After a break for lunch (where we entertained an entire pizzeria with tales of Pope warfare and nuclear snot) we were all given a chance to check the multiplayer out on a brand new map called Harvest Day. True to the name it’s set on a farm, with plenty of land, farmhouses and silos around. It’s fun maneuvering tanks and jeeps around the place, as it’s very hilly, and allows for lots of big jumps and exciting moments as tanks come smashing through fences and over the many bridges (which if the defense is smart it’ll take out…)

It’s also possibly bigger than Oasis (a map currently being played in the online Beta), which is a massive map in itself. You’ve got lots of grass and trees to snipe from, and machine gun turrets and rocket launchers to help repel the attackers. The attackers get one of those awesome artillery guns to lay down fire with, and tanks, humvees and other vehicles to go after the bases.

There were 13 players here from various websites, and some in attendance were old school Battlefield vets. I had some real competition there. The guys at DICE offered up various prizes for the game for getting various medals in the game before anyone else, or coming on top in points. And it figures that the only match I dominated in was the first, which was the warm-up and didn’t count. The prizes turned out to be Swedish food products and delicacies, some really good (and strange) stuff. The biggest prize was a jar of lobster balls, which they were quick to point out were just lobster meat packed into balls, and not an anatomical reference. All I got was a pack of delicious jelly rats, though. At the end no one picked up the
lobster balls, mostly because airport security would’ve taken it away
and we didn’t want to have to eat an entire jar of lobster. There were also 3 Gamestop gift cards handed out for the top three players, which sucked for me since I ended up 3 points away from third place. If only I hadn’t killed that one teammate….

While we all had a blast playing against each other, one letdown was the news that there would only be this one multiplayer mode- Gold Rush. The game is phenomenally fun, sure, but a little variety never hurt anyone. There probably will be something in the future to check out via downloadable content, but still… (UPDATE! Dice just announced today that everyone’s favorite Battlefield mode Conquest will be available as a free download in an upcoming update. Awesome!)

For anyone who doesn’t know how it works, Gold Rush is a team game. The attackers are going after crates of gold, and have to destroy them with heavy weapons fire or a planted charge. There are only two available at a time, and if the attackers manage to get them both the defense gets pushed back to the next holding point. It’s here when you realize just how big some of these maps are, as there’s tons of defense points. The defender’s only job is to keep the attackers away from the crates, and keep killing them off. They have a finite number of respawns, so once you take out enough of them out the defenders will win. It’s one of my favorite multiplayer modes yet, as it encourages team play and wanton destuction. It’s very fast paced.

Bad Company seems to take a lot from Call of Duty 4 in that regard. Controls have been almost synched up with that game (same left trigger style aiming, same running by clicking in the left thumbstick, etc.), and instead of dealing with the long respawn times in the old Battlefields you’re in there much quicker… and even given the choice of coming back at your base or directly behind a comrade. It keeps things fast and frenzied, and much more exciting. Gold Rush really is the perfect mode for this game.

There will be 8 maps included in the final game, although we weren’t allowed to check any of the others yet. Judging from the amount of play we got out of the two in the beta, this should be plenty for now. I can see Harvest Day being a fan favorite, as well. It’s just got something for everyone.

A bit of a bummer is the 24 player cap that may turn off a lot of Battlefield vets, but the fact is that this game wouldn’t work with 64 people. It just wouldn’t. It’s already absolute chaos, with explosions, smoke, mortar strikes, and bullets flying everywhere. There’s just so much going on and the maps are already huge as it is… they’d have to be absolutely enormous to fit everyone.

It’s hard out there for First Person Shooters (and pimps) these days, as most everyone is already online playing one of the best ever made (Call of Duty 4), but I have no doubt that this one will suck many people away. It’s hard to go back to another shooter after playing it- it just doesn’t feel right when you’re shooting an RPG at an enemy who’s hiding behind a wall. That sucker should go down, damn it. If the rest of the maps are just as good as the three we’ve seen so far (and I’ve no doubt they will be) and the single player offers us enough variety, this could easily be the FPS to beat this summer.

I’d like to thank Andrew Green and all the other guys at EA and DICE for setting this up and showing me a good time once again. For more info on the game check out the official website.