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Beyond the Battle Dev Diary
Battlefield Vietnam Review
developer: Digital Illusions
PII 500, 128MB RAM, 1.2GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 15, 04
|» All About Battlefield Vietnam on ActionTrip|
How do you make a sequel to one of the most popular multiplayer shooters in recent history? Do you take it a step further by tacking on some innovating new concept? Then you'd have to partially reinvent the gameplay, which is not something developers are keen on doing - especially when they're on EA's payroll; and besides, setting a game in a specific historic period does carry with it certain limitations. Those of you who are following the trends in the gaming industry know that EA is acknowledged for spotting talent and then basically milking their original concepts for all they're worth. The Sims certainly comes to mind here, as well as the Medal of Honor series. In a way, this is a bulletproof business plan, and that's why they're the number one game publisher at the moment. So with the release of a new Battlefield game a question looms in the air: will it suffer the same fate as the abovementioned series? Read on to find out; or just skip to the conclusion if you're lazy and hate to read (like me! - Six).
You simply gotta admire that sun-hat.
Yeah! This one won't be getting up.
We've already covered Battlefield: Vietnam up the wazoo, with two previews and numerous news reports. So if you're still not in the know as to what features are new in this game, what is the historical background, or anything else relating to the new features, I suggest you give these articles a read. In this review I'll try to answer several "simple" questions: does the sequel advance the franchise in any way, and is it as fun as the original game.
I don't know if you know this, but DICE, who only had BF1942 published by EA, are now owned by them. On the upside, it is very apparent right from the start that Battlefield: Vietnam has received a visual and audio makeover that screams five-star PC game production all the way. EA is keen on investing money in profitable projects. The menus look funky, but very, very professional and graphically perfected, and the musical tracks featured in the game are fully licensed and do wonders for the overall atmosphere. It just feels right when you're listening to Jimi Hendrix and piloting a Huey. This is nothing new for EA, as it only takes one quick look at the NBA Live and FIFA franchises from EA Sports to realize that putting together great music and gameplay is a win-win situation for everyone. So if you're a style guru and like a bit of flare and hipness to go with your action games, the initial coolness factor of Battlefield: Vietnam will most certainly float your boat.
Moving past the initial impressions players will be introduced to a jazzy game interface the mechanics of which will essentially be immediately familiar to anyone who has spent a lot of time playing Battlefield 1942. To me that was a good thing. Everything looks fresh, and yet familiar; nothing wrong with that in my mind. It's like getting back with your old girlfriend that had a boob job since you two broke up.
The same thing can be said about your first contact with the game options. (Just forget the boob reference for a second. [How? - Six]) The conquest mode of play is what this game is all about. The CTF and Deathmatch modes are no more and the two new game modes are essentially variations of the conquest mode. Evolution mode spans two maps, having the player's score carried over to the second map, while the Custom Combat mode allows servers to create and run custom configurations for maps, allowing them to be able to change vehicles, weapons and more. Right off the bat, you'll notice that Battlefield: Vietnam partially innovates with a boatload of nuances, but very much retains the feel of the original.
Assault and classic conquest maps are what this game is all about. You've seen it all in BF1942, so the sequel will have very few surprises in those regards. Let's just say that in terms of game modes DICE were pretty damn conservative. This, in all honesty, is something you'd expect from an EA-owned development team.
There are approximately 14 maps in the sequel and I think I've played them all. (Do I get a medal now? Wait... you might take this the wrong way.) Again, you cannot expect any major surprises here, and some of the level design reminded me of DICE's earlier work. The Cambodian Incursion assault map bears striking resemblance conceptually to the Monte Cassino map from the Road to Rome expansion. What I liked most about the new maps are the diverse landscapes. The nature of the Vietnam conflict was such that the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces often had to use air supremacy to fight against well entrenched Vietcong soldiers. You have that, and you have maps where American soldiers will be forced to engage in melee combat in the jungle thicket. Or they'll have to capture and defend crucial hanging bridges over muddy rivers and swamp-covered rice fields. Sometimes (similar to what we've seen in "Operation Husky" in Road to Rome) assaulting army will have to cross large bodies of water to get to the well-fortified enemy. However, map design isn't too creative and a good majority of the maps will remind you of the stuff you've seen in either the original or some of the expansions.
The two main novelties that BF: Vietnam brings to the table are brought about by the very nature of the Vietnam conflict and the warring factions. As I said, the US forces had to use air supremacy and the VC had some very unorthodox ways of fighting the GI's. I'm sure that months of testing went into tweaking and balancing the gameplay to make sure that the new Vietcong features are properly incorporated into the game. Things like booby traps and the ability of NVA engineers to relocate spawn points on the map through digging and creating tunnels is certainly something that may prove very interesting in the long run. It'll take a lot of reading through forums and learning advanced tips and tricks to really get the hang of the new VC features. Eventually, once everyone catches up with the new stuff, it will be interesting to see if the players accept NVA as a genuine and attractive option in the game. As for the U.S. forces the thing that caught my attention was the excellent and very powerful F4 Phantom fighter, which damn nearly shifts much of the focus of the game and changes the dynamics of combat over what we had in 1942. The developers did mention that what tanks were in 1942, helicopters and jets will become in BF: Vietnam. The Huey and other famous choppers will make all the difference in the world, as they can serve as great assault, support or transport vehicles. By setting things up the way they did in the game DICE kind of gambled a little (no pun intended) as this slightly altered style of gameplay may backfire and eventually put off some of the fans that were really only interested in land (specifically, armored) combat in 1942.
8.3 Very Good
All the fun of BF1942, new sound engine, killer soundtrack, nice visual enhancements. Choppers and jets, NVA and VC provide interesting new tactics for gameplay;
Not as innovating as it could've been, examples of uninspired map design, texture work is dated, steep learning curve for new NVA players.