Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam hands-on preview
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells of… victory.” You didn’t expect us to write this article without the obligatory reference to a Vietnam-set Hollywood film, did you? You don’t have to go searching for these references when playing Bad Company 2’s Vietnam expansion pack, they’re thrown in your face.
As we sit down to play the new maps, DICE producer Bjorn Johnsson tells us a little about the project. They started work on Vietnam soon after finishing Bad Company 2. They were looking to do something with a different feel, and they quickly decided upon returning to Vietnam, a setting DICE hadn’t used since Battlefield Vietnam in 2004.
The team wanted to capture the 60s ‘nam aura that’s proved so successful for Hollywood over the years, which explains why Bjorn nods with approval when we tell him we’re thinking of Apocalypse Now, as we’re travelling along a river in a Pibber. The Vietnam expansion has every vehicle you’d expect to be in the game, from the Russian T54 tanks to the American Huey Helicopter – and yes, you can play Ride of the Valkyries while zipping around in the air, but, alas, we didn’t see any surfers.
Hamburger Hill was a reference, according to Bjorn, and its influence can be seen on the impressive Hill 137 map. We were attackers in a game of Rush. Initially, we were fighting on a jungle terrain, pushing our enemies back until we destroyed their M-COM stations. It was feeling like classic Bad Company 2 at this point, encouraging tactical gameplay without shunning the thrills.
However, the next stage was more unexpected and daunting; it was a suicide mission. After riding onto a beach on our Pibbers, we were faced with a large steep hill. The two M-COM stations, position at the top, were our targets, and they were heavily guarded by the opposition. They had the height advantage and we were being slaughtered as we attempted to work our way up the terrain. We fell at the carefully crafted choke points, while moving through the narrow paths and trenches.
Yet, we kept at it, and decided that a different tactic was needed if we were going to win the match. We wanted to flush the enemies out of the bunkers, so we equipped ourselves with the flame-thrower (one of the game’s new toys) and showered them in golden flames. Because the flame-thrower lacks range, we had to get into their bunkers quickly to catch them off-guard – it worked.
The flame-thrower is hugely satisfying to use, and nothing in Bad Company 2 is comparable. However, it’s not over-powered due to its poor range; you’re a goner if a rifleman spots you from more than 10ft away. It is a game-changer but not a game-breaker; the balance was good in the games we played.
Understandably, the flame-thrower will be the first weapon everyone will go for, because it is very cool. Yet, we should say, it is just one of many new weapons added for the expansion. It joins other 60s hardware such as the Blooper and the RPKs. We found the rusty weapons to be even more satisfying to use than Bad Company 2’s more modern, high-tech equivalents.
After blowing up their M-COM stations we were ushered into the next stage of the map. It couldn’t be any more different than the last; gone is the dark green foliage and steep terrain to be replaced by a large, napalm-scorched expanse. Amongst the burning embers, on the red field, were trenches where our enemies laid in wait, and they then picked us off one-by-one. It’s not a flat surface – the land rises, leading to our enemies’ camp on top of a mount – and there are hiding places, but we still felt constantly exposed. Thankfully, we had our tanks on our side and they helped to wear down the opposition.
We can confidently say that Hill 137 is one of the most memorable maps we’ve ever played. It’s visually unforgettable (how could you forget those napalmed fields?) and the gameplay is intense, very tactical. We can’t wait to sink more hours into it when the pack goes live.
We didn’t get enough play time on the other maps to discuss them at length, so we’ll only go as far to say that every map had its own unique feel, and that none of them left us underwhelmed. The level designers clearly had fun designing these maps, and they have really took advantage of Vietnam’s rugged landscapes. It’s not all hills though, expect to be fighting on open rice fields as well. There is a lot of variation.
Vantage Point was particularly notable; its early stages had us fighting along a river bank, moving along tight, enclosed areas where enemies could jump out and pop us at any time. We found ourselves paying more attention to our angles than usual. The later stages moved out into a large open field, with enemies in the distance camped on a mount. The level was a sniper’s dream, but our tanks eventually got the better of them.
We’re still waiting for the final release date for the expansion pack but it will go live this winter. The price is $14.99 in North America and we expect the UK price to be around £9.99. This may sound like a lot for four maps, but we believe Battlefield fans will consider it terrific value. With all new weapons, vehicles, and over two hours of tunes – and more, it can’t be classified as a cynical project to squeeze some cash from foolish consumers.
DICE has put a lot of effort into creating an authentic (but fun) Vietnam, and they have treated it like it’s a new game altogether. Bjorn tells us that all the art assets are new and it shows; it’s a much prettier game than Bad Company 2 is. It also plays like a dream, so roll on this winter.