Review 5/8/04 by Neal Stevens
Producer: Electronic Arts
I don’t know why I’m writing this review. I’m behind on six other projects, E3 is less than a week away and I have tons to do to get ready, and besides, all of you already own Battlefield Vietnam, right? Those few who didn’t succumb to the joys of Battlefield 1942 have wised up, right? What? You mean there are people who have not played any of the Battlefield series? Okay, fine, then this review is for you, all nine of you.
As its name suggests, Battlefield Vietnam is set during the late sixties/early seventies military conflict in Southeast Asia. In most ways the game is very faithful to the winning formula first experienced in 2002 with Battlefield 1942: multiplayer that can support 64 players, expansive maps, multiple classes of soldiers, easy to access vehicles, great gameplay and balance. Add in some new aspects—vastly superior foliage rendering, tandem weapon sets per class, helicopters--and improved old ones—better graphics, fewer bugs, more diverse weapons—and you’ve got a worthy successor to the Battlefield crown.
If you've played the BF42 mod Eve of Destruction, you have had a taste of what's to come with Battlefield Vietnam, but that's all, merely a taste. DICE has adopted the great gameplay and balance that makes Battlefield so addictive, coupled it with a new and far superior graphics rendering engine, infused new sounds, and expanded on many elements that take the game to the next level.
There are four classes of soldier available--infantry, engineer, heavy weapons support, and sniper/special forces. Each of the four classes has two weapon sets so for example you may choose between an engineer with a mortar or an engineer with mines; a heavy weapons solider with an RPG or a shoulder-mounted, heat-seeking SAM, etc. The one flaw is the US heavy weapons class gets both the M60 and the LAWs, which makes him the powerhouse. I would suggest the game limit the number of heavy weapons class to 1 for every four infantry for better balance. You also have a few choices for the uniform and facial characteristics for your solider so the BF-VN maps are not filled with clones. This all adds up to greater diversity and should make the action even more interesting.
The VNC soldiers have some note-worthy weapons at their disposal unlike anything seen in EoD or BF42: a tunnel-spawning shovel, pungi sticks, and booby traps. The fourteen maps range from rice fields and huts, to mountainous river deltas, to jungle warfare, to urban settings, all based on historical settings.
A huge variety of ferns, vines, Eucalyptus trees, banana plants, trees, brush, and undergrowth make BF-VN an astounding place to hunt and do battle. In regular Battlefield 1942 when you come under fire your first response is to drop prone and look for cover. In the denser parts of the Battlefield Vietnam jungle, you drop prone and disappear. To offset the abundance of cover and prevent BF-VN from becoming a sniper haven, DICE has added a "threat indicator", yellow arrows around the mini-map that signify which direction you are being shot from. Think of this as being able to hear the shots and discern their origin. The game does not take full advantage of the concealment elements, though. At distance, the foliage does not render leaving you naked and exposed even though you are nestled deep down in the bush. And the enemy name tags need to be harder to pick out.
Once you are down and hiding in the grass you find that the leaves are slightly translucent--you can perceive movement and shapes through the vegetation. This is a big improvement over BF42, where once you hid behind a bush, you couldn't see a darn thing. If you crawled forward until you could see, you were no longer in cover. With the new game, you can hide and still see pretty well.
The huts, temples, buildings, and bridges are authentic-looking. Explosions have more of a hot gas/billowing fire effect. Tanks, patrol boats, artillery, jeeps, Mi8s, Hueys, and Cobras are nicely detailed and the lines and rounded surfaces are smoother than in BF42. Soldiers spray blood when hit by rifle fire. The new rendering engine improves the overall look significantly.
Really superb audio effects compliment the graphics. The game environment is laden with subtle ambience: crickets, winds, footstep sounds. Tanks and heavy artillery create massive peals of thunder, making blasting stuff even more pleasurable. In the Hue map, NVA propaganda spews from loudspeakers, warning the GI Joe’s that the war is lost. New to BF-VN is a small stopwatch that tells you how long you have to wait until the flag changes to your side. If you are alone the stopwatch can take a good, long, nerve-racking time. If you have teammates on hand the flag changes much more quickly.
The vehicles in BF Vietnam are not far removed from their ancestors in BF42. Of course, they are 1960's vintage and this go-round they include air assault and troop transport helicopters. A chopper can lower a chain to a boat or tank and air drop it to another distant location--a great tactical move. The helos are the stars of BF-VN--more responsive to control input and easier to fly than those in Desert Combat or Eve of Destruction because they use a different physics model, one designed for rotary wing aircraft. You can load multiple infantry in a Huey, man the door gun, and even blast Wagner from the speakers and put the fear of God in the Communist enemy. A good pair of players in a Huey Gunship are almost impossible to defeat. Jets can deliver napalm loads that are a sight to behold, huge walls of fire.
Tanks play a reduced role in Vietnam. They are lighter skinned and easier to destroy than WWII tanks and the terrain doesn't favor armor--so many ravines, rivers, and trees mean you can't take your Sheridan cross-country at any decent rate of speed like you could in BF42. NVA tanks and APCs are amphibious so they can navigate far quicker and easier than their US counterparts. Heavy weapons soldiers with RPGs can take advantage of the abundant cover to attack tanks and escape retribution easily in many areas. DICE thoughtfully included the ability for the passenger to shoot while riding in the jeep. There are no submarines in this installment of the Battlefield series but they do have some nifty patrol boats and one-man junks. Fast and maneuverable patrol river boats with mounted .50 cals will allow you to load up men, cross rivers, and sweep in behind the enemy positions.
There are few bugs with this game and it includes Punkbuster, a comprehensive anti-cheat utility. The single player game is marginally improved but Battlefield Vietnam is still principally an online title.
I am an avowed zealot of the Battlefield series and I'm glad to say Battlefield Vietnam is very impressive. It's a Battlefield game, in all the best ways that count: gameplay, balance, atmosphere; but it's a new game in many other ways--a different period, more classes, customizable characters, more weapons, nicely modeled helos, new and quite interesting maps, and utterly great graphics. Battlefield Vietnam wins the war of multiplayer action/wargames, hoorah!
Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Stability
Multi- play Mission Editor 13/20 6/10 10/10 10/10 20/20 10/10 9/10 5/5 3/5 BONUS: + 3 Continuing support, +2 Punkbuster
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System Requirements: Minimum:
933 Mhz CPU, Directx 9.0b, 3D accelerated GeForce3 64 MB or equivalent DirectX9 compatible videocard, 256 Megabytes of RAM, 2 GB free hard drive space (additional space required for Windows swap-file and , DirectX 9.0b installation), 16x CD-ROM drive, Directx 9.0b Compatible Sound Card
1.2 Ghz CPU, Directx 9.0b, 3D accelerated GeForce3 64 MB or equivalent DirectX9 compatible videocard
512 Megabytes of RAM, 2 GB free hard drive space (additional space required for Windows swap-file and , DirectX 9.0b installation), Directx 9.0b Compatible Sound Card
Recommended for optimum performance:
2.0 Ghz CPU, Directx 9.0b, Geforce 4 128 MB (Not MX) or equivalent DirectX9 compatible videocard, 512 Megabytes of RAM, 2 GB free hard drive space (additional space required for Windows swap-file and , DirectX 9.0b installation), Directx 9.0b Compatible Sound Card
Required Operating Systems: Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP or Windows 2000
Not Supported: Windows 95, Directx9.0a and previous versions.
Battlefield Vietnam only supports AGP cards (ie min spec: 64MB AGP 3D Video Card).
We do not support integrated 64 meg 3D Video Cards
© 2004 SUBSIM Review