But the most exciting thing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has to offer is online multiplayer competition. Up to 24 players compete in squads in a few different match types. In Rush, the attacking team assaults an enemy position in an effort to destroy two targets of opportunity. If the attackers succeed, two more targets open up, as well as an entire new section of battlefield. These progressive contests are fierce and engaging, and each new area offers new challenges to which both teams must adapt. (There is also shorter, equally intense version of this mode called Squad Rush, reserved as a preorder bonus in North America for the first month of the game's release.) In Conquest, two teams strive to hold three control points while fending each other off. The natural ebb and flow of combat is unpredictable here, as points can be captured by a lone soldier or by a heavy armored assault. These battlefields are more fluid, and because the action doesn't move on like it does in Rush, they tend to be more thoroughly ravaged by destruction by the end of the match. The last mode, Squad Deathmatch, pits four squads of four against each other in a more traditional, yet still very fun competition. Each mode offers a different take on the core combat, providing a great variety of ways to do battle.
6252646NoneDeath is not the end if there's a teammate with defibrillator pads nearby.
Bad Company 2's technical excellence is on full display here as well, and the spacious, well-designed maps make superb stages for combat. There are dense snowy forests, debris-laden deserts, coastal industrial complexes, swampy jungle villages, and riverside settlements that play host to the intense action. These maps are impressively varied, offering diverse terrain and more buildings than you would ever need to go in. Each weathers the destructive forces of battle differently each time, making the combat incredibly dynamic and demanding constant adaptability. These maps are excellent, as is the spot-on sound design, which is perhaps even more crucial in multiplayer than in the campaign. A distant crack indicates that an enemy sniper has a bead on you, footsteps inside a building can clue you in on where to aim your grenade, and friendly soldiers shout calls for ammunition or warnings that a building is about to collapse. In addition to the rich audio clues, you can use the unique spotting mechanic to increase your team's battlefield awareness. By getting an enemy in your sights and tapping a button, you put a temporary marker over his head that your whole team can see. It's a simple yet potent move that is immensely helpful to your team, and if it leads to his death, you'll get a nice little point bonus for your troubles.
Earning points enables you to unlock new weapons, gadgets, and attribute-boosting specializations. Some of these are class-specific, while others can be applied to any soldier and create some flexibility between classes. The four classes in Bad Company 2 fall into familiar archetypes: soldiers who wield assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammo kits; engineers who stealthily kill enemies while sabotaging or repairing vehicles; medics who lay down machine-gun fire and revive downed allies; and snipers who sneak around making long-range kills and setting up close-range demolitions. You get points for killing enemies, supporting teammates, and earning medals for your battlefield prowess. Unlocking new gear not only makes you more powerful, but it gives you more ways to be effective in combat. Enemies won't expect the ghillie-suited sniper to be packing a shotgun, for example, and increasing the radius and healing speed of your health kits can extend your teammates' life spans significantly.
There are plenty of tactical decisions to be made beyond the loadout screen, including where you spawn, which buildings you destroy, and which vehicles you pilot. ATVs, gunboats, Humvees, tanks, and helicopters all spawn on the battlefield full of deadly potential. Exactly who dies depends on your driving skills and the enemy's demolition prowess, but there's no question that vehicles can change the flow of battle very quickly. A quick flanking run with a Jet Ski can catch the enemy off guard, while an unmanned UAV can end a helicopter's reign of terror before it has a chance to begin. With all the different classes, vehicles, and stationary weapons (like heavy machine guns and mounted rocket launchers) at play, there is a dazzling array of ways to wage war. These tools, coupled with the threat and promise of destructibility, make Bad Company 2's battlefields uniquely chaotic and electrifyingly fun. The action is top-notch in both campaign and multiplayer alike. Whether or not you're looking for a new shooter in your life, you owe it to yourself to play Battlefield: Bad Company 2.