Let me begin by saying that I have always been a huge fan of the Battlefield franchise. It was Battlefield 1942 that first introduced me to the need for discreet GPU performance. I will also never forget the evening my girlfriend brought home Battlefield 2 from her trip to Delaware. Reason enough to marry her! Most importantly, the Battlefield series was a major motivator for me to take an interest in stereoscopic 3D gaming.
The principle is simple: two teams of soldiers, with each team member having an array of specialties to move the game along. While there are several multiplayer modes, what makes the Battlefield series tick is the need to work cooperatively to control sections of the map. While the principles have stayed the same, the scenery and weaponry have changed through iterations like Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, Battlefield Bad Company, and more.
Today, we are going to talk about EA's latest Battlefield effort, Battlefield Bad Company 2. More than that, we will test it out on multiple stereoscopic 3D solutions including DDD, iZ3D, and Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision. For those intimidated by the length of this article, don't panic! Much of this article contains helpful tips on how to play and WIN in stereoscopic 3D, so I hope you will find it an informative read.
General Game Review
Battlefield Bad Company 2 has two major components. First, it has a single player action packed campaign that takes you all over the world. It also features a detailed multiplayer game engine which promises countless hours of fun and enjoyment.
The single player campaign has a Crysis-like storyline, and features a Call of Duty: World at War feel. Beginning in October 1944, a group of American commandos infiltrate a Japanese island to secure a defecting scientist. He has been working on a "Scaler Weapon" of unimaginable power. Without spoiling the surprise, the story transitions to modern times, and this weapon has the potential of rearing its head once more.
You are Private Preston Marlowe, a member of Bad Company. Why Bad Company, you ask? This is a group of misfit soldiers who are willing (and able) to do the dirty work others can't. Armed to the teeth, it's your team's job to learn all there is to know about this weapon, and prevent its use.
Similar to the Call of Duty series, the game plays out by defeating groups of enemies at different waypoints and completing missions. Along the way, you can pick up fallen ammo and weapons, and you can do further upgrades and exchanges with supply crates dispersed in each level.
The single player campaign is harder than I anticipated. The AI is pretty sharp, and in some cases, the enemies refresh themselves if you don't get to the waypoints fast enough. You can also expect surprise challenges like going up against a tank or two, riding (and shooting from) jeeps and helicopters, and going through some special weapon specific missions.
I was wrong when I expected multiplayer maps and assets to be repurposed for the single player action. The game features diverse environments including snow, towns, jungles, water, and more. There is still a lot I haven't seen yet, and I am left wanting to see more.
The graphics are really well rendered, and nearly everything is destructible. When a grenade goes off, expect a wall to go with it! You can even make out the finer details like the weave of the soldiers' uniform cloth. Very impressive!
There is one aspect to the game that I found distracting. First, Bad Company 2 isn't that violent a game compared to others I've seen. It's not like heads fly off carcasses or blood is splattering everywhere you look. It's not cartoon violence, but it's not over the top either. However, it's really irritating to hear so much swearing going on. M-F this, and F-that, and holy-S, etc. etc. It adds no fun to the story, and takes an otherwise excellent game, and needlessly pushes it into a Mature category. I swear as much as the next guy, but it just didn't help the story along in this case.
The multiplayer aspect to Battlefield Bad Company 2 is how you are going to get some long term shelf life from this game, and it really shines!
There are multiple modes of play, but the classic Conquest mode is by far my favourite. The idea is simple: you and your team need to control different flags or markers on the map. Each team has a fixed number of tickets that drop as you and your soldiers get killed and replenished. The tickets drop faster or slower depending on how much of the map is in your control. When either team's ticket count hits zero, the game is over.
Controlling the map has a deeper purpose, though. This also determines where you can spawn. Do you want a long trek across the map, or do you want to appear in the thick of the fight? It pays to join a squad right away, because in addition to having access to the opened waypoints, you can also spawn right next to your squad mates no matter how deep they are into enemy territory.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 has a rock, paper, scissors mentality, with a lot of grey area in-between. The Assault class are the grunts of the unit, and carry the ammo packs that keep everyone from running dry. The Medics are crude doctors in the traditional sense, but they have the ability to awaken the dead and heal others through medicine packs. Engineers are the best at taking out tanks and helicopters with rocket launchers and mines, and they can quickly repair nearly all that needs repairing. Finally, the Recon class are the snipers. They are perhaps the most gratifying of the soldier types because the guns are harder to use, and they can kill plenty at a distance by calling in artillery and laying down plastic explosives. If you need to take a tank out and an engineer isn't available, Recon is the next best thing.
