As everyone looks back at what developers had to offer in 2010 in this pretty rad medium called video games, it's a little shocking that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has largely gone unmentioned. Its scale, its amazing sound design, its incredible atmosphere and its sheer moments of breathtaking chaos as the world around blew up around you was truly something to behold. With the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam, a multiplayer expansion, it doesn't seem like much will change, and that's a real shame. It's a worthy addition to the core game, and at $15 you've either made up your mind already or you really should buy Vietnam if you enjoyed Bad Company 2.
For such a dramatically different time period, if you've played Bad Company 2, you'll have a surprisingly solid grasp on Vietnam in no time. Most changes are cosmetic at best; defibrillators are now adrenaline syringes, the guns look completely war-torn, and instead of a grenade launcher attachment, the assault class just has a weapon with a singular purpose of launching out grenades.
"…once the tanks start rolling in with choice Vietnam-era tunes, the word “immersion” seems completely fitting."
The atmosphere is easily its most distinguishable feature, going for that same level of authenticity that Bad Company 2 had in spades. The sheer level of explosions and chatter going on between the Americans and the NVA sells the sensation of being in the middle of a war so well. It's captivating, and once the tanks start rolling in with choice Vietnam-era tunes, the word “immersion” seems completely fitting. An M40 round takes out the mate behind you. You desperately set TNT charges along the road, as the tank signifies its intentions of blowing you the hell up, as it rides in with Ride of the Valkyries playing through its speakers. Ah, this must be what war kind of is like, you think, and you stick around for another round.
Vietnam has a few design choices that gives the game a distinct character compared to Bad Company 2. Map design, at least for the game's Rush mode, has a much more considered design. Varied elevation and plenty of foliage do a lot to give the Attackers the help they need, while the Defenders still have the advantage of waiting for the opposing side to arrive. Wide, large flanks give Attackers so many more options, and with the exception of Vantage Point's first chokepoint, these are easily some of the best Rush maps in all of Bad Company 2. There's a nice mix of infantry and vehicle-driven maps, and with the recent unlocking of Operation Hastings, it makes for a total of 5 maps in which to make pretend war.
Take the same maps into the Battlefield-standard Conquest mode, and things aren't as great. Phu Bai Valley wins out as the only proper Conquest map with its flatlands and smart placement of capture points, while the others offer nothing but straight, linear sets of points with little room to flank on either side. What they boil down to is capturing the middle point and holding it. It's about as easy as it is said and makes for predictable outcomes.
"At its best though, Vietnam is raw and intense."
At its best though, Vietnam is raw and intense. Its gunplay has been stripped to the bare minimum; the sights, scopes, and some of the specialization that gave Bad Company 2 players so many ways to adapt to a situation are largely gone. You have iron sights, a small load-out of guns for each class, and a few spare specializations that you can take with you to the battlefield. There's nothing distinctly overpowered as a result, and the guns you take into the fight largely come down to personal preference, as there is no gun that obviously has the clear advantage over all the others.
Vietnam is running DICE's Frostbite engine and so, predictably, the game looks great. Large vistas are rendered without any problems, and some of the maps are packed with some great details, like the burning hills off in the distance in Operation Hastings. Character models are incredibly detailed, with every little bit of dirt and stitching of an outfit rendered with remarkable clarity. Smooth, natural animations round out the visual package, offering a believable rendering of war.
Coupled with outstanding sound design, Vietnam's presentation is bound to catch the eyes and ears of passersby. Again, DICE's sound work is incredible, with newly recorded battle chatter and weapon sounds. It's tough to put into words, but basically, closing your eyes and simply listening to the game will make you grit your teeth and ball your hands up into fists just because of the sheer intensity therein. Just like Bad Company 2, Vietnam's soundscape is impeccable and going back to other wartime shooters will never be and has never been the same.
Five new maps, thirteen new weapons, and a setting that gives those 200+ hours Bad Company 2 addicts something new, Vietnam is just about one of the safest purchases you could make. It's exactly what you'd expect if you've poured dozens upon dozens of hours into Bad Company 2 and, even then, there are a few surprises that you're bound to appreciate, especially if you've been playing the game since launch. It's just $15. Skip a lunch, skip a movie, skip a whatever – just go out and get this.