You know, it's so rare that my job feels like work. I mean, I play and write about video games for a living -- it's not a terribly taxing gig. I mention this not to brag about how great my life is (Twitter's the only appropriate place for that), but so you have some perspective when I tell you that almost every moment of Battlefield: Bad Company 2's single-player campaign felt like real, actual work.
The campaign isn't terrible, in fact, it's largely competent. But because of a lack of inspiration and a pretty crummy checkpoint system, Bad Company 2's single-player game is just plain not fun.
You'll once again step into the boots of Preston Marlowe (don't worry, I didn't remember his name either) as he continues his enlistment with the other Bad Company misfits. Moving away from the cloudy mortality and greed-based motivation of the first game, this is a much more straightforward story of the pursuit of an incredibly powerful mystery weapon that's been stolen by an evil Russian. Though your team may be more quirky than the Modern Warfare 2 dudes, their utility (doing crazy Special Forces missions when all others fail) now seems to be pretty much the same.
I'm being vague, but it's not to keep you from any spoilers. The story's all over the place, both geographically and structurally. You're shooting all these guys because they're keeping you from the superweapon. The end.
The big selling point of the first game, destructible environments, returns here, but -- while the sight of building materials exploding around you is one to behold -- it never makes the kind of impact on the action you'd hope for. It's cool when you have to move out of cover when it's been destroyed by a rocket launcher, but using the same tactics on the enemy is rarely as effective as just shooting them in the head when they jump out from behind the roadblock or wall they're hiding behind.
"You swore you didn't leave the oven on!"
This is a common thread in Bad Company 2: the few things it does that you haven't seen before it just doesn't do very well. It should be fun attacking the enemy as a squad, but the rest of the "Bad" Company is both bad at aiming and bad at taking cover. Watching your crack team rush into the open, get turned into Swiss cheese by enemy fire while managing to kill no one does little for immersion; and it should be interesting fighting on a team of unbalanced screw-ups, but they rarely feel like more than idiosyncratic quote machines; and fighting in a city being destroyed all around you should be cool, but you spend so much time firing blindly into debris smoke (which never seems to cause problems for your enemies) that it's little more than irritating.
The rest of the "Bad" Company is both bad at aiming and bad at taking cover.
There are a couple of sequences that are both original and well-executed like a stage that's so bitterly cold you have to run from shelter to shelter, warming yourself at fires along the way. There are also some nice dialog moments from your squad, but listening to these conversations usually requires standing still for extended periods of time as you wait for the exchanges to be triggered. The banter is occasionally funny, but I couldn't help but wish it had been more organically integrated.
On the rare occasion that Bad Compnay 2's campaign manages to rise above mediocrity, the enjoyment's short-lived thanks to the reprehensible lengths between checkpoints. In a later stage, I played the same seven or eight minutes three times in a row because I was taken out by a random sniper shot or rocket the first two times. I would stare at the loading screen each time just positive I wasn't going to start back at the beginning of the level again, and I was always disappointed. You'd be shocked at how quickly that kind of frustration can sully an otherwise inoffensive experience. Worse, it's hard to feel like it's anything other than a cynical attempt to artificially lengthen an admittedly brief campaign.
If you're horrified as you read this because you've had such an amazing time with the multiplayer, I can only urge you to cling to that love. By all means, if you're enjoying yourself as much as Alexander did, stay there and have fun with your friends! But should your curiosity get the best of you (say, when the online servers collapse for several hours or so), be warned that us lonely hearts in the single-player game aren't enjoying ourselves nearly as much.
Editor's note: This review is based on an Xbox 360 retail copy of Battlefile: Bad Company 2 provided by EA. The above score is an average of our single-player and multiplayer review scores, which were 3 and 5 respectively.