Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam Review: I Love the Smell of DLC in the Morning

Kicking off last year with the stellar Battlefield: Bad Company 2, EA closed it out by dropping the Vietnam expansion. Building upon already incredibly strong shooter mechanics, Vietnam reinforces the formula with another fantastic set of maps brought to life with the sights and sounds definitive of the era.

Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE
Genre: First Person Shooter (Online Multiplayer Only)
Release Date: December 18, 2010 (PC), December 20, 2010 (XBLA & PSN)
ESRB Rating: Mature

In a generation saturated with shooters, veteran developer DICE kept its name relevant with the new proprietary Frostbite engine; the fresh Bad Company series within the Battlefield name; and one of the most successful downloadable titles, revisiting their roots with Battlefield 1943. Seeking to replicate that last achievement by returning to another familiar setting, the Swedish studio further cements its place as one of the premier shooter developers with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam.

The first thing that hooks you is the aesthetics of the game. Going to the Vietnam section of the main menu seamlessly transitions into a Vietnam theme, with typical soldiers and equipment in the background while “Fortunate Son” plays. The loading screens showing the map have nice film grain and clipping lines over them, while a radio announcer gives some background on the mission over a news broadcast. These audio and visual effects carry over to the post-match cutscenes at the end of a round. Players following the game will know that vintage music from the 1970’s also plays on the radio in the vehicles; “Fortunate Son” from the main menu seems to be the game’s favorite as you can expect to hear it more than the other tracks. All of these techniques give the game a distinct personality that strives for authenticity in bringing the era to life.

What really drives home how hard DICE went in making a game true to the war is the maps, which are far more than just new landscapes from the pre-existing jungle settings of Bad Company 2. New assets like the bamboo trees, huts, and temple ruins define this as a self-contained world within an expansion and not just a map pack. Hill 137 strongly shows this as US Forces proceed up a hill that has literally been scorched to the ground. Players navigate between torched huts as ash rises all around them from the completely charred soil. The Battlefield games always assert their superiority by crafting massive environments filled with objects and sounds that put you in the heart of the action, and in this regard, Vietnam just may be DICE at its finest.

Much of the game benefits from building on top of one of the best shooters this generation, Bad Company 2. Everything is beautifully rendered with the Frostbite engine, boasting some of the best graphics in the industry. The gunhandling is responsive enough to require serious firing discipline at long range, but accessible enough for players to get quick kills unloading down the sights. The class system is identical to Bad Company 2, and a well-coordinated squad utilizing all four classes will find themselves excelling on the battlefield. One lamentable fact is that there is essentially no progression system – your experience adds to your level in the main Bad Company 2 game, but all of the weapons and equipment are available immediately, requiring no levelling up. Players who dedicate themselves to the way of the Sniper will have no better an arsenal than anyone else.

Thankfully, all four game modes from the main game are carried over, and it appears you can play them on all five maps. Like the Bad Company games, Rush is the star of the show here, as attackers fight to destroy a successive series of two objectives at a time, with each combat phase rotating infantry and vehicular-focused combat, and a mix of the two. Rush provides not only a focused, cinematic compilation of a variety of “Battlefield moments” but also once again shows you the diversity within each of the maps. On Vantage Point, for example, the teams start fighting amongst the rocks in a river; next, the attackers proceed up a hill to seize a small village of straw huts; finally, the Americans are pushed back to defend an army outpost. Squad Rush also makes its return, minimizing the team size to four on four, and as in the main game it can be hard to find a decent game as sometimes you’ll be stuck with two on two without spotting any enemies for several minutes. Squad Deathmatch is just as frantic here, but I found the maps kind of cluttered and not really amenable to this mode. Some map selections provide little sense of direction, making it hard to get a good streak going when a new enemy is shooting at you everywhere you turn.

Unfortunately, Conquest seems a little derivative of Rush, as the three objectives seem to be sprawled out on a linear path, creating a kind of tug-of-war where the game really comes down to who controls the middle. The only other complaint I’ve had was an exploitable glitch on Rush on Cao Sun Temple. The enemies were able to drive a patrol boat inside of the ground underneath the village in the middle, and unload at all of us above with their gun turrets. We all heard “Fortunate Son” playing underneath our feet as impossible machine gun fire rose up from the ground. It was comical more than anything, and I didn’t find another game where players knew the specifics of how to pull this off.

At $15, Vietnam is one of the best downloadable purchases you can make. The game is a class-A effort from a top tier developer, and a shining example of why the Bad Company formula is so effective. The only disparaging argument is that in order to play it, you must already own one of the best multiplayer shooters of this generation, which, especially after all the VIP map packs, is a far more robust package.

Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.

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