Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam Review
It's been a weird year for first person shooters. With the success of Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2, the release of EA's Battlefield Bad Company 2 in March was a little iffy. Despite its more team-focused online play, large maps, and solid vehicle-based action, this title never really got the attention it deserved. Now, at the end of 2010, Call of Duty: Black Ops dives back into the past with missions in Vietnam as well as other Cold War-era locales - and EA comes in a hell of a lot cheaper with a $15 add-on for Bad Company 2 centered around Vietnam.
But this is a multiplayer pack only, and it's chock full of new stuff: there are five maps (four to start with), tons of new gadgets and weapons, more voice acting, and an entirely different sound and look compared to Bad Company 2's standard online play. It's different enough that you actually switch to the Vietnam pack from the game's main menu before jumping into a game. Once you're in, you'll find the two modes that are at home in the regular game, Rush and Conquest, are both represented - and these scenarios are brutal. From grenade launchers to snipers, M16s to AK47s and on to Huey choppers and mortar strikes, this game will kill you - a lot. Maybe it's just that players are so used to the Bad Company way of things, but current players just seemed to settle right into this add-on - and if you're coming back and a bit rusty, you're going to die very often.
Still, there are some nice things for returning players. For one, gaining ranks translates over to the regular game, but you'll also notice that very few of the Vietnam weapons and items need to be unlocked - so you won't be starting over as a medic just frantically trying to do everything you can with only half the tools available. Your success in this add-on probably also depends on how you can do without the high-tech toys, as standard sights and scopes on the guns is all you get and you won't have access to things like motion sensors, trader darts, or remote-controlled drones. Here, solid use of cover, healing, ammo distribution as well as good aim and tactics are what win the day on the ground, and a good pilot or driver that avoids the dumb-fired RPGs can wreak havoc on the battlefield.
One of the most unique things in Bad Company 2 was the Frostbite engine's building destruction tech, and while it was always a bit wonky - internal walls were indestructible until enough exterior was destroyed that the whole building came crashing down - it was still a blast once you learned how it worked. Here, that tech has been downplayed to the point of barely being there at all, as the bamboo buildings that are scattered throughout some maps offer very little in the way of cover to start with. Simply put, the best cover is the indestructible, natural environment itself, and the effectiveness of mowing down trees to improve your viewing angle from a highly defensible position up high, or firing an RPG at a wall to blow up a dude just on the other side of it has been minimized down to being only a very rare occurrence.
The biggest thing I'm disappointed with is the reduced role of engineers and vehicles. Here, tanks aren't terribly different than they were in Bad Company 2, but choppers can rain down death like never before - and now, without tracer darts to mark targets for your rocket launchers, a good helicopter pilot that can fall back to allow for repairs is almost invincible. There's little you can do, even as an engineer, than just dumbfire your RPG and hope the guy doesn't even slightly adjust course. Still, a few medics with machine guns can put some dents in the chopper, but repairs can easily cover that. In fact, the engineer has been marginalized to the point of being almost useless unless he's in a chopper doing repairs or at least one side has a tank on the field, since those are the only places that the wrench or the RPG make any difference. (Nope, they suck against infantry now.) Some maps have little to no vehicle usage at all, and when they do show up, they completely change the game for those who use them right; no longer are they always the constant force with a heavy balancing factor weighed against them, as now, you'll feel like you're fighting with sticks and stones compared to the vehicles. They are too rare, and too powerful when they do show up, and the engineer's only serious role now is in repairing vehicles or firing rockets at tanks.
In most maps, it really comes down to what you can do with the other classes, as a good sniper can hide really well (even though you can still spot targets for anyone to see) and just plug people with single-shot kills all day. Meanwhile, the assault and medic classes support each other extremely well as they keep moving up and taking points. It's a brutal game where killstreaks are harder to get, the open maps are sniper paradises, and even the tighter, more linear maps will just grind you up with tons of explosives and nowhere to run when things go poorly.
Some gamers are upset that this Vietnam add-on wasn't free, but once you play it, you'll quickly realize why it wasn't. This is not just a map pack - something that Activision charges the same amount of money for - it's what we in the old days of FPS games used to call a Total Conversion. As in, the game plays basically the same, but the new maps, weapons, graphics, and sound make it feel much different. It's a solid add-on, especially if you don't care for the engineer and would just rather have solid FPS gunplay over the high-tech gadgets. It's not perfect, but the launch did go smoothly and it's a blast to play. It's also a good way to get players back in to the Bad Company way of playing, especially after you get sick of that awful map Nuketown in Black Ops.