Battlefield: Vietnam

15Rumble in the online jungle.

Most of us remember the addictive and incredibly detailed online shooter that was Battlefield 1942. Though Battlefield Vietnam certainly draws comparisons to its predecessor and to community modifications, it isn’t set up as a direct sequel to Battlefield 1942. Instead, it’s an extremely fine-tuned update to the Battlefield franchise that brings all the features we love about the original to a completely new setting. And the bottom line is that it’s really damn fun.

The “battlefield†of Vietnam is fundamentally different from that of the shores of Normandy and deserts of North Africa. Instead of large-scale assaults spread across kilometers of virtual terrain, BF Vietnam emphasizes more intense confrontations at key choke-points — and guerrilla warfare, complete with sabotage and booby-trapping. While playing, I was always focused on my immediate surroundings, engaging in close-quarters firefights and constantly paranoid about imminent danger. Developer DICE has done a great job breathing life (and death) into this dense, foliage-filled world.

Great historical details give each map a unique personality. Ho Chi Minh Trail pits infantry against each other amid a jungle of trees, bushes, and vines dimly lit by moonlight. I would often crawl my way through tall blades of grass to capture an enemy control point, only to realize that enemy soldiers were laying prone just a few feet away, watching for attackers! There are still urban environments, which become havens for snipers picking off gunners atop tanks and jeeps, while powerful anti-tank troopers launch rocket-propelled grenades at Sheridan and T-54 tanks.

17But the best maps are the ones built around airpower. New Cobra and Huey helicopters dominate the battlespace, both as transport platforms and as gunships, and you’ll be awestruck at the damage that can be dished out by napalm strikes from F-4 Phantoms. In Operation Flaming Dart, you’ll see a battle involving gunships, helicopter transports, MiG fighters, and Phantoms, all dancing a fiery ballet of death in the sky. It almost brought tears to my eyes. This spectacle — mixed with the ambiance of “Ride of the Valkyries†– will draw flashbacks of Apocalypse Now.

The only aspect of war not given enough attention in BF Vietnam is naval combat, which is limited to transport ships and river boats. The Navy didn’t play a huge role in the war, but it would’ve been nice to see a map that featured carrier-based attacks.

A revamped character-class system adds diversity to the types of infantry that you can be for either the U.S. or the NVA. Classes are no longer restricted to set skins and models — each side can mix-and-match using various head and body models, which, combined with personalized weapon kits, gives each soldier a more distinct look. This individuality also means that from a distance, you can’t always recognize an enemy or ally solely by their appearance, so beware of friendly fire.

A newly implemented 3D map system can be toggled on to identify all allies and control points in a map. Weapon kits can also be customized so that each class isn’t limited to just one type of rifle or equipment pack. Unforgiving booby traps are my favorite death-dealing device — there’s nothing more pleasurable than watching troops fall victim to planted spikes or hidden mines.

Battlefield Vietnam also accommodates various tactics and assault styles that will feel familiar to players of BF1942. Lone wolves can make the most out of quietly sneaking through enemy control points and sabotaging vehicles with planted explosives, or just ambushing players using sniper rifles, but teamwork is rewarded as well. Control points now have dynamic capture times that get shorter as more of your teammates are within the capture radius. It’s a feature that is less noticeable than in Battlefield 2, however, since capture times are fairly fast overall.

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Airlifting vehicles is another new feature made possible by the implementation of helicopters, which can drag any other vehicle across the map to deploy for reinforcements. I love watching a transport copter rise above a cliff, carrying a tank with people inside firing wildly at ground units. Mobile spawn points can also be airlifted on the U.S. side, while the NVA has a tunneling system with which it can create spawn points.

6To make the most out of BF Vietnam, you’ll want to play online. GameRanger still supports matches with dozens of people. If that doesn’t work out, you can always practice getting to know the interface, weapons and maps by using the useful but painfully dumb bot support. Among other annoyances include some maps have balancing problems, such that they heavily favor one team. Despite these limitations, the tension and fun of good old Battlefield 1942 is very much alive and well in BF: Vietnam.

System Requirements:Pentium III 700 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 1.40 GB HDD, Win2000

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