I've recently been playing the hugely popular online multiplayer game Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I'm late in this train as the game was released a year or so ago already, but better late than never. The game contains a ranking system with 50 ranks and I'm currently at rank 3 or 4 after clocking some 10 hours in the game. I've noticed that there are some great guides to the game, like the ones Brighthub has (must read!), but I haven't seen a good tutorial/FAQ aimed for those of us who are total newbies to the game. This blog post is my attempt to at least partially rectify that lack of guides aimed for newbies. This way I'm also documenting my own process of getting into the game.
Single player vs. multiplayer
So, what should one know about the game? It's got a single player and a multiplayer mode. I played the first few maps of the single player campaign before moving to the multiplayer. I admit I don't know if the progress in single player makes any difference in the options you have available in the multiplayer, but I doubt that. I'll focus on the multiplayer mode exclusively.
The multiplayer mode can have up to 32 players in a single game -- 16 players per team. The game has a few different game modes of which the Conquest and Rush seem to be the most popular.
The Conquest mode contains areas of interest that the team must capture and hold to win the round. There are a few areas to be captured at any given time. You capture the area by clearing it from enemies and hanging out in there until it switches sides, which may be about 10 seconds. You get points for capturing the area or assisting in the capture. The color of the area (or actually the color of the square marking the area in your mini map, HUD) tells the side which currently controls it: if the square is red, the area is controlled by the enemy. Blue squares are controlled by your team and white squares are still neutral.
In the Rush mode one team attacks and another defends crates that are placed in the map. The crates are shown as squares like the areas of the Conquest mode. The attackers aim to blow up the crates by getting to them and holding the E-key until a bomb is armed. This again takes some 10 seconds. Then a sort of warning time follows during which the square of the crate blinks in the HUD and a red light blinks in the building the crate is in. During this time the defenders must try to disable the bomb, again by getting to it and holding the E-key. The crates may also be destroyed by collapsing a building on it, which requires some heavy weaponry such as a mortar strike called in by a Recon specialist, but more on that later.
At the beginning of each round you may pick a character class. You can choose between assault, medic, engineer and recon.
Assault is your typical assault rifle -carrying all-around guy who does most of the dirty job in the front line. I don't really like the class because I find the basic assault rifle too inaccurate and not powerful enough, plus the class lacks the neat gadgets the other classes have.
The Engineer class is something I prefer to the Assault class. The basic submachine gun is accurate and I've gotten many kills with it. The trick here is to use the iron sights - brought up by clicking the right mouse button -- and to shoot in short bursts or even single shots. Full auto will just empty your clip in no time while giving away your position, leading in your quick demise. The engineer also starts with the RPG -- rocket propelled grenade launcher -- which is great for eliminating not only tanks but also enemies that are hiding behind some walls. Remember: you don't need to see the enemy to kill them. You can shoot through fences and thin walls and I've already scored many kills that way. The RPG allows you to kill enemies behind thicker walls by bringing the wall down altogether.
The Medic class is somewhat boring in the beginning: it does not start with the medical equipment, you have to earn them. Sure, the PKM machine gun is neat, but I find that it's not too accurate.
I played most of my first hours as a Recon specialist. The Recon specialist is basically a sniper: armed with a sniper rifle, capable of taking out individual enemies from a distance. Sounds cool, but I've found that the maps don't support this too well, as most of the time they are crowded and have several passages, allowing enemies to sneak behind you. The other issue is of course the fact that if you can see the enemy then the enemy can see you. A sniper's worst enemy often seems to be another sniper, and as most of the players have much more experience and better weapons than a newbie sniper, it's not difficult to guess the outcome.
The Recon specialist's first earnable gadget is the motion detection mine. Use them! They are like grenades but instead of exploding they stay in the ground for a short while, alerting your team about enemies that enter their vicinity. You will also be awarded some points if your teammates kill the enemies spotted by those mines.
The second gadget that a Recon specialist earns are the binoculars. These are used to call in mortar strikes. You don't need to be able to see the enemy to call in the strike. To call in a mortar strike you may first locate the enemy by moving the binoculars so that the white dot in the middle turns red. That's not required, though, so you can just target the wall behind which the enemy is hiding. Then hold the left mouse button until the progress bar below the dot fills and the rounds are on their way. The strike is not instant, of course, but it takes a while for the shells to fly into their target. This is, however, a good weapon if the enemy has, say, parked a tank somewhere and is shooting at your troops from a basically stationary position.
About the guns the recon specialist first earns, the Type 88 sniper rifle is pretty good. It is semi-automatic as in opposite to the basic rifle which is a bolt-action one. The difference is that with a semi-automatic rifle you can shoot your magazine empty without ever leaving the scope view, whereas a bolt-action rifle needs to be reloaded after every shot, slowing your rate of fire considerably. The recon specialist also earns some shotguns which may be used if the number of sniper rifles in a team is limited by the server and if you still want to use the binoculars or the motion detection mines.
