Version tested: Xbox 360
Bad Company is very much the kind of army I could imagine Eurogamer inhabiting. Comprised of all the ne'er-do-wells, workshy fops and insubordinates that you wouldn't even want on your paintball team, we'd be the guys any sensible army would send out as cannon fodder to lull the opposition into a false sense of security. Of course, what would transpire is that we were only pretending to be shot-shy slackers, and, when put in life-or-death scenarios we'd rise to the challenge and kick everyone's arse.
Placed in this no-win situation in DICE's latest console-oriented take on the Battlefield series, you find yourself filling the role of the improbably named Preston Marlow (no doubt inspired by DICE's two favourite English branches of Little Chef). This unassuming, down-to-earth rookie is joined on his adventures by three rather clueless but usefully invincible Bad Company squadmates: Sarge, Sweetwater and Haggard. Afforded precious little respect by your superiors, when things don't quite go to plan, you and your knuckle-headed trio decide to chase a trail of mercenary gold in the misguided belief that they'll be able to bag all this tasty loot for themselves.
Set across seven sprawling campaign missions, the single player portion of Bad Company is an unexpected treat. Building on the sense of open-ended freedom we've come to expect from the Battlefield series for years, DICE has finally managed to distill all the good ideas of its multiplayer-focused titles to often breathtaking effect. The key weapon in distinguishing Bad Company from the legion of samey first person shooters is evidently its beautiful and versatile Frostbite engine. By offering the level designers immense scope in so many areas, it's the first shooter to emerge in a long time that demonstrates a significant evolution of the genre.
For a start, the pre-release boast about "90 per cent destructibility" isn't that far from the truth. Not having paid an awful lot of attention to the hype, it was quite a shock to discover that you can't simply duck behind walls, trees and other cover points and expect to be able to hide from an incoming missile like you've been able to do in pretty much every FPS ever. In Bad Company, the chances are that the tree you were hiding behind will fall on top of you, or building you ducked into will be reduced to a hollow shell, while you peer ruefully through an enormous cloud of brick dust and smoke to get your bearings and find your next tenuous cover point. This, of course, has major implications when you're on the offensive, too. Finally, you can flush out enemies from their sneaky camping positions, knowing full well that a well-placed grenade or rocket will cause pandemonium. Gone are the days of ridiculously impregnable sandbags, fences and thin brick walls, replaced by a much more physical environment that you can blow the crap out of.
Just as significant is the Frostbite engine's ability to render vast, sprawling, vivid environments that boast arguably the most detailed, convincing outdoor scenes on a console title to date. Significantly, that famed Battlefield freedom has finally been translated into a coherent single player campaign, where your choice of route can have a distinct bearing on your chances of success. Governed by a linear succession of objectives, the route you take to get there can often be genuinely up to you. Be it stealthily on foot, sniping everything from afar or storming the gates in a tank, you simply use whatever hardware's at your disposal and set about taking down everyone in your way, in whichever way you can. With gunships and motorboats occasionally upping the ante further still, the moments when Bad Company is firing on all cylinders are thrillingly epic.