Battlefield Vietnam World War II Mod Hands-On Impressions

Now you can relive three classic Battlefield 1942 levels with all the eye candy and improvements that the Battlefield Vietnam engine offers.

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The World War II mod will allow you to refight the battles of World War II--but with Battlefield Vietnam technology.

Total conversion mods for first-person shooters aren't that unusual these days, but it is unusual to see a major publisher like Electronic Arts issuing an official mod for one of its games. Such is the case with the World War II Mod for Battlefield Vietnam, which, as its name suggests, offers the gameplay of Battlefield 1942 but with all the bells and whistles of the superior Battlefield Vietnam graphics engine. EA is issuing the World War II Mod today, but we had the opportunity earlier this week to both check the mod out and test-drive it online.

Don't expect all of Battlefield 1942's content, as well as that of its two expansion packs, to be shoehorned into Battlefield Vietnam with this mod. Instead, it packs three of the most popular Pacific theater battles from Battlefield 1942: Wake Island, Iwo Jima, and the Invasion of the Philippines level that was included in one of the latter patches for that game. Without a doubt, the most significant of the three is Wake Island, which was the original demo level for Battlefield 1942 and remains one of the most popular Battlefield levels to this day.

EA touts that these levels aren't just ports of the original maps. They are, instead, enhanced versions that take advantage of Battlefield Vietnam's feature set. From our experience with the mod, the level designs themselves haven't changed that much, but the levels are packed with a lot more detail, and they're much prettier in general. There's a lushness to the tropical islands that wasn't there before (courtesy of Battlefield Vietnam's ability to render lots of trees and tall grasses). Now when you're running along some open ground, it doesn't feel like you're standing there exposed in the wide open, because there's usually plenty of foliage to hide in. This makes it easier for infantry to survive, since they can try to fade into the background. Of course, this also brings up the concern that the sniper infestation problem could get worse, as snipers blend into the tall grasses to be all but invisible. Thankfully, the thick jungle grasses fade out in the distance, so you'll hopefully still be able to see snipers out there.

Welcome back to Wake Island. Now with more trees!
Welcome back to Wake Island. Now with more trees!

Meanwhile, the character models have also been brought up to Battlefield Vietnam standards, and they look a lot more detailed than before. And everything in the game benefits from the higher-resolution textures. The water and ocean effects also get a neat upgrade with the latest DirectX9 pixel shaders, and the World War II Mod makes good use of Battlefield Vietnam's particle and lighting system. Smoke effects are handled much better, and the overall lighting is improved, particularly in dawn and dusk conditions. In essence, the World War II mod represents a significant update--across the board--in terms of graphics.

The gameplay, however, remains essentially unchanged from Battlefield 1942. Not that there's anything wrong with that. After all, Battlefield 1942 remains wildly popular even today. There are some minor changes, though. The World War II mod does take advantage of the Battlefield Vietnam user interface, which is an improvement over the older one. For instance, when taking over an objective, a capture timer will appear onscreen that indicates the amount of time that remains before you capture it. Also, the class and weapon selection screens are from Battlefield Vietnam as well, so you can modify your appearance slightly by choosing different head and body selections, and more.

Most importantly, the mod does benefit from the smoothness of the Battlefield Vietnam engine. The original Battlefield 1942 made infantry combat a bit of a crapshoot with its jumpiness, but it's easier to draw a bead on someone in the World War II mod of Battlefield Vietnam. Meanwhile, flying fighter planes still remains a challenge, though doing so is nowhere near as formidable as mastering the helicopter controls of Battlefield Vietnam. It's also nice to be able to fly a slower plane, because the fast-moving jets of Battlefield Vietnam don't give you a lot of time to spot your target before you overshoot it.

Remember all those great Iwo Jima moments from Battlefield 1942? Now you can relive them with a DirectX 9 graphics engine.
Remember all those great Iwo Jima moments from Battlefield 1942? Now you can relive them with a DirectX 9 graphics engine.

We're certainly not lost on the irony of the World War II Mod, but we do wonder if it is meant to spur the last Battlefield 1942 holdouts to upgrade to Battlefield Vietnam. Of course, we'd love to see EA and developer DICE translate more Battlefield 1942 levels to Battlefield Vietnam. In particular, we'd like to see some of the popular European theater levels, such as Battle of the Bulge and Market Garden. But for now, enjoy the World War II Mod. If you're a Battlefield 1942 fan and you own Battlefield Vietnam, it's a definite must-have. And the best news is that it's free, beginning today. You can get the World War II Mod from our downloads page.

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