After releasing a slew of free, but not necessarily “new” maps (almost all of the free map packs were simply the base game maps for different modes), DICE has finally given Bad Company 2 players something fresh to chew on in the way of Bad Company 2: Vietnam, a $15 expansion pack set in the infamous ’70s war. But should Vietnam have you signing up for another tour of duty or dodging the draft?
Unlike many map or expansion packs, Vietnam isn’t integrated into regular map rotations as the popular Call of Duty does. Instead, Vietnam is a separate option in the menu and is almost totally separate from the original BC2 multiplayer. The only things that carry over are Rank and Spec unlocks. This can be both a blessing and a curse really, because the pack only contains four maps (with a fifth currently being worked towards by the game’s community); meaning that you’ll be playing each of the maps a lot, unlike the regular BC2 multiplayer which now has eleven maps. Like I said, this is a blessing and a curse as the maps are mostly pretty good, but it can get tiresome.
And, indeed, the maps are all pretty good. Phu Bai Valley takes place across rice fields with a hill on one side. You’d think it would be sniper-heavy but the amount of vegetation blocking viewpoints and the lack of Ghillie suits for the recon class (thank God) make it harder for snipers to make their way in the world of Vietnam. The Americans have a helicopter at their Deployment (which cannot be taken by the NVA since deployments are now out of bounds for enemies; a move meant to prevent both spawn camping and vehicle thievery that works pretty well). To balance this out, the NVA gets more tanks but, to be honest, the Americans’ choppers are pathetic in this game, far easier to take down than their modern day counterparts; likely a purposeful move to counter the lack of tracers. So, while the NVA does have a slight advantage, it’s by no means a guaranteed victory for them.
Vantage Point is probably my favorite map of the bunch, at least for Conquest, the most popular mode. Fighting is centered around a hilltop in the middle of the map, with the other two spawn points on either side. It’s not a very wide map so fighting is very focused straight ahead, toward the hill. It’s something not really found in any base BC2 maps and it works great. Rush mode, however, fairs a little worse on Vantage Point; with attackers spawning incredibly far from the Radio Stations on the hill, making it incredibly easy for Defending Snipers.
The lack of scopes for all guns except sniper rifles, however, also means you won’t be picked from atop the hill by Medics with ACOG Scopes. In fact, this change influences the game a fair bit. While the guns are still accurate at long range with the right technique, all maps have a far more close-up and dirty feel to them as, as evidenced by smaller amount of snipers and higher amounts of the engineer class. It feels a lot more balanced than BC2, more clearly defining the specific role of each class.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Hill 137, which, to be honest is a bad map. Like all Vietnam maps, it has three spawn points, and while the burning hillside is visually stunning, the map is very badly imbalanced. The problem with Hill 137 is that there is a tunnel leading from point C to point A but since it exits out of a cliffside it can’t be taken the other way, leading to an easy victory for even a moderately good team if it spawns on the advantageous side.
And last but not least is Cao Son Temple, a jungle temple which is actually kind of a bland map. Very little action takes place in the actual temple. It’s not really bad, the layout itself is fun and balanced but it’s visually uninteresting which leads me into my biggest complaint about BC2 Vietnam, the visual design. While I know it needs to be historically accurate but, since much of the fighting in Vietnam took place in jungles, the visuals get super boring. You’re constantly fighting in jungles, constantly, and there’s always people hiding in the shrubbery. There’s pretty much no visual variety in the maps besides the burning Hill 137, unlike the original BC2 which had you fighting in a desert town followed by an Alaskan oil facility followed by tropical jungles. Not only did it offer visual distinction it required different tactics. Fighting in cities was far different to fighting in the wide-open desert for example.
That being said, I still think Vietnam is a great buy. The maps are mostly well-designed, the vehicles fun to drive and the new Vietnam era weapons both fun to use and more balanced. (Oh, how I’ve missed my beloved PPSh) For everyone who complained about the cost of CoD map packs, this is for you. It’s got tons of content and I would already suggest to it any BC2 fan, even without the 5th map unlocked. My only wish is that DICE will at somepoint have a mixed playlist, switching between Vietnam and base game maps. Either way, $15 for more and better content than was found in the hugely popular BF1943 should be enticing enough for any Battlefield fan.
Genre: Multiplayer Only FPS.
Time: Potentially unlimited.
Gripes: Some bad map design decisions, lack of visual distinction, only five maps in the rotation at the moment.
Get it for the: Rebalanced gameplay, mostly great maps, that same tactical BF action you know and love.