Battlefield: Bad Company 2 • Page 2

Company account.

The differences, it turns out, are subtler. One of our criticisms of the first game was that your adversaries weren't so much intelligent as accurate, and both Troedsson and Gustavsson talk about DICE's attempts to improve on that. "A big part of the AI now is we want to change how they move around you," says Troedsson. "Movement is a big part of how you appreciate AI. We want to have the [friendly] squad move more closely together to you, so you're still the guy who runs around and they follow you around. We want them to run to cover, into cover positions, look up, this kind of thing; we want them to do this kind of thing, and similar things for the enemy AI."

Speaking of whom, Troedsson says that your enemies will be able to identify changes to the environment - like holes blown in walls - and use them to navigate through the world in search of you. Other updates include more realistic lines of sight and sound. "Before they were a bit - how should I say? - telepathic," Troedsson admits.

Gustavsson, who takes a top-down view of the development side of the game, says this also feeds into one of his "pet projects", data-driven development. "We've been working on it; not just making the AI more alive, but also how we track difficulty - telemetry while developing the game so we can see where do people die, and why do they die, to get a better difficulty curve, to make the game more accessible while still deep," he says. If that sounds familiar, it's a similar process to the one adopted by Bungie for Halo 3 (outlined rather splendidly in Wired). DICE has also reacted to feedback on the single-player respawn and health systems. Neither developer will tell me what's changed exactly, but Troedsson says "people who didn't like it are going to be happy".

But when it comes back to those tanks, and vehicles in general, it didn't take outside intervention to encourage change. "How the vehicles handle is something we weren't happy with in BC1," says Troedsson. "It didn't feel authentic the way they drove." Again, it's hard to prise out any specifics.

One thing DICE is happy to discuss, however, is the multiplayer side of the game. Troedsson calls it "the main focus", even though today's reveal is single-player. "I want to point that out - that multiplayer is really key to what we're doing here, almost to the point that I would say the multiplayer in BC2 is more important than the single-player. This is where we get the longevity of our products, where we see the most dedicated fans, and this is also where we're spending most of our focus in the actual development," he says. He confirms that Bad Company's Gold Rush mode will return, and, although he doesn't explicitly say so, Conquest surely will as well, after fan feedback saw it added to the first game in a patch after release. Any co-operative modes? "We'll see." What I see is a big smile. Busted!

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The AI in Bad Company is getting a serious going over, which is fair enough, although it's funny to think the first game was DICE's first single-player project ever. Not bad in hindsight!

Troedsson and Gustavsson are also keen to get behind player incentives in multiplayer. "What we have done in Battlefield products before has been about giving you all the tools directly the second you jump into the game," says Troedsson. "What we're looking at now is we want to create a system that is much more sticky and can keep the interest of people playing longer, by seeing how we can meddle with denying you some of the things at the beginning and seeing how we can pace it out - actually challenging the player to go out and do something specific in order to get something."

"When we are out playing, we are selfish," adds Gustavsson. "I want to be on top of the list. And you need to recognise that fact. As soon as we started giving people score for healing people [in Battlefield 2], everyone became frickin' Mother Teresa... We're looking at that in Bad Company 2 as well, without going too much into detail. We're looking at how we can re-emphasise some of the team play with scoring incentives." One thing they won't be doing, though, is enforcing it. Squad play will be optional this time, and DICE is also looking at ways to make it easier to hook up with your friends.

Back to single-player, and the demo level being shown in Stockholm concludes explosively as the Bad Company team gives chase to the Russian truck, firing on ATVs and armoured vehicles in an on-rails segment that concludes as a massive helicopter pursues them into a tunnel, to its complete annihilation. There's constant banter as RPG-toting ATV duos are thrown off cliffs ("Hey, how's my driving, asshole?"), and the spectacle's definitely there already.

All that remains is to fill in the details, which will probably happen at E3, if not later, in time for the game to release at the back end of 2009, or in early 2010. With a renewed emphasis on the studio's multiplayer strengths, and as the Swedish developer's third single-player release, Bad Company 2 stands a better chance than most of escaping the fate that befell its last game, Mirror's Edge, which was crushed under the weight of Q4 rivals despite strong reviews. But it will be a while before we can tell whether compromises like Destruction 2.0 are sufficient to exceed the first game's promising achievements. Troedsson and Gustavsson are adamant though: it's not just Bad Company in the snow.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is due out for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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