Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam Updated Hands-On

This Vietnam-set expansion stands to reinvigorate Bad Company 2's multiplayer with flamethrowers, tuk-tuks, and "Ride of the Valkyries."

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For those who've neglected Battlefield: Bad Company 2's multiplayer for too long, Vietnam is a sweet welcome back: a Vietnam War-era, multiplayer-only digital expansion. It comprises five new maps (one to be unlocked further down the line), new weapons, and new vehicles that are bolstered by evocative licensed music and voice-overs. Among the period treats in store are flamethrowers, tuk-tuks, and the "Ride of the Valkyries." When we played, the latter was wafting through the jungle more often than not, adding a cinematic touch to even our most ignoble deaths. The M2 flamethrower, meanwhile, was the most notable of the expansion's 15 contemporary weapons. In close combat, its short-range jets of flame induce panic, obscuring the opposition's view while draining its health. And the nippy, rickety tuk-tuks--the least intimidating of the expansion's six vehicles--are also the most irresistible, begging to be loaded with TNT and sent sailing into enemy lines.

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That TNT replaces Bad Company 2's C4 as the explosive of choice for the recon class, but the difference is only cosmetic, as with the syringe that replaces the medic's defibrillator and the blowtorch that replaces the engineer's repair tool. The cosmetic nods to authenticity mount up nicely, though. The weapon models are tarnished, and, in some cases, they are etched with slogans ("make war, not love"). Matches also begin and end with grainy, newsreel-style US war reports. The team character models reflect the new sides--American GIs and the North Vietnamese Army--but beneath the Vietnam veneer, along with suitably lower-tech new weapons and new vehicle handling, the essential squad-based play is unchanged. And, all of the same modes are available. All the weapons are unlocked from the get-go, but experience accrued in the Vietnam expansion counts toward progress in the original Bad Company 2 multiplayer.

There's a decent mix of environments in the maps, though jungle, long grass, bamboo stalks, and shallow water do feature heavily, with an ambience of frog croaks and cricket chirps. The muddied water and tropical skies look good and should be a welcome change for those who've long since memorized the older Bad Company 2 maps. The lay of the land mostly pushes players into fighting up close, but a few map features--bridges overlooking large areas, for instance--provide choice spots for long-range sniping.

We love the smell of DLC in the morning.
We love the smell of DLC in the morning.

Phu Bai Valley is nearly all flat, spread across flooded rice fields. The napalm-blasted Hill 137 map, as described in our earlier preview, has the expansion's most striking vista: a blackened, smoldering hillside crisscrossed with foxholes and trenches. Here, in the tightly closed-in areas, flamethrowers and cooked grenades are especially effective. But the Cao Son Temple map is nearly as memorable: a jungle sloping up to a scenic old temple and its walled grounds. It is backed by mountains and edged with a river--on which US patrol boats with mounted guns await; ideal for controlling action on the shore. (In the US vehicles, which include the boats and the shark-faced Huey helicopter, radios play Vietnam-era rock, as well as the near-ubiquitous Valkyries number, with the option to change stations by pressing left on the D pad.) Away from the water, the central temple building is defensible by a well-coordinated team, but only just, with multiple entrances to cover.

Operation Hastings, the to-be-unlocked bonus map, is an updated version of the Battlefield: Vietnam map. Here, a small templelike structure houses one of the target M-COM stations, as does a small village of wooden shacks downriver, with boats on hand for transport between sites. A long bridge commands a view of much of the open space and water, making it an inviting position for snipers. Operation Hastings will become available once players collectively perform 69 million team actions--heals, repairs, and the like.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam will be released on December 18 for the PC and then on December 21 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (£9.99, €12.99, or $14.99, and 1,200 points, respectively).

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