America is not fighting to win a war. We are fighting to give an application to an old Greek proverb, which is that the purpose of war is not to annihilate an enemy but to get him to mend his ways. And we are confident we can get the enemy to mend his – Arthur J Goldberg
Clearly the boys and girls over at DICE have other ideas and total annihilation is top of the agenda. Nine months after Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s release in March 2010 the highly anticipated Vietnam add on pack is finally here in all its napalm embossed glory and it can be yours through download only for a bobby dazzling £10.00 on PSN or 1200 points on XBLA.
The Vietnam add on pack includes new vehicles, fifteen new weapons, new achievements to obtain and glorious new maps all of which look and feel very authentic and appropriate to the era. After purchase you will find a new Vietnam menu added to your start screen which is essentially a duplicate of the standard multiplayer options menu. It has a segregated unlock screen for the Vietnam weapons and a stereotypical sixties Nam soundtrack…. Stereotypical?!? you weren’t there man… you don’t know!!!
Hitting ‘Quick Match’ sadly only gives you the standard Rush and Conquest game modes with no new additions, alternatively you can create a squad with online friends before diving in to fight (for or against) the communist aggression and as with the original game it’s all very slick and trouble free. Four maps are available from the start, and a fifth map ‘’Battle for Hastings’’ will be unlocked by DICE once 69,000,000 class support acts have been performed on your respective platform which is quite a nice interesting way of extending the release schedule, judging by the squads I have had so far it should be playable circa 2019.
In an effort to keep you entertained during the loading process for each game you are forced to endure Lionel Blair broadcasting a News Flash style resume of the next battle from his wig wham in Honolulu in an overly exaggerated American accent. Unfortunately most of the detail in the map overview is lost as a result of the dodgy 8mm film effects and pixellated graphics due to the poor video compression DICE have employed. A post battle report is also given which varies depending on the outcome from your US or Viet Cong perspective. Initially they add atmosphere but I suspect with only two possible post battle clips for each map they will become very repetitive, very quickly.
Diving into the game and selecting your specialism from the standard Assault, Engineer, Medic or Recon classes the first thing you will notice is the weapons for each are unlocked immediately so there is no need to rank up to get your trigger happy little mitts on the higher level kit making it ideal for people new to the game. Another nice touch is that your class rank increases and progressions are shared between both games so any points you accrue playing Vietnam are added to your central statistics list.
Inevitably the reduction in hi-tech weaponry and equipment at your disposal on the battlefield (the engineers repair gun has been replaced with a can of furniture polish and a box of matches) and the layout of the maps including trenches and swamps significantly changes the game play style making this add on feel truly different on many levels.
Kicking off my first Conquest battle on Hill 137 I apparently joined the fire fight shortly after a devastating napalm strike and the map and scenery feels fresh, authentic and interesting whilst the game play feels pleasantly familiar. After a twenty minute vigorous repeated dry fisting from all the level fifties whilst I got to grips with the map layout I settled into the game and was pleased to see many of the support equipment remains, just in retro form. Also the dialogue being shouted out from squad mates seems much more relevant and timely.
Eight games later having landed with a good squad and had a dabble with most of the 1960’s armour, landed a Huey on a cow to see if it killed it, launched a Tuk Tuk laden with C4 through the air at a tank and rotated through most of the new weapons I find I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by it all.
My initial lack of excitement almost certainly stems from the recently released free VIP Map Pack 7, which is simply superb. Playing Harvest Day and Heavy Metal games you get a real feeling of expansive landscapes and they seem to consistently attract very balanced squads with an equal array of support classes who generally understand the strategic aim of each map. The lack of scopes in Vietnam on all classes but Recon and the close quarter maps should actually make battles very exciting, up close and personal, but so far it seems to have resulted in the opposite. A massive influx of people switching to Recon, camping and using the overly prolific array of non descript shrubbery to provide cover rendering the kill cam useless. Ultimately the whole game is based around team co-operation so playing Conquest or Rush with seven Recon and three Assault players where the emphasis is squarely on close quarters capture and destroy seems a little nonsensical but strongly suggests that many people are finding it difficult to give up the scopes and use the iron sights. Other issues I have noticed include Jeeps which magically drive through tanks and the bars for flag capture in conquest go from white to off white as they count up and thus are almost invisible, still, early days and all that.
The tanks look and feel wonderful and the destructive vehicles and landscape are technically superb. Sneaking up behind someone and expelling the flame thrower up their chocolate box gives previously untold levels of gratification and whilst I would never admit it over the headset through fear of an Xbox ban, gunning people down from the side of the Huey with the soundtrack blasting out makes me want to stroke my gentleman’s extendable baton every time.
For ten English pounds the whole package puts map packs from the likes of Infinity Ward to shame, and just reiterates why nine months later I’m still diving into Bad Company 2 almost daily whilst Black Ops already has a light covering of dust. It may take them a while to get there but DICE seem to know how to look after their player base, fifteen Bad Company 2 maps in total should be enough variety to keep anyone happy and I’m sure over time the balance will return and Vietnam will be every bit as enjoyable as its big brother.
Sir, yes, sir.