Until now, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has been cruelly starved of worthwhile DLC for too long. The optimistically priced online co-op Onslaught was completely lacklustre and the recurring influx of “new” VIP map packs was becoming a running joke.
Coincidentally timed with the release of a game that bears the initials of a certain breed of fish, DICE finally served up a tastier DLC dish comprising of four free maps, which did well to accentuate the aforementioned fish’s astronomically priced map packs. This, however, was only the start of DICE’s extensive DLC plans.
Announced in the most fleeting of teaser trailers during this year’s E3, Bad Company 2: Vietnam is DICE’s latest and most substantial DLC offering to date, stealthily creeping into the market after months of uncertainty surrounding the release date. But with such stiff competition in the FPS pond, is there any room left for Vietnam to engage?
True Battlefield veterans will recall that this is not the franchise’s first venture into Vietnamese territory however – Battlefield Vietnam, the official sequel to the original Battlefield 1942, was released back in 2004.
Whereas the original was a full standalone game, DICE’s new attempt to rally its troops into Vietnam acts as an online expansion pack for Bad Company 2, adding four brand new, Vietnam-themed maps (along with a fifth map that has now been unlocked after the community achieved an ambitious 69 million assists on each platform), 15 new weapons and an army of new vehicles. Each map is also playable in the same game modes from Bad Company 2, i.e. Rush, Conquest, Squad Rush and Squad Death Match.
Bad Company 2 was already rife with impeccably designed battlefields, but Vietnam’s rank among the best the game now has to offer, a point that is dramatically apparent when you first set foot in the standout map Hill 137.
As armed jets soar overhead, the previously serene jungle becomes visually engulfed by a sudden napalm strike, rendering a section of the environment completely devastated in a valley of burning backdrops. For this alone, it’s an awe-inspiring set-piece and one of the most visually striking multiplayer maps I’ve played in any game.
An abundance of enclosed trenches also ensures that Vietnam often enforces close combat compared to that of Bad Company 2, resulting in battles that are more immediate whilst still retaining Battlefield’s trademark sense of staggering scale.
The remaining maps are equally impressive, for the most part. Vantage Point’s uphill route is a welcome change from Bad Company 2’s predominately flat terrain that creates some truly tense stand-offs, whereas Phu Bai Valley is the map of choice if you want all-out war in the game’s numerous vehicles. On the other hand, Cao Son Temple doesn’t feel quite as captivating due to its bland setting but the newly unlocked Battle of Hastings more than makes up for it with its multiple branching routes and dividing bridges.
Vietnam retains Bad Company 2’s graphical splendour, but sports a grittier visual style to represent the Vietnam era to set it apart from Bad Company 2. DICE has implemented their usual admirable attention to detail too, adding an air of authenticity that makes the battles feel all the more immersive as, unlike Bad Company 2, the game is set in a real-life conflict. Even the briefing videos before each game contain pre-emptive narrative providing context to the Vietnam War.
Vietnam‘s new weapons often make you feel naked in combat thanks to the lack of high-tech red dot sights and motion mines, but this only adds to the sense of foreboding danger. As a result, it’s certainly more challenging than Bad Company 2 which may deter some players accustomed to its modern luxuries, but I found the contrast to be refreshing and satisfying due to the reliance on skill alone.
New weapons such as the Ak-47 are worthy additions to Bad Company 2’s attractive armoury, but nothing prepares you for when you first encounter an enemy with a flamethrower – there’s nothing more sadistically satisfying than torching scores of panic stricken enemies, especially when the flamethrower is mounted to a tank which is made possible by a new specialisation.
Bad Company 2’s barrage of playable war machines made each game a spectacular spectacle as fleets of tanks, helicopters, jeeps and boats ran rampant, and Vietnam doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. The imposing AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, the defining aircraft of the Vietnam War, are particularly deadly, but their lack of armour makes it surprisingly easy to destroy with stock weapons. Marvellously, a rocking soundtrack can now also be played whenever you commandeer a vehicle – it’s especially comical to hose enemies down with heavy machine gun fire to the tune of the Rolling Stones. And yes, because it’s Vietnam, Fortunate Son has not been omitted.
There is just one thing that baffles me however: why isn’t it a standalone release? Battlefield 1943 proved that online exclusive distribution was a very feasible market and Vietnam is a very similar package in terms of both content and price, yet it requires ownership of Bad Company 2.
This lack of segregation is particularly evident by the fact that Vietnam retains the same online ranking progress from Bad Company 2, meaning that everything is already unlocked if you’ve previously clocked in the hours. I have mixed feelings about this decision, as while it’s useful to soldier on with your main game rank, it makes playing Vietnam feel a tad aimless without any unlocks.
Speaking of rankings, an unfortunate glitch that resets your ranking (therefore leaving you without the weapons and gadgets you unlocked) still plagues the game to this day. It’s a minor inconvenience, yes, but one that DICE has had ample time to fix.
Considering Vietnam’s price point of £9.99/$15, it’s difficult to complain about the amount of content on offer here, and DICE’s generosity puts COD’s equivalent DLC to absolute shame. In short, Battlefield’s excursion to Vietnam makes it feel like a completely different game altogether, therefore making it a must have for trigger happy Bad Company 2 fans longing for a new reason to return to the battlefield.
Vietnam's new maps are stunning to behold: Hill 137's fire-ridden terrain is particularly awe inspiring.
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Battlefield's sublime shooting mechanics and high intensity battles are still second to none, and the new Vietnam ambience creates an even more realistic sense of immersion.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Bad Company 2's sound design is exceptional in every regard, and Vietnam is no exception. Every round of ammo is fully felt with full force, and Vietnam's new sound effects (including new soldier voice-overs) help to differentiate itself from Bad Company 2.
There is a decent amount of maps and toys to play with for Battlefield troops to relish, but the lack of unlocks takes away the sense of progression somewhat.
It's only right that the best online first person shooter of 2010 is rewarded with the best DLC package of 2010. DICE has once again unleashed a superbly executed entry in the Battlefield franchise that provides Bad Company 2 with a well deserved new lease of life.