Talking about spotting enemies, that's a really important part of the game. When you see an enemy without the red triangle over his head, you should always hit the Q-key, or the "Socialize button" as it's called. This alerts your team by displaying a red triangle over the enemy's head and in the mini map. Nothing is more frustrating for a sniper than trying to find out targets without any spotting help when obviously a constant firefight is going on in the front line. The front line warriors also appreciate a lot if you spot enemies that are, for example, trying to flank them. I've found out that spotting works best while using the scope of a sniper rifle or the iron sights of a regular gun, but that's not necessary. Again, you get points for spotting enemies if they are killed because you spotted them. So don't try to kill all the enemies by yourself, help yourself and your team by spotting the enemies as often as possible!
One of the factors that made me change my primary character class from Recon to Engineer was the fact that I noticed that most of my Recon kills were coming from using stationary machine guns, not the sniper rifles. Some maps have heavy machine guns that can be mounted by going next to them and hitting the E-key. When you mount a heavy machine gun you will want to see better, which is why you probably should shoot down as many of the obstacles in front of you as possible. This includes, for example, trees, crates and walls. By creating a large open space in front of you you force the enemies to cross it without much cover, allowing you to nail them better.
Many maps in the game contain vehicles such as tanks and helicopters. Vehicles are entered by going next to them and hitting the E-key. Tanks have a spot for the driver, who also controls the main cannon, and a shooter, who controls the machine gun. The shooter's primary responsibility is then to spot and kill enemy engineers with RPGs. The tanks also have some spots for passengers, if you want a ride.
Helicopters are very nice but difficult to fly. You should practice flying them in an empty, unranked server, as you are most likely to crash the thing on your first few tries, and that's not something you want to do with a crew inside the helicopter counting on you. The pilot also controls the missiles. The gunner's position is much easier to handle. The Gatling guns the attack chopper has are very powerful and can even be used to bring down walls. Helicopter's worst enemies are Engineers with RPGs and heavy machine guns, possibly mounted on tanks. Skilled snipers may also shoot the crew members of the helicopter, which is pretty bad for the helicopter if the shot member was the pilot.
Finally, some maps have little computer stations that can be entered like machine guns but cannot be used to shoot at anything. They are UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) control stations. UAVs are small, unmanned, easy to fly helicopters. They can be used for reconnaissance and for painting targets for hellfire missiles (which work like Recon specialist's mortar strikes), but I don't have much experience on that.
The bullets have a travel time and they are affected by gravity. Gravity means that for targets that are far away you must aim at the top of their head to score a hit. If you shoot at their torso the bullet might drop enough to barely hit their ankles. This is not a concern most of the time but especially snipers should be aware of this. Aiming at the top of the head usually scores a headshot as well, killing the enemy with a single shot. Travel time means that if you are shooting an object that's moving fast, you should aim a little ahead of them. You will know that you have hit your target once an "X" appears at the center of the screen (which is where you always shoot). That happens with all guns, including the stationary machine guns and sniper rifles.
Experienced enough medics can drop first aid kits into the field. The kits are marked by "+" signs in the mini map. They won't heal you instantly but they will accelerate your regeneration when you hang out next to them. Healing teammates like this also earns the medic some points. Similarly, assault soldiers can drop ammo boxes. If you manage to stay alive for long enough to run out of ammo, you should find these boxes. The ammo is grabbed automatically by going next to the box.
Something else that can be grabbed from the field are the kits of deceased soldiers. A kit contains all the weapons and gadgets the soldier was carrying and replaces the kit you were carrying at the moment. This is a nice way of getting a taste of some more advanced technology. A kit stays in the ground for a short while after their owner has been killed so if you want to have one you should make your decision quickly. You will know you can pick up a kit with the E-key when a message in the middle of the screen says so. The symbol next to the message tells you what kind of a kit it is: a circle with a crosshair in it means a recon kit, a "+" means a medic kit, etc.
Finally, here's a neat site that displays statistics about your soldier: Stats Verse. You don't even need to register to get a huge bunch of information about your progress. The official site also has statistics, but they are always more outdated than Stats Verse's where you can even force an update of your stats. The official site might be a bit clearer, though, and it has got textual descriptions of all the guns and gadgets.
So, I believe here are the most important things I've learned about the game so far in my short career. Did I miss anything? What were your biggest aha-experiences as a newbie player? Any other tips or tricks for the newbies? Please discuss!
Edit/Add: See Part 2 for some more tips!
Edit/Add: See Part 2 for some more tips!