Mortars, boats, and flamethrowers on Hamburger Hill.
Fire. Fire everywhere. Fire underfoot, fire pouring over that ridge. Fire in the trees.
Welcome to Vietnam. In case, uh, the Creedence blasting over the menu wasn't an indication.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam finally has a release date: late this month. I had a chance to check it out this week at EA's Redwood Shores offices, and I came away with the realization that Vietnam is actually a bridge between Bad Company 2 and last year's downloadable hit Battlefield 1943. Sound strange? Hear me out.
Certain changes to what fans expect from Bad Company 2 are apparent even before you spawn into one of the new maps. The most jarring change for non-recon players will be the absence of scopes for other classes. No more SMGs with ACOG scopes for engineers, no more assault rifles with sniper viewfinders, no more red dot sights for medics and their machine guns. In a way, this seems like it'll keep the playing field in BC2: Vietnam more level for a longer period, as new players won't be at such a mid-range disadvantage to veterans.
All of the class weapons are now era-appropriate, so you'll see M16s and AK-47s and the like. Meanwhile, you'll learn to fear a new enemy: the flamethrower. A new addition to the arsenal, the flamethrower is a great room-clearing weapon. It almost seems like a new class should have been created around the flamethrower. They are quickly established as an integral part of a well-rounded team, particularly with the new maps' emphasis on trenches and bottlenecks. And really, the flamethrower is responsible for some of the most iconic imagery of the Vietnam War.
Once you get past the weapons, this is what will really make an impression. While Vietnam's maps appear open, spending a few hours with the DLC indicated a focus on criss-crossing paths at different altitudes. There are plenty of tunnels in most of the levels and there's no single route to objectives. This leads to an experience where momentum seems to shift quickly between both sides and where you never quite know where you'll be attacked from.
An impressive amount of work went into making Vietnam feel different from Bad Company 2. All of the classes on either side have completely new models and voice-work, and the environments look different, avoiding the oranges and whites of Bad Company 2 for greens that are almost oppressive. Maps like Hill 137 (based on the infamous "Hamburger Hill") go from heavily forested areas to terrain so blasted by napalm, mortar fire, and flamethrowers that they look like the surface of another planet.
Vehicles have changed to match the time period. Quad bikes were replaced by Sampans (the little single person three-wheeled cars), and the helicopters are always of the troop transport variety - there aren't really any hyper-offensive gunships to be found. There's a great sense of place, which is usually complimented by the omnipresent licensed tracks coming from loudspeakers or, say, the radio in a gunboat.
While I do appreciate that faux authenticity though, I'll admit to a little "Fortunate Son" fatigue after my time with Bad Company 2 Vietnam. Players will be hearing it a lot as they work to unlock a previously unannounced map. Similar to the Coral Sea map in Battlefield 1943, which was unlocked when players on each platform reached 43 million kills. This time around, the community will have to work together to achieve 69 million support actions - i.e., revives, resupplies, repairs, etc - in order to unlock a fifth map for play, Operation Hastings.
Between the five new maps on offer, and the new weapons, vehicles, and achievements and trophies, Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1943 fans should mark December 21st on their calendars for DICE's early Christmas present.