Released in March, 2010, DICE's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was both a commercial and critical success. Thanks to an outstanding and engaging single-player experience, detailed and atmospheric map design, standout audio, destructible terrain, and super-tuned multiplayer modes, BC2 did just about everything right. Over the past 10 months, a steady stream of map packs (seven in all) has kept the game in heavy rotation for many FPS fans.
Vietnam is a multiplayer-only expansion that includes four new maps (a fifth will be opened in the near future), 15 new, period-authentic weapons, 6 new vehicles, and a rockin' 60's soundtrack. It retains the same four popular gameplay modes as the original (Rush, Squad Deathmatch, Onslaught, and Conquest).
The original BC2's mutliplayer maps were nothing short of spectacular, and all four of Vietnam's maps, although large, are well-focused and feature varied terrain, multiple sniping spots, trenches, plenty of ambush-ready hidey-holes, and drip with beautiful visual and atmospheric effects. Parrots call in the distance and you can feel the humidity as you tensely negotiate to your next bit of cover. From the sunlight stabbing through the palms, to the muddy river water and the scorched, burning landscape over the next hill, the game looks great. Audio designóweapons and ambient soundsóis once again masterful, and the soundtrack parade of classic 1960s era rock and soul keeps things authentic. (Well, authentic to our movie image of Vietnam, anyway, including a "The Ride of the Valkyries" accompaniment to the Huey firefights.)
Lacking the precise power of cutting edge contemporary weapons, the period rifles and other weapons in Vietnam force the player into a closer-quarters mode of engagement, though the engineer still controls a scoped rifle. The new flamethrower is a spectacularly effective up-close weapon and has the added bonus of torching the deformable landscape. Although most of the buildings are rice-paper and bamboo shacks that don't provide much in the way of cover to begin with, they can of course be blown up by mortar fire or ripped to shreds from a circling Huey. Like the original BC2, each map highlights a vehicle that once again can play a major role in victory. Throw a competent driver and gunner into the Huey, tank, or gunboat and the kill count ticker spins.
Player character stats and progression carry over from BC2, so while the mechanics of the game and the four classes are simple to pick up, the servers are already populated by a lot of high-level, long-time players. Like the Call of Duty series, BC2 multiplayer is largely the domain of hardcore obsessives and it will take a lot of time and repeated humiliation to enter their ranks. That's not to imply that the game isn't fun: it absolutely is. I put a lot of hours into the original but coming back again for Vietnam meant facing off against players who had spent the last six months honing their skills and rising in the ranks. The new maps will level the field for a while, though, so it's still a relatively good time to jump in.
Priced at 15 bucks, Vietnam occupies that middle ground between a full-blown sequel or expansion, and a less ambitious map pack. Although it lacks single-player content, Vietnam builds on the strengths of an already excellent game and provides the player with some incredibly well-made new content. If you're a fan of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, this is a no-brainer; and if you've never tried BC2's particular brand of squad-based multiplayer, Vietnam is a pretty strong argument for giving it a try.
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