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Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam hands-on

All war is hell, but Vietnam strikes a nerve as particularly hellish. There are glimpses of hell in Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s upcoming multiplayer expansion, but mostly Vietnam comes across as a gorgeous, lush playground in which to shoot fellow players in the noggins. The setting, when compared to most shooters these days, is a nice relief from deserts and cities, with greener-than-green vegetation everywhere and stair steps of rice paddies etching geometric shapes into hillsides.

We got a chance to play the new maps in multiple modes, with all the equipment unlocked so we could really play around with the new toys. Notable locations include a bamboo village, a series of stone temples, and a seriously bombed-out hillside. Creeping through the cloying foliage, hustling along muddy trenches, and making quick swims through rice paddies definitely conveys the feeling of our favorite ‘Nam war movies. To add to this tone, the expansion sprinkles in era-appropriate music (like Creedence Clearwater Revival), along with flame-throwers and Hueys.

Initially we played Conquest on the wide-openclassic Operation Hastingsmap, which features a combination of stone structures and flimsy huts interspersed with rivers, bridges, and roads. It favors just about any play style, with plenty of room for choppers to dominate the field, roads for tanks and Jeeps, and rivers for patrol boats. We did a combination of furtive foot-soldiering along with some rides in trucks and tanks. With long open distances, sniping was popular, but at the same time there was plenty of underbrush to hide flanking movements for a nice shanking in an annoying sniper’s back. One particularly harrowing vehicle ride we took was in the back of one of those scooter/pickup truck hybrids that are popular in Southeast Asia. These things fly along at a speedy clip but don’t provide any on-board weaponry, so as a passenger we were exposed in the open back with only our trusty LMG to fend off attack. We didn’t last long.

Another map we had a lot of fun on was a hillside dotted with foxholes that changed dramatically as the game (Rush) proceeded farther up the hill. At first, the defending team is rooted in a heavy jungle near the shore of a large body of water where the attackers can commandeer boats and bombard the foxholes. Fights on this map start off at long range as attackers work their way up the hill, and then switch to trench warfare at close range. Here, the flame-thrower shows its strength. It’s not just nasty at short range, but also against tightly packed groups. We tried it out a bit and relished the details of the flames themselves – a beautiful cocktail of bright oranges and reds mixed with black plumes of smoke. Of course, one disadvantage is that you can’t see shit when you’re firing it. And in an annoyance unique to flame-throwers, it can kill a target seconds after the offending flame-user has already died.

If the attackers manage to destroy both bases near the bottom of the hill, the fight moves further up, where napalm has roasted the entire jungle to glowing embers. Finally, we get a taste of the hells of ‘Nam. With ground cover burned off, sneaking around becomes more difficult, giving snipers still back in the jungle free reign and hindering the ambush tactics of flame-thrower fanatics.

While we got a good amount of time with the new maps, we had merely an appetizer of all the new weapons and vehicles, of which there are many more to play with. We fought off many Hueys, but only got a chance to fly one for a brief amount of time before being shot down by an RPG. Yes, the game kicks on Flight of the Valkyries for maximum ironic delight as you swoop above the palm trees and lay waste to hapless fools below.

From the looks of it, Vietnam will probably be an essential purchase for those who are still playing Bad Company 2 and haven’t been slurped up by the Black Ops juggernaut, although our upcoming review will determine the complete verdict. The expansion is set to release on 12/18 for PC and 12/21 for consoles and will cost 1200 MS points, or 15 bucks. Also take note of the cool meta-game where players willwork together to unlock the classic Operation Hastings mappictured here in the images.

Dec 3, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.