Earlier this year, DICE released what I consider the best multiplayer shooter of 2010 with Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Somehow, while pumping out a steady stream of free content updates to Bad Company 2 proper, developing a co-operative add-on for the game, and creating the multiplayer component for Medal of Honor from scratch for EA studio mates Danger Close, DICE has found the time to deliver Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - Vietnam, and with it, what might be their best multiplayer experience this year.
Bad Company 2 - Vietnam is less downloadable content than it is a full fledged expansion to Bad Company 2. Rather than adding a few new maps and shoving it out the door, DICE has created a complementary but separate experience to Bad Company 2. Bad Company 2 - Vietnam is set apart from Bad Company 2's original multiplayer mode in the menu - it even has its own separate title screen. The expansion winds back the clock and places players in the midst of the Vietnam conflict amidst recognizable battles and period specific music. Black Ops this isn't; Bad Company 2 - Vietnam feels like it takes place more than 40 years before the main game, and there aren't any weird anachronistic pieces of future tech around to break the illusion.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam Video Review
The underlying mechanics are the same as Bad Company 2 - the squad based dynamics, the vehicles - but some seemingly minor changes result in an experience that feels distinctive. DICE has taken thematic elements of the Vietnam War in popular fiction - trenches, tunnels, bush hiding spots, rice paddies, and the like - and used them to make Bad Company 2 feel and play differently.
The game modes from Battlefield: Bad Company 2 return in Vietnam, including Rush and Conquest, but everything in Bad Company 2 - Vietnam is different, content wise. Every one of the five included maps (four available immediately, and one that unlocks once the community completes 69 million support actions per platform) are new to Bad Company 2. Almost every weapon is new, including a devastatingly effective flamethrower. What's more, weapons, and therefore classes, have been subtly rebalanced by virtue of said new weapons and the absence of sights and scopes for all but recon players.
Anyone who played much Bad Company 2 was likely made quite familiar with the sniper-like accuracy of medics with long-range scopes attached to their machine guns, and I'll admit to being aggressive from across the map as an engineer with the aid of a red dot sight. In the absence of these weapon tweaks, the combat dynamic has changed considerably from Bad Company 2. Fights are closer and more vicious more often, which is assisted by environments and level design that break up most long lines of sight and which provide a ton of hiding places.
Newcomers in particular should find Bad Company 2 - Vietnam inviting. With secondary abilities scaled back somewhat and scopes gone to even out the middle-range playing field, Vietnam makes Bad Company 2 approachable again. Everyone's back at zero, and the equipment has been scaled back enough that the gap doesn't seem like it'll grow so wide. However, hardcore players still have tiers of guns to unlock and the same secondary abilities as the main game.
Honestly, the most confusing thing about Bad Company 2 - Vietnam is why it isn't a separate game entirely. EA demonstrated their ability to successfully market and sell a standalone downloadable last summer with Battlefield 1943, and Bad Company 2 - Vietnam is even more distinctive. With a full complement of new characters for each class, new voiceovers for both sides, new vehicles, new environments, and a revamped presentation, Bad Company 2 - Vietnam feels even more like a complete, standalone title than 1943 did, particularly at just $15.00 USD.