The original Bad Company wasn't particularly concerned with realism. Sure, at first it looked like a fairly down-to-Earth military FPS, but before long the story descended into an enjoyably madcap homage to Three Kings - replete with stolen gold, illegal invasions, and more guns than you could shake a suspiciously gun-shaped stick at. When you start to think about it, even the basic premise for Bad Company is pretty ludicrous: The US Army take all their biggest rebels and rejects, dumps them together, and then sends them off into extremely dangerous situations. I'm no combat strategist, but this sounds about as sensible to me as getting Harold Shipman to manage the local bingo hall.
We've already seen quite a bit of Bad Company 2's excellent multiplayer, but it was only last week that DICE and EA finally allowed us to take a peak at the new single-player campaign. Two levels were available to play, and on the basis of the action they contained, it seems as if Private Marlowe and his military misfits will soon be back to their old tricks. In fact, that's a bit of an understatement - because they now seem to have been inadvertently turned into the world's most unlikely special operatives.
The setup for this sequel is that Russia and the US are now at war with each other. On what should be a routine recon assignment in Alaska, Marlow and co inadvertently stumble across a Ruskie plot to decimate the States with some kind of superweapon. This discovery eventually leads our chaotic quartet to South America, on a mission to deliver some highly important intel to a NSA Operative named Aguire. Once again, it seems odd that such an important mission would be left to a bunch of screw-ups, but who cares? The mission provides a neat excuse to blow lots of things up and to shoot lots of militia troops - and in this area, BC2 excels.
The action kicks off with the gang watching as Aguire is captured and dragged away by Bolivian militia forces; it seems that most of South America has chosen to side with the vodka-quaffers, rather than the stars-and-stripes brigade. It's time for an impromptu rescue mission, and as is often the case with these boys, subtlety doesn't have much of a role to play. There's roughly 60 seconds of peace at the very start of the stage, as you creep down a hillside towards the first pair of guards, casually standing watch on a bridge. A nearby supply crate allows you to customise your weapon load-out, selecting any two guns from an impressive library of firearms, and then as soon as you open fire the level kicks off good and proper. The bullets start flying, and the onslaught remains fairly constant until you battle your way to the end.
Somewhat inevitably, I frequently found myself comparing my experience with the single-player segments of Modern Warfare 2. Like Infinity Ward's gargantuan hit, scripted events and set pieces play a large role in the action: In one early scene flaming militia troopers stagger out from the wreckage of a ruined hut, screaming in pain. Later, an explosion topples a heavy stone statue, sending one of your comrades diving for cover. And at the climax of the stage, after taking out a rather fearsome tank, the game confronts you with an unexpected do-or-die moment: an enemy officer takes Aguire as a human shield as he backs away towards an escape chopper. One of your mates hands you a pistol, and you're left with a few seconds to make the vital shot. It's fun stuff, but it's very reminiscent of the cripple-the-suspect bit in MW2's Rio level.