Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, N.C. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for Local Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. He can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

By RYAN SMITH, special to LTW

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The Battlefield series of games is a staple for online, first-person shooter action. The first Bad Company title first introduced a story mode into the formula for Battlefield games, and it did not disappoint. The story was vague but in a charming way, it really was just about 4 guys who have no luck but plenty of wit (not to mention plenty of guns) on a search for gold. The level design was impressive, the destructible environments, characters and guns all made for a great experience.

Then DICE transplanted all those great elements into the most important part of their game: the multiplayer. Since online fps action is what Battlefield fans expect, that’s where the game needed to shine, and shine it did.

is a great addition to the Battlefield franchise and a great sequel. The story mode of the game is once again highly addicting and well designed. The Bad Company themselves are hysterical to watch in action, but also awe-inspiring in their ability to take punishment and dish it out.

The story was a bit more developed this time around, with a bit of back story and a feel of importance to the character’s actions. The level design is just gorgeous, taking Preston and the Bad Company from snow-swept plains to dense South American jungles. The backgrounds are seamlessly blended into the playable areas, making it seem absolutely vast (despite being quite linear and restricted).

The single-player never lets up. It’s non-stop action from beginning to end and leads up to an epic climax worthy of joining the ranks of today’s cinematic shooters. The Bad Company never loses their charm, dropping witty one-liners and bickering back and forth throughout the game, which is one of the best parts of the campaign.

Vehicular combat makes a return, when combined with the 100 percent destructible buildings adds a ton of fun to leading explosive assaults on enemy emplacements. There are great sequences of aerial combat, tank combat, infantry assaults, as well as chase sequences and even high altitude battles.

Multiplayer in Bad Company 2 is even deeper than in the first title. There are unlocks for each of the four classes (Assault, Recon, Engineer & Medic) as well as vehicles, enough in fact to keep you coming back for hours and hours.

The medic can now resuscitate fallen comrades as in Battlefield 2142, with some other changes such as allowing each class to switch primary and secondary weapons between classes. New specializations are also utilized allowing overall customization to reach much higher levels than in the first Bad Company, where the only real difference was which primary weapon was picked.

New vehicles also enter the fray, a dual Gatling-gun wielding Blackhawk helicopter, quad bikes, new boats and plenty of tanks to take the battle to the enemy in armored style. Strafing runs with the Blackhawk is as deadly to the foe as it is fun, while the new vehicle upgrade specializations allow for tank on tank or tank vs. infantry to be even more exciting than in the first title.

A total of 43 weapons, plus gadgets and specializations assure no match is the same as the last and battling never gets boring. The terrain is deliciously destructible, just like before, but now whole buildings can be toppled, instead of leaving skeletal structures behind.

Bad Company 2 flat out is the best squad-based shooter to date. In addition to all the other new features they even added in two new game play modes. Conquest and “Gold Rush” (now just Rush) modes remain, while also adding in Squad Deathmatch and a hardcore mode which greatly increases weapon damage and decreases HUD utilization and player health.

If any game out there is worth $60, it’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2. It has as much replayability as you can hope for, engaging single player, and engrossing multiplayer. It’s fantastic – the most polished Battlefield game to date.

Rating: 5 out of 5