Version tested: PC
The Rock And Roll War has rarely painted a successful backdrop for videogames – at least, not to the same level as World War II. And I know for a fact there are stalwarts out there still playing Vietcong who'll disagree with some fervour, but the problem has always been rooted in the ground. Namely, foliage.
Can't see the enemy until he's right upon you? Eek. It's a familiar state of affairs in every Vietnam war movie ever, and it's also the reason it's hard to make a game based in the jungle fun to play. Foe recognition, manic bullet-spray, and it's all over for one or the other. It doesn't really make for fun multiplayer. And just think of the grenade spam.
But some games have tackled jungle warfare, and with a measure of success. Take DICE's original Battlefield Vietnam. And Far Cry – although to a lesser degree, as the AI would shoot with deadly accuracy through greenery which blocked human line-of-sight. So how does Battlefield: Bad Company 2's Vietnam DLC deal with the problem?
Perfectly. Its maps are not so dense with foliage as you might imagine given the location, and what exists is easily blown away, just like the scenery of Bad Company 2. While each of the four maps differs considerably in design and pace, most line-of-sight blockage comes courtesy of other terrain features.
Between hillocks, rice-paddy embankments and low, one-storey shacks, there's enough verticality in the terrain of each map to block lines of sight and encourage short-range conflicts. In short, on-foot players generally need to get pretty intimate to start taking names, and the result is some close and bloody engagements.
The 15 new weapons offered also play a key part in making it feel very different to Bad Company 2. This is Vietnam, so sniper rifles are the only weapons to sport scopes, and automatic weapons are of middling accuracy. The shifting nature of hotspots, particularly in Rush and Conquest matches, means that there's rarely a sniper vantage point that's useful for long.
Automatic weapons are the natural breadwinners in this landscape and as a result, AK-47, M16 and LMG fire fills the air at every turn. The flamethrower is a tool of utter chaos in close confines, but tends to make you a bullet-magnet in the open.
The weapons look tremendous as well, and all add to the sense of atmosphere. Stocks are wrapped with tape, grenade launchers are painted with tiger stripes and sniper rifles sport perishing rubber on their scopes. Everything feels well-used, dirty, personalised and low-tech, which is well in-keeping with the setting.
The vehicles are an awful lot of fun, and the highlight is the Bell Huey. Every dust-off is a thrill, whether you're a pilot or a door-gunner. With the radio blasting sixties rock, you soar over the paddy fields spewing rockets at enemy targets while the sky clouds with tracer fire around you. It's a scene straight out of any given war movie and it feels great.
It's also reasonably balanced against other vehicles. The Huey's rockets can deal plenty of damage to enemy tanks, but repeated, accurate passes are required to destroy one, which gives anyone manning the tank's cupola-mounted machinegun a good stab at strafing the Huey's belly.