Friday, 18 February 2011

You weren't there, man! Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam Review

Another expansion to review. This one's only what, three months old? I'm getting better at this, most definitely. This time, instead of the grim darkness of the far future, we are heading to the jungles of Vietnam, with the aptly, if rather extensively, named DLC for Battlefield: Bad Company 2- Battlefield: Bad Company 2- Vietnam.

No screenshot utility, I'm afraid, so it's blurrycam time.
My fondness for the original game has already been discussed, and my love of combating communists is no secret, so I was super excited for this expansion, awaiting eagerly its release in December. A week beforehand, however, possibly in protest at being forced to play the abomination that is Black Ops, my PS3 gave up, the disc drive failing and denying me my prize. Now it is repaired, and the first thing I did upon retrieving it was download BFBC2-V. Loading up the base game, I saw the new main menu option and highlighted it. Upon doing so, the whole menu twisted and reshaped itself- the crisp, modernistic aesthetic of Bad Company 2 shifting to a dirtier, brownish theme, the militaristic background music giving way to Creedence Clearwater Revival. This thematic shift is representative of the whole expansion, really- Bad Company 2 was very definitely a modern combat experience, with its homing missiles, optical sights and high-tech vehicles. Vietnam, however, strips this away- in my first match (where I was top player, naturally) I was struck by how crude and brutal the combat was in comparison- without red-dot sights and motion sensors, fighting is done at close range with nothing but rifles and brawn. It's refreshing, in a perverse way, to have this almost rustic style of game, especially in comparison to Call of Duty, where being set in the Cold War instead of near future changed... nothing at all. BFBC2V does it right, though, with '60s style news reports playing over hippy riffs at the loading screens, it feels like a 'Nam game.

The gameplay of the expansion is similarish to the base game- it's still a squad based shooter, with different classes bringing different equipment and abilities to the fray, and an emphasis on vehicles and objectives. The base game's much-vaunted destructible environments feature, but are less prominent. Though this is, I suppose, thematically suitable (and y'all know how much I like stuff that is thematically suitable), with a limit to how much destruction can be done on a map consisting of some flimsy wooden huts and a hill, it would have been nice to see this feature return more prominently- one of my fondest memories of Bad Company 2 was tearing out the back wall of a building with a Black Hawk's minigun, collapsing the whole structure and crushing the enemies and objective within for an extraordinary number of points, but such a thing is not really possible here.

I love the smell of clich├ęs in the blog post.

As you would expect, the equipment available has lapsed to what GIs and Viet-cong would have had access to- you've got your M16s and AK47s as well as the thunderous M60 machine gun and notorious M14 battle rifle. Vehicles have gone back a few numberplates, too, though the tanks and jeeps are really different only aesthetically to their modern counterparts. The new chopper, the UH-1 Iroquois, known affectionately as the Huey and iconic for its extensive service and appearance in limitless 'Nam flicks, has undergone some changes, though. Bad Company 2's Havocs and Apaches were, essentially, winged fortresses of fire and steel, spitting high-explosive death from above, but the Huey lacks the armour and avionics of these beasts. The lighter bird is more maneuverable and feels less clumsy than these, but small arms fire will damage it and heavy machine guns will tear it apart like paper. While its rocket pods and door mounted machine guns pack a punch, the Huey's coolest weapon is the speaker rack- as it swoops over the battlefield these blare out '60s classics, as well as Ride of the Valkyries, which is, frankly, awesome. Lamentably, you rarely hear the whole track, as every NVA regular for several miles will take a pot shot at it. Maybe they want the chopper destroyed; maybe they just really hate '60s music.

I have to say, I have hugely enjoyed my tour in Vietnam. The classic Battlefield gameplay is extremely solid, more so, I think, than people realise; maybe even better than the great Call of Duty leviathan. It's a game that lends itself to fantastic moments- once, on the NVA side, squatting in the bush with a sniper rifle I spied an incoming 4x4 with three GIs about to ford a river into our base. Quickly, I shot the driver- my exquisite marksmanship ensured the shot went right between the eyes- and the vehicle drew to a halt. The passenger, realising what had happened, leaped out and dived into the roadside trees, while the machine gunner fired wildly in the hope of neutralising the threat. Another precision shot brought him low, and a third killed the third American even as he desperately tried to spot me from his partially concealed position. Aside from being a demonstration in my consummate skill, it was a scene straight from a war film, and it felt very, very cool. I have more of these tales- charging wildly towards an endangered objective surrounded by NVA with naught but a shotgun and emerging the victor, smashing a Huey from the sky with a one-in-a-million shot from a tank's main gun- and I'm sure any Battlefield player would too.

I have it on good authority that chicks go wild for aircraft disguised as sharks.

I can't claim to have many complaints, apart from the aforementioned unwieldy title. There are a couple graphical issues, most notably a very noticable pop-in effect with objects far away- when the detail on that chopper suddenly and obviously ramps up as it approaches, it does rather spoil the moment, if not the bastard's aim. Additionally, there are fewer vehicles in this installment. Vehicles were always my favourite part of Battlefield since I am essentially a child, and their relative lack, especially on the NVA side (though crafty commies can redistribute them if they are sneaky), and the complete disappearance of mounted weapons, is a little disappointing. In the final (free) map pack for the base game they brought a map where both sides spawned with a gunship chopper, a transport chopper, two tanks, a couple 4x4s and some quadbikes- there were far more vehicle seats available than players on the map, and it was glorious- no such armoured affray is available. Sure doesn't spoil the game, though- it's a lot of fun, and even my black heart soars each time I strafe the socialists while blasting out Hendrix. While I'm not sure why DICE didn't release this as its own downloadable game in the vein of Battlefield 1943, it's certainly a welcome addition to a franchise that is going from strength to strength.

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