all BC2 players play Superhero and thus the games can easily turn into a giant hurricane of never-ending gunfire. Because if you have a clip that holds 200 rounds, you need to fire all 200 of those rounds as quickly as possible. Especially because players whose guns hold normal human quantities of bullets will run out of them. What fools, for not choosing Superhero themselves! This is hyperbole, of course. But seriously, the worst Medic gun holds 100 rounds. One hundred. Ugh.

Russia's military is credible
In the single-player mode, the United States and Russia are pitted against each other in a global struggle for supremacy. More specifically, Russia has invaded all kinds of shit and want to take over the world. They're even in Alaska and Mexico and half of Europe and the world stands on the brink of Russia's hands.

I took a course in Russian history back in college, so I am an authority on the subject. I own a giant book called "A History of Russia." I keep it with many other leather-bound tomes. Let me assure you as an expert that the Russian army has never been effective in an offensive capacity. Ever. The Russians may be tough and accustomed to misery, but they are not natural soldiers. "But Tony, they beat back Hitler on the Eastern Front! They conquered Napoleon's army." They didn't do that; the soul-crushing godawful cold did that. The entire might of the Soviet military was nearly beaten back by Finnish people on skis. One Finnish pilot shot down fourteen Soviet aircraft in a WWI biplane. A massive military presence in Afghanistan couldn't subdue it (we're there too, but we've handicapped ourselves with Iraq. Doesn't count). During the Time of Troubles (which lasted from 1584-1613 and was so awful that Russians call it "the Time of Troubles") a band of Polish mercenaries revolted against their welching employer and actually took over Moscow. However, Moscow was such a frozen shithole that the Polish ran out of supplies and resorted to cannibalism. That's right...Russia is so horrible that not only did they allow their capitol to be sacked, but the conquerors fucking ate each other and died in the sacked capitol.

My point is this: Russia plays defense. They will never be able to conquer anything unless they have a staggering numerical advantage (Finland, the Warsaw Pact countries). Try to invade them, and you fucked up. They will destroy you with their winters and their spite and their hideous old women. Additionally, this is the country whose navy lost their brand-new prototype super-submarine on its first voyage. Lost at sea with her heroic captain, and the brave crew of the Kanavolov. Russia is important because they have a lot of nuclear missiles, which are not mentioned in this video game. So, DICE, the next time you make a shooter let's work just a little harder to provide a credible foe. Even Nazis would work...oh, that's your next game? Okay, I'll probably have to buy that one too.

Knives are more dangerous than guns
I've written about this before and I won't belabor those points. I will say this: in Bad Company, you have a button that rapidly slashes with your knife. If you press this button, an enemy within five yards of you will die. Close-range encounters come down to who presses his FWAASH button first. Which is cool until you see it in practice. Many people, upon seeing an enemy at close range, simply sprint at him for a stab. It actually works; I've pumped a dozen rifle rounds into an onrushing attacker only to be insta-shanked with him at 10% health. Let's be real: an onrushing attacker who receives that kind of punishment will be able to do two things to his enemies. First, fall on top of them; second, bleed all over them. He could fall on top of you and then bleed on you. The one thing he's not in shape to do is be effective in close-quarters combat. Killing an armored, struggling person with a knife would be a tall order under the best of conditions; to say nothing of attempting it after ten gunshot wounds.

My last question is this: if I can have a grenade launcher accessory on my gun, why can't I have a knife launcher? Or a bayonet? That'd be pretty neat; if we extrapolate the power of a normal knife up to the bayonet level, the weapon would just automatically kill anyone you pointed your gun at. Or, you could just have a fucking machine gun.

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