What keeps the game interesting is that as you play, you earn points by taking out enemies, capturing waypoints, and helping your team. As you progress, you will get unlocks to new guns and gadgets that will accelerate your progress and effectiveness in the game. You won't get a super weapon because that would just make the game unfair. Instead, the weapons have different configurations of damage, rate of fire, and accuracy. They are definitely enhancements, but they won't make or break your ability to play.
If you have never tried a Battlefield game before, let me give you some helpful tips. When I first entered the game, I felt ancient because there was so much happening around me, I was a sitting duck for snipers and who knows what. Your first priority should be to learn the maps so you know where to go and what to watch out for.
Next, it's going to be tempting to jump into tanks and helicopters to inflict some carnage. It's fun, yes, but I recommend doing this later in the game. With the exception of flag captures, you only get personal weapon unlocks from damage inflicted outside the vehicle. It's good to use the vehicles to get deep into the map, and pass it on to another team mate to blow stuff up with until you are more advanced.
Try to concentrate on one soldier class at a time. In my opinion, the most important unlock to get is the 4X scope for accurate zooming and shooting for all classes, while the 12X zoom for snipers is critical.
Believe it or not, the secret to scoring the most points isn't trying to kill as many enemies as possible. It's more about helping your team out, and every class can do it. If you are an assault class, drop ammo packs, and your score will climb as your team mates use them. Everybody needs ammo, right? Medics, drop the healing packs, because everyone gets scratched. Engineers? Blowing stuff up with tanks (and thanks) may not score the big points for you, but ride with a tank, and hop out to repair it every so often for big bonuses. Recon? Throw a sensor mine which reveals enemies to your team. Every time a teammate kills a target in the zone, you get extra points. Ten extra points here and there may not sound like much, but when it happens five times in a row, the benefits climb fast!
Last but not least, go for the flag. Some people don't like it when recon goes for the flag because they usually don't carry machine guns, but I have a lot of points and waypoint captures thanks to my fast trigger finger/revolver combo which is amazing for up-close combat.
One thing that really sets Battlefield Bad Company 2 apart from its predecessors are its destructible environments. In the earlier versions I've tried, tanks could shoot through walls, etc., but everything was left standing. In Bad Company 2, buildings and cement fly apart like tissue paper, and if you aren't careful, your whole surrounds can come crashing down and take you with it!
Sounds good so far? Great! Time to find out how Bad Company 2 performs in stereoscopic 3D.
Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision
Maingear X-Cube Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ 6GB RAM GTX 470, GTX 275 (PhysX) Windows 7 64 Bit NVIDIA 258.96 Stereo Driver NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision / Acer GD235HZ
Electronic Arts' Dice had Battlefield Bad Company 2 optimized to work with Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision drivers. In addition to rendering the crosshair and nametags in stereoscopic 3D, they are also taking advantage of an Nvidia driven auto-convergence feature which I will explain a bit later.
Let me begin by giving this game a top rating for Nvidia users. You can play in DirectX 9, 10, and 11 without any discernible errors. More importantly, you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, which is our way to test for maximum 3D flexibility.
There is some grey area in this review which needs to be sorted out. When the game was first delivered to us, everything ran perfectly - but a Dice patch has since removed many of the 3D Vision enhancements. A bright Nvidia user figured out how to re-install these enhancements by taking the original "package.mft" file (found in program files/Electronic Arts/Battlefield Bad Company 2/Dist/Win32) and overwriting the upgraded one implemented with the new patch.
Until an official BC2 patch fixes this issue, this user hack is required. This opens a new can of worms which I will go into later.
Depending on your available hardware, we have specific recommendations. If you are running on a Fermi 470 or better, you're A-OK no matter what you want to do. I'm able to play at 1920X1080P in 3D, no problem.
If you are running a GTX 285 or lower, you can try turning Ambient Occlusion off in DX10 mode (via the HBAO setting). If it still isn't fast enough for you, drop down to DX9 in the game settings configuration file. With the exception of the more fluid looking water and a smokier appearance, I really didn't miss the DirectX 10 or 11 experience all that much compared to the higher frame rate in stereoscopic 3D.
One of the criticisms against S-3D gaming is that when a gun is pointed at the wall, it can look as though it is digging into the wall's surface. Nvidia has implemented a custom feature whereby the gun's scope and barrel will adjust according to how close it is to the object it is pointed to.
This auto-convergence definitely works, but there are times when it gets in the way. For example, when peering through an object that is and isn't quite there, like the gap between two parallel railings, it throws the system off and makes it difficult to aim. It's easy to learn to work around this, but it's not perfect, and has cost me more than a few virtual lives.
However, anyone out there who thinks that you can't play competitively in stereoscopic 3D - think again (See above: I'm Enterfrize!). I'm in my late thirties playing on mid and high-end equipment. I managed to unlock nearly all the guns, and have been the top point earner on multiple occasions and with multiple soldier classes. If I can do it, anybody can!
DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM EVGA GTX285 Windows 7 64 Bit Zalmon Trimon 24" Monitor DDD TriDef Ignition 2.7.6B2 (not released yet)
The Dice patch that harmed Nvidia (without the user hack), helped DDD. DDD can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, and all settings in DX9 can be maxed out. You will need to change to DirectX 9 mode by adjusting the game's configuration file - but that's not a big a deal.
I spotted one anomaly during a 3D cut scene, but I have been unable to replicate it. Name tags are rendered in 3D, and DDD's laser sight works in place of the crosshair and scopes.
As with nearly every other game tested with DDD's Tridef Ignition Drivers, I recommend turning the auto-convergence off. It's just not necessary.
Unfortunately, DDD has two major caveats working against it. First, the DDD drivers are not compatible with Punkbuster (anti-cheat software). If you want to get ranked and unlock fancy weapons in multiplayer mode, Punkbuster compatibility is a must. With the exception of unranked servers, most will find this a dead end for multiplayer in 3D.
The bigger issue is when Dice fixes Battlefield Bad Company 2 to re-enable the Nvidia functionality. If the user hack reflects what we can expect, the gun barrel and related gun scopes will be rendered very poorly. No matter what I tried, the scopes never look right. You can use the DDD laser-sight, but the scope looks so off, it's too distracting.
This isn't DDD's fault, though. Clearly the gun functionality is looking for proprietary program code that isn't there. I will discuss the solution in this review's conclusion.
iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM EVGA GTX285 Windows 7 64 Bit Zalmon Trimon 24" Monitor iZ3D drivers 1.11RC1
iZ3D recently published the first release candidate of their 1.11 stereo drivers, and they announced a Battlefield Bad Company 2 profile to go with it. Similar to DDD, the broken BC2 patch is benefiting their compatibility.
Respecting that this is their first release candidate driver, iZ3D still has much work to do. The name tags are rendered in 2D, so hopefully iZ3D will eventually be able to pick up the depth cues from the game in a future driver release. Also, you need to reduce the shadows down to low, or the water effects will disappear as you walk through them. I'd prefer to turn them off entirely because they flicker and render strangely in 3D mode, but "low" is the best I could do.
Similar to DDD, Nvidia compatibility is equally threatening to iZ3D. I am certain that a future Dice patch could cause great harm for hopeful gamers. With the hack in place, the gun barrels and sights don't get rendered well at all. I hoped adjusting the separation scheme to left-shift in the driver would overcome this problem, but it made no difference.
A driver bug creates an unusually long wait time to get a game started. If you think your computer has crashed, it likely hasn't, so be very patient. Finally, similar to DDD, PunkBuster compatibility isn't there either - but iZ3D has remarked that they have something in the works.
Let me begin by giving kudos out to Dice for Bad Company 2 and the stellar game that it is. I underestimated the single player campaign because I originally thought it was just a side piece for completeness. I was very wrong because the fun single player experience offers both a diverse and lengthy campaign.
On condition that the user hack is in place and/or Dice officially reactivates the 3D Vision optimizations, the winner for the best stereoscopic 3D experience with Bad Company 2 was Nvidia. For all intensive purposes, the 3D experience is nearly flawless, and earned our top rating.
DDD is a close second, and is handicapped only by Nvidia's optimizations and Punkbuster's incompatibility with their drivers. I strongly recommend that Dice implement some kind of option in the game's menus to turn the extra Nvidia optimizations on or off.
iZ3D came in third, but I expect them to eventually have DX10 support, and if they can get around the PunkBuster and shadow problems, their work could prove to be very competitive.
The scoring was determined by MTBS' 3D Game Analyzer. We don't deduct points for lack of PunkBuster compatibility because this isn't a limitation of the driver developer, and even though iZ3D and DDD don't have native cross-hair support, their laser sight works. Despite the closely matched scores, Nvidia's solution offered a superior 3D gaming experience.
While this was a huge and deserved success for Nvidia, Dice would have benefitted from making sure Battlefield Bad Company 2 was equally compatible with all three solutions, and not just one. I'm unconvinced this would have taken a great deal of effort on their part.
For example, the 3D crosshair and nametags worked equally well with the DDD and Nvidia drivers because it was handled from within the game engine. This is an optimization that could easily work well for everyone. Could the gun scopes have been handled the same way? Can proprietary coding be avoided? I think there is room for standardization here.
In the short term, the easiest solution is to patch the game so Nvidia's customized 3D functionality can be optionally turned off, and all drivers can interact equally well. If this can be done, both DDD and iZ3D gamers can enjoy the single player campaign until the PunkBuster limitations are sorted out. I will attach the current "package.mft" files to the forum thread associated with this article shortly.