Honestly. You wait months upon months for a decent team-based FPS, and then two absolute crackers come along mere weeks apart from eachother. Zipper Interactive’s MAG was a ballsy gamble that only a format zealot would agree hasn’t paid off, and DICE’s Bad Company 2 is probably the definitive title in their hugely prestigious series. But which is better?
Battlefield Bad Company 2 is perhaps the best looking FPS currently available on any format. Character models are peerless, it boasts minimal pop-up and it runs almost faultlessly online. MAG on the other hand is slightly grimier and skimps somewhat on the finer details, but then it has been built to accommodate a frankly daunting number of players. It doesn’t look anywhere near as polished as Bad Company 2, but during our considerable playtime, it has never ever ran anything other than perfectly. Its a more than fair trade-off, but for graphics whores, there is only one victor.
Winner: Battlefield Bad Company 2
Bad Company 2 is an aural powerhouse. The game’s sound design will surely clean-up when the videogame awards season rolls around, and the way it balances the gentle din of distant gunfire, with exploding environments in the immediate vicinity, makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a mega-budget action movie. MAG is less bombastic and attention-seeking, but two things in particular work massively in its favour. Firstly the sound of footsteps is slightly pronounced, so if you’re playing MAG with 5.1 surround sound, you’ll hear enemies flanking you and will know exactly where they’re coming from, and are encouraged to act accordingly. Secondly, when a pivotal mini-victory is made by your team, a fist-pumping piece of electronica blares out of the speakers, galvanising you into making sure that your team’s final push is as ferocious as it needs to be. Those are two completely superior flourishes, and they all add to the appeal of the experience as a whole.
Because it is smaller in scope, Bad Company 2 can function without teamwork being to the fore. The endless stream of disillusioned Modern Warfare 2 fans who are looking for their latest fix, will clearly feel right at home here. A disappointing number of games that Zavvi.com has had online are filled with lone-wolves, who appear completely disinterested in doing anything as part of a team. When you are paired with teammates who all know what they’re doing, the thrill of victory is momentous. But the game’s mild similarities to Modern Warfare 2 may actually prove to be its biggest enemy in the long run.
MAG on the other hand, separated the wheat from the chaff almost immediately. Those looking for a quick fix went elsewhere within the first week of the game’s release, and now MAG boasts a community as formidable as any since the heyday of Team Fortress 2. The stripped-down simplicity of the core gameplay – emphasising the importance of medical perks over all others – makes for an experience that anyone can understand, and many will find almost intravenously rousing.
MAG has been built to last. Nobody is going to try to topple a game this ambitious any time soon, and we’ll be playing it until the Playstation 3 bows to its successor, and probably beyond that. The prospect of DLC map packs seems almost blasphemous – like toying with the design of a chess board for the sake of it – but when and if those map packs arrive, we’ll be very surprised if they aren’t utterly perfect.
That said, the sheer wealth of content available on the Bad Company 2 disc, even if you don’t take the upcoming DLC into account, is outstanding. There is a well-rounded and lengthy single-player campaign that is (nearly) as strong as its primary influence, and a multiplayer that is riddled with more maps and modes than you could shake a heavily modified AK-47 at. In terms of sheer day-one content, Bad Company 2 has set a pretty superb precedent.
Winner: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
These are two of the best games of their kind. One probably wouldn’t exist without the other (MAG having graciously cribbed a few things from earlier Battlefield titles) but they have both been created with real passion, pedantic fine-tuning, and a clear dedication and love for their target audiences. You’ll frankly be in heaven if you’ve had time to spend with either one of these titles, but then if you’re truly hardcore, you’ll want to get involved in both. There is, after all, only one winner here. Us.
Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts…