People often assume that if you can rattle through dozens of first-person shooters then you're well placed to kick arse online. Hilarity. Whether or not you've aced the single-player campaign on the hardest difficulty level, going online is almost always a humiliation endurance test as you spend most of your time waiting to respawn.
The older the game, the worse it tends to get, with squeaky trash-talking teenagers taking cackling delight in pwning n00bs. It's hardly the most satisfying introduction to a game's online component.
Investing the time required to get good enough is often well beyond the sort of player who wants to just dive in for a quick session, and catering to this kind of 'casual hardcore' player has long been well down the list of priorities for most developers.
But when you've already sold five million copies of your game, and fancy making it attractive to the next five million, you've got to figure out a more approachable route - and that's precisely where Bad Company 2's forthcoming co-op orientated Onslaught mode comes in.
DICE producer Bjorn Johnsson describes Onslaught as the "perfect training ground for all Battlefield: Bad Company 2 players". Available as downloadable content on Xbox 360 (2nd June) and PS3 (16th June), it's designed to be played alone or in co-op for two-to-four players, and "to test and perfect skills of the casual and the hardcore player".
It's playable over tweaked versions of four already available maps (Valparaiso, Atacama Desert, Isla Inocentes and Nelson Bay), and you will battle it out against waves of AI soldiers to take over a series of locations in the quickest possible time. Sticking together and working effectively alongside your squad buddies is the order of the day, with at least one of you needing to stay alive to keep the match going.
"Each map has been redesigned with a dedicated focus to give a different flavour to the action," Johnsson tells me while I play Onslaught for the first time. As well as the lighting and visibility conditions for each map being changed, new enemies, vehicles and set-pieces will challenge players as well. For example, Valparaiso now features the "deadly" Mark 5 enemy patrol boat, as well as a revised night-time setting that makes the map feel "tighter" and "more unpredictable."
Just when you think you're getting the edge, working the flanks and flushing out well-protected emplacements, enemy reinforcements pitch up in unexpected ways to put you back in your place. The arrival of scores of bad guys in speed boats is one incidence, but you can also bet that enemies will come charging down the hill or start parachuting in whenever you get cocky. They don't just endlessly respawn, fortunately, and with the Frostbite engine's superb levels of destruction playing its part the sense of credible raging battle is convincing.
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