PC games: Battlefield Vietnam

Digital Illusions has just released its latest title in the Battlefield franchise, Battlefield Vietnam (BV). Fans of the predecessor, Battlefield 1942 (BF1942), will immediately feel at home due to the similar gameplay, chaotic action and ease of use. If you are new to the franchise, there’s no need to feel left out; the learning curve is very slight and it won’t be long before you’re mixing it with the best of them.

Before you even begin playing, the install process of BV details several options. These options include installation of PunkBuster (anti-cheat software), map editor, mod toolkit, server manager and a patch downloader called AceGain. It’s encouraging to see developers embracing the mod and anti-cheat community at such an early stage.

BF1942 spawned a serious mod community and released great add-on packs such as Desert Combat, a trend that hopefully will continue with the latest release.

BV offers single player and multiplayer modes with the ability to choose between the opposing armies of the United States and North Vietnam. Different soldier classes are available for both armed forces and include engineer, sniper/scout, assault trooper and heavy support. A noticeable omission is the medic so that soldiers must now heal themselves using medi-packs.

The weapon set has been improved dramatically and adds certain elements to keep the gameplay fresh. For example, engineers can now set up ambushes and, in particular, Viet Cong engineers can dig tunnels for sneaky spawn points. Complementing the new weapon sets, the new vehicles such as boats, helicopters and high-speed jets are great for transporting troops directly to the action.

Although novices may find some air-based vehicles hard to control, with plenty of practice you, too, can become master of the skies. Helicopters offer the most effective tactical range, from transport or covering fire to airlifting tanks and armoured personnel carriers to remote areas where fellow troops may be stranded.

The most obvious changes in BV are the graphics engine and audio. The trees and underbrush sway in the wind and provide excellent cover for sniping while laying on your stomach. Collision detection during gameplay was poor, however: I tried to run over a enemy soldier in a tank, but the soldier was pushed along the ground like a toy figurine and only died after I got out of the tank and shot him. The audio adds a sense of realism as bullets ping and ricochet off the surroundings. Support for Creative’s EAX and EAX 2 sound API (Application Program Interface) means players with 5.1 channel speakers will be truly immersed.

The title offers single-player and multi-player campaigns, but the multiplayer section is the draw card. The single-player campaign might have extended the replay value if a storyline had been included; not only does a storyline give the gamer a sense of achievement once you’ve finished, it helps you hone your skills before heading to the brutal world of online play.

BV is a natural progression in the Battlefield franchise. It has some new elements but fails to present a definitive wow factor. It’s refreshing to see an FPS title offer a different scenario to the slew of World War II-themed FPS titles available, but if you’re looking for an engaging single-player game, you may need to look elsewhere.

Visuals: Polished environments, some minor glitches
Audio: Engaging
Gameplay: Action-packed with some bugs
Developer: Digital Illusions
Publisher: Electronic Arts
URL: www.eagames.com/official/battlefield/vietnam/us/home.jsp

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