The chaos isn't helped by some fussy identification. Regardless of which side you end up on, allies are always marked blue on the map, support classes green, while enemies are red. Coloured floating Gamertags show you who's who on-screen, but this info doesn't always kick in. I often found myself facing a soldier, unsure as to which side he was on because of the lack of identifying info. Uniforms are too similar to be of any use - dark grey or dark green, basically - so if the game isn't helping, you need to get them in your sights and see what colour the reticule shows. You don't want to risk killing a team-mate, since that comes with a harsh 25-point penalty but during this momentary hesitation, of course, they've often killed you. It doesn't take many hits to go down, either, especially since the beta is filled with headshot experts. Those hoping to ease themselves in and find some breathing space to really get a feel for the game will be out of luck.
The only other major gripe is one familiar from most multiplayer games - a good sniper can pretty much dominate the map, and camping is fairly common. We already know that there will be weapons in the game that are exclusive to the Gold Edition, or must be purchased separately. EA has promised that this won't unbalance the gameplay, but it's easy to see how a dedicated player with the best equipment can make life hell for other players. Avoiding spawn-campers is one reason why switching to mobile squad-based respawns can be a good thing, but as the maps are designed to funnel the action there's still a tendency to find yourself picked off over and over by the same Gamertag, with little chance of figuring out where the shots are coming from. There's no prone position, while the crouch is fairly useless, so unless there's a nearby building to duck into, if there's a sniper about you're pretty much dead.
Thankfully, if you do spot the sniper, you don't need to be a sharpshooter to take them down, and blowing the hell out of their hiding place is so much more satisfying. Splashback damage, oddly, isn't that bad, so it's actually safer to be buried under an exploding wall rather than risk a bullet in the open. At the very least, it's hilarious to see the offending sniper running for cover like a cockroach as their sanctuary crumbles around them.
None of these grumbles should be allowed to overshadow just how much fun Gold Rush is, though. While the frequent death and dominant alpha geeks can try the patience, the map design and weapon-set means that there's always fun to be had. Is it a dumbed-down version of a PC favourite? Not really. On the basis of this small glimpse, it's merely stripped-down, with emphasis on getting players into the action as quickly as possible, and offering clear objectives to keep everyone moving the same direction. There are certainly tweaks that can be made - mostly in terms of spawning options and more consistent ID markers - but it already plays like a polished and stable romp. Considering that this tiny sliver of the game has kept me coming back for hour after hour, the prospect of a full suite of multiplayer modes in a similar vein is very exciting. Bad Company may not reinvent online combat, but it certainly seems explosive enough to make a convincing challenge to Call of Duty 4's crown.