The Battlefield: Bad Company Multiplayer Beta is up and running on the Xbox 360. (See anybody on your friends list playing DICE? This is what that is.) When I checked the game out a few months ago the focus was on the campaign, because this game really is being designed all around the single player console experience. But spend a few minutes with the multiplayer and you’ll soon find it obvious that they didn’t skimp on this mode, no sir. This is all-out warfare.
First off, there’s nothing better than a massive 12 on 12 battle. Every match is frantic, brutal, and feels like no other game out there. (Uh, except for the other Battlefields, of course.) It truly feels like a gigantic war are going on, even more so because of the destruction you can unleash. Practically every single object in the game can be destroyed. Sniper in the house up ahead? Blow up the wall. Tree in your way? Shoot it in half. Hell, even the ground will crater if you hit it with explosives. It makes the game that much more exciting, since at any time that piece of cover you’re hiding behind might be destroyed at any moment. I’ve even had enemies knock down trees with their tanks that toppled over on me. At the end of a battle buildings will barely be standing up, and the place will look like it’s been through hell, which is has. It’s really what we need for a next gen game.

There’s only one game mode available to try, and that’s Gold Rush. Two teams are competing for crates of gold… and much like in real life, it seems the Americans are attacking other countries for their money (they speak in Russian and Arabic). As attackers your job is to blow up the crates, which must be made out of adamantium or something, because even tank fire will take a while to open it. The easiest way to blow them up is to set a charge, but of course you risk the enemy killing you, and they can defuse it after it’s set. On the defender’s side it’s your job to keep them away. Defenders can respawn unlimited times, but the attackers only have a certain amount of times they can come back. You’ve got to keep killing them till there ain’t no more left. If they blow up your gold, they’ll get more respawns and you’ll have to retreat to the next area, where there’s more gold for looting. This continues until you hit the last area which is the final standoff, and usually the most frenzied battle.

It’s very simple, but requires a lot of strategy and coordination. The two maps included in the Beta require very different schemes to win.

Oasis is a wide open place with lots of vehicles, set in a desert oasis. The map is absolutely massive. Here, you’ll control everything from tanks to helicopters to boats, and learn just how much fun the artillery gun is (more on that later).

Ascension is a foresty area with lots of hills. Besides a jeep or two there’s no vehicles here, so it’s all about hiding behind cover and using smart tactics to get up those hills.

Both boards are incredible for any type of play- snipers will get a lot of work here, as will those who like to run around like crazy with the shotgun, like me. (There are a handful of different classes with different weapon packs to try out).

Anyone who’s played me online in Halo knows that while I’m not a fantastic player, when I’m on a vehicle I’m a beast. I found out the same applies here… except that it’s so much more friggin’ satisfying to drive a tank through walls, trees, and enemies. There’s almost nothing that can stop you when you’re rolling along in the biggest one, and the path of destruction you’ll leave is oh so satisfying. It’s scary to see an enemy tank advancing on you if you’re on foot, and you better hope that you chose a class of character with some explosives (or have a vehicle nearby) if you see one come coming.

The helicopter I still can’t control for shit, and actually managed to kill a teammate with once. I’m staying away until I get some time alone with it to figure out the controls…

The massive artillery gun in Oasis is one of the higlights. When you jump in it you’re given a satellite view of the stage, and can shoot off a few rounds at whatever strikes your fancy. And holy crap is it scary to see that stuff coming flying down at you.

At one point on the defending team I got really pissed cause a guy was sitting in the artillery gun and killed me two or three times in a row, so I went on a suicide mission in a tank to go take him out. I did, and then I proceeded to lay waste to the rest of the enemy’s base. Tanks, Jeeps, Humvees, buildings… nothing escaped my wrath. I could only imagine the frustration on the other end as I just kept killing everyone, and it lasted a helluva lot longer than I thought it would, but alas, it eventually ended. So much fun.

When you get killed you have the option of spawning either back at the base, which may require a long haul back to where the battle’s raging- or behind another player, which can easily get you shot. Your choice.

The Beta also allows you to gain ranks (I’m a sergent something or other with a fancy gold star badge) and unlock new weapons, like every other FPS out there right now. But there’s some nice stuff to unlock, and let me tell you, that mortar is fun as hell to play with. There’s also trophies and patches to earn by doing all sorts of things, from as simple as killing a certain amount of people with a weapon, to destroying a helicopter with another helicopter. It’s fun, and shows just how well the system will work. The one bit of controversy behind this game (the weapons that EA is charging for… more on that here) doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal, as no weapon is any better than the others- but it’s still very lame that we’re not just getting everything with the standard package. Come on, guys. Don’t force your customers to buy new weapons, or the “Gold Edition”.

But, I’m having a helluva lot of fun playing these two maps, and now, sitting in my underwear at 4:30 in the morning, listening to the smooth jazz of the Bad Company theme song, I wonder how it got so late. I haven’t even seen one bug yet in the multiplayer- no lag, no dropped connections, nothing. If the single player pans out, this could easily be the next great first person shooter.  Let’s hope for the best.

Sound like fun? You’ve got a month to get your ass in gear and check it out. The only problem is that this is a closed beta, which means you either need to be an IGN Insider and like paying for what you can get on other sites for free, or pre-order it from Gamestop. Good luck.