At the time when Battlefield 1942 was released a lot of people were really looking for something brand new to play online. A lot of people were growing bored with games like Counter-Strike, and suddenly gamers could choose between both Battlefield 1942, and Unreal Tournament 2003. These two games cater to two kinds of shooter fans: the one who likes fast “twitch” action, and the one who likes to relive historical war scenarios. In Battlefield Vietnam you don’t play as one specific hero, you play as just some soldier trying to win the fight for his side. In terms of technology, a whole lot has happened since the Second World War, which was when the last game took place. However, if you’re familiar with how Battlefield 1942 played then you should be happy to know that it still has much of the same feel, only with a whole lot of new things to do, a whole lot of new places to visit, and plenty of cool vehicles, planes and weapons to use. Oh, and it rocks in multiplayer.
Battlefield Vietnam is in many ways similar to the previous game. You won’t be playing some twenty hour story in the single player. Instead you can choose between playing the game’s fourteen levels either offline or online. Most of the levels are more or less based off historical events, such as Operation Hastings, Operation Irving, Siege of Khe Sahn, Ho Chi Minh Trail, and plenty more. These levels take place in quite varied settings, ranging from the obvious jungles, to more tropical settings, to cities, and more. As usual the game explains the historical background and relevance regarding the level, which I’m sure is a plus for some. The biggest difference comparing the levels to Battlefield 1942 is without a doubt the much more tightly knit action. You won’t be finding a lot of really open terrains, which may annoy those who prefer playing as a sniper.
The actual battles also work very much like they used to. Two teams fight over a number of control points. Both teams start with a certain amount of points, which decreases as you kill people, or people kill you. If a team controls the majority of the points then the opposing team’s points will automatically decrease too. In a few of the levels one side starts with several points, while the other only has one. These are your typical invasion scenarios, which are a nice change from the ones where each start with only one point and have to fight over many. As expected there are still four classes to choose from; gunner (M16, grenade, etc), engineer (can fix and detonate vehicles), anti-tank guy, and sniper. These obviously have certain advantages and disadvantages, depending entirely on the situation.
Even though the classes aren’t new you’ll find tons of new weapons and drivable things. You still have basic melee weapons; pistols, revolvers etc, but now also totally new are the (sub) machineguns, rifles, rocket launchers, an m60, and a few different grenades. I personally like these a lot more than the ones in the previous games, mostly because they do a lot more damage, and because some are even used today. If you’re used to playing games like Unreal Tournament 2003 (or other similar games) you’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you die. In order to survive for at least a little while it’s crucial that you learn to work in teams, that you learn to hide, and that you watch your back at all times.
The artificial intelligence in the single player mode isn’t all too bad, but it certainly varies. For instance, the bots do get stuck now and again, sometimes riding a truck, and sometimes running into trees or other parts of the scenery. Most of the bots also stand still or run too much along a straight path, so at least on a normal difficulty it’s not hard to slaughter them if you catch them in the right situation. Playing over the Internet is of course what people want to be doing, and you shouldn’t have any problems. In my experience the ping wasn’t incredibly good on public servers, but it can be pretty damn good if you find a good private one. It can really be a lot of fun when you’ve got two huge teams fighting each other, seeing the shots practically rain from side to side, hearing them whiz over your head, and then having one hit you on the nose.
But what truly defines the game for me is the selection of vehicles and such. Battlefield 1942 had a pretty nice selection, but this really goes all out. You have jeeps, tanks, APCs, artillery, very basic boats, helicopters (which can even transport vehicles), a number of planes. Some of these carry multiple passengers, making them extremely powerful if used correctly. Most of these can be gunned down fairly quickly, but I can assure you that a full helicopter flown by a good pilot can be truly devastating.
Graphically the game isn’t incredibly new. Of course the game uses tons of new content, which is probably of an even higher standard than it was the last time, but you shouldn’t expect a lot of new engine features. The levels vary in size in this incarnation. Some are bigger than the ones in 1942, while some are bigger, and with an enormous number of trees and geometry you can expect a lower framerate than in Battlefield 1942. 512mb RAM should almost be required to play the game, and unless you have a pretty good videocard you’ll probably want to have a gigabyte of RAM if you want to run it at the highest settings.
You know, Electronic Arts has a certain way of getting whatever music they want for their games. This is also the case for Battlefield Vietnam, because you can already purchase a CD with the game’s soundtrack. A few songs to note are The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird, Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to Love, Canned Heat – On the Road Again, and Deep Purple – Hush. These songs add that little extra bit of atmosphere the game needs to get you into the whole Vietnam War mood. The sound effects are also very good, and so are most of the voice overs. However, some can get awfully annoying. I don’t speak Vietnamese, and I’m sure most of you don’t either. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people end up disabling these voice overs.
Battlefield Vietnam isn’t really a game for everyone. It’s a game that can be frustrating when you’re being slaughtered, but a whole lot of fun when you’re blasting away strangers with your friends on your team. It’s not extremely new in terms of feel and graphics, but it still scores very well in its presentation. The developers did a very nice job making the atmosphere just right, and the very solid soundtrack helps as well.
If you liked Battlefield 1942 then I can say with certainty that you’ll love this one. Battlefield Vietnam’s added depth, new content, and improved visuals and audio should make it practically a must-have for any fan of this sub-genre.