Battlefield: Bad Company
Battlefield meets Black in this intriguing release from DICE, using the developer's brand new Frostbite engine. The concept is simple - all the best bits of Battlefield have been combined with the gun porn and destructible scenery of Criterion's one-and-only FPS to create the basis of what should have been an astonishingly good game.
The only problem is that the final product isn't quite as good as it should've been, especially when it comes to multiplayer. Complaints of lagged gameplay, limited online options and shockingly poor (read: virtually zero) clan support erode the foundations of a release which has a hell of a lot going for it. The single-player mode itself is engaging and challenging enough, but ultimately rather limited, making little use of the game's expansive maps.
However, Bad Company is creditable in many ways with Frostbite in particular being a high point. In a market saturated by Unreal Engine shooters, it has a distinct visual look that is completely its own, and its renderings of outdoor environments are second to none. Battlefield: Bad Company isn't quite in the Crysis league (and the world awaits Crytek's console work with bated breath) but it looks solid, and aside from its predictable destructive physics, the way the world looks and moves is excellent.
Frostbite is one of those engines built from the ground up for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and mooted to have equal performance on both platforms - claims we've heard before and rarely believe. However, DICE's coders are more open than most and they claim that PS3 performance has been substantially optimised. According to posts on the Beyond3D forum from one of Bad Company's developers, the game makes extensive use of the SPUs - everything from animation to the Havoc physics and even the generation of undergrowth are farmed off to PS3's satellite processing units. The result is a game that is pretty much identical to its Xbox 360 sibling.
Online consensus seems to be that the 360 version is better with reduced screen-tear and more detailed ground textures, but on both counts I wasn't convinced. Both games run at 30 frames-per-second with v-lock turned off, meaning that there is a fair amount of screen-tear, especially noticeable in the most frantic moments of gameplay. However, I found that the loss of sync tended to happen on different occasions on both consoles, making like-for-like frame rate and tear comparisons unreliable. Certainly, the overall impression I had was that both games were as good (or bad, depending on how much tearing annoys you) as each other.
With regards the more detailed ground textures on the 360 game, there is something to this, but it's hardly consistent, and only really relevant at all if you're staring straight down at the ground - something you're highly unlikely to do at all during gameplay. Still, there are a few comparison shots in the gallery if you do want to argue the toss over something that's essentially inconsequential.
So, a good effort from DICE on the technical side of this game, but it's clear to see that a great deal of work still needs to be done on the online side of things to make it truly worthwhile.
And that's your lot for Round 13. Join us again very soon for another instalment in Eurogamer's fabled Xbox 360 vs. PS3 Face-Offs.