In the summer of 2009, EA and DICE took a bit of a risk and released "Battlefield 1943." Although it was released on XBLA and PSN, it wasn't what you'd normally expect from a downloadable game, offering the sort of FPS multiplayer depth that we had seen from previous entries in the series, just in a slightly smaller package. The risk paid off. "1943" was not only a hit, but it introduced new fans to the franchise, just in time for the release of "Battlefield: Bad Company 2." Now EA has released a Vietnam-themed expansion for "BC2," but has the franchise well gone dry or does this trip into the jungle fill it to the brim once more?
"Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam" simply takes all of the core gameplay components of the standard "BC2" multiplayer experience and throws in period-appropriate weapons, vehicles and maps. For $15, you're getting four new maps (soon to be a fifth), 15 new weapons and 6 new vehicles, ranging from tanks to helicopters to assault boats.
"Vietnam" exists within "Bad Company 2" and requires the full game to run, but it is separated out from the rest of the game in a different menu, with the modern day maps and weapons existing on totally different servers. "Vietnam" does carry over your rank and experience, and any experience or badges you earn while playing the expansion transports back to the main game. The two main multiplayer modes, Rush and Conquest, are playable across the expansion's maps.
A Totally Authentic Feel
Even though the core of the gameplay in "Vietnam" remains basically the same as it was in "BC2," tons of effort was put into making it feel authentic to the time period. Mission briefings are presented as '60s-style film reels and music from the era blares out of tanks as they roll into battle. Soldier models look like they were ripped from "Platoon" and weapons are dingy, rusted and cobbled together. It's a re-skin of the main game, sure, but it's an incredibly convincing one that gives "BC2" a fresh new look at feel.
Level Playing Field
One of the issues with "Bad Company 2" was that the balancing of the weapons could've been handled better. The starting weapons, invariably, would be outclassed by weapons which could take ten to twenty hours to unlock, depending on your skills. In "Vietnam," all of the weapons are unlocked from the start, with each class getting three variants of their weapon type (SMGs for engineers, sniper rifles for scounts, etc). The perks are still locked based on level, so you'll be at a disadvantage if you're below, say, level 15, but at least you'll know that your gear is up to snuff.
Not Newbie Friendly
If you mostly just played the single-player of "Bad Company 2" but are interested in the new Vietnam setting, you should be wary. The learning curve when hopping into multiplayer is harsh and you will die. A lot. The equivalent would be hopping into "Black Ops" for the very first time today, when almost every player on there seems to know every map by heart and has a crack shot. "Vietnam" is even trickier, as it favors grouping and coordination, so if you're playing on your own, you're going to be doing a lot of running from spawn point to spawn point. It's a good idea to squad up with randoms, as squad members who are still alive can act as mobile spawn points.
For fans of the multiplayer in "Bad Company 2," the "Vietnam" expansion is not to be missed. It's a fresh new coat of paint on a game which may have been starting to look a bit long in the tooth. The new weapons, maps and attention to period-appropriate presentation make it a model for other post-release expansion packs. Here's looking at you, "Black Ops."