Battlefield Bad Company 2
The wait is finally over. After six months of impatiently anticipating a full dose of new Battlefield: Bad Company 2 maps, DICE and EA return to Vietnam with 5 new maps, 15 new weapons, and 6 new vehicles.
The Vietnam expansion operates differently than most traditional map packs. Though it requires the original disc, adds ten new achievements/trophies, and carries over your ranking from Bad Company 2, the maps don't integrate with the base game. Instead, the expansion has its own submenu when you boot the game and the maps rotate amongst themselves. Only four of the five maps are available at launch, with the classic Battle For Hastings map unlocking once the community performs 69 million team actions. All four of the currently available maps are playable in the Rush, Conquest, Squad Deathmatch, and Squad Rush modes.
With the power of the Frostbite engine, DICE's latest trip to Vietnam better captures the atmosphere of the region than the first game did in 2004. Thick jungles give soldiers low visibility, the muddy water barely casts reflections, and the freshly napalmed countrysides smolder in ruins. DICE also did an admirable job of differentiating the experience from the base game. Maps are populated with far fewer destructible buildings, dense patches of foliage litter the environments, and the varied elevations of hills, tunnels, and trenches keep the battles from devolving into sniper-heavy firefights across razed settlements. Each map also caters to a different play style. The rice paddies of Pho Bai Valley feature intense chopper and tank showdowns. The Cao Son Temple includes a long shoreline for PT boat drive-by attacks. Hill 137 focuses on a hillside infantry battle, with half of the forest destroyed by napalm. The Vantage Point map is a vertical battle that pits defenders on the top of a plateau.
With no machine gun scopes on the '60s-era weapons, long-range battles are less frequent than in Bad Company 2. Though the game disappointingly lacks new weapons to unlock as you level up, you can collect bronze, silver, and gold starts for each of the 15 weapons. Shooter vets should be familiar with most of the arsenal, but that doesn't mean there aren't standouts. The most fearsome new weapon is the flamethrower, which is devastating at close range and makes quick work of squads trying to protect an M-Com crate in a building. Even if you kill the person wielding the flamethrower, if you're hit with a momentary blast the flame will stay alive, slowly draining your health and eventually claiming your life.
The class kits have also been adjusted for the historical setting. Assault soldiers have M79 thumpers instead of an M203 grenade launcher attachment, engineers use blow torches to repair vehicles, medics us syringes rather than defibrillators to revive fallen comrades, and snipers have TNT instead of motion sensors or claymores. These changes play perfectly into the vibe, as do the new radio stations featuring Vietnam-era songs players can listen to while riding in vehicles.
The most important change Vietnam makes to the Battlefield formula is the taming of the choppers, which often dominated the matches in Bad Company 2. Small-arms fire now damages the helicopters, so great pilots can't hold an army hostage as easily as they could before. The Hueys also can't strafe as aggressively as the Hinds, which makes it easier to concentrate fire on the birds even without access to an anti-aircraft battery.
Outside of occasional bouts of lag, the lack of new unlockables, and a strange skill level glitch that oscillates my ranking between 0 and 99 repeatedly, the Vietnam expansion pack delivers where it counts. If you're an AWOL soldier who found something else to do over the last six months or a diehard Battlefield fan, this expansion is definitely worth the $15. This is one draft you don't want to dodge.