Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam is an appetizing multiplayer expansion for veterans of one of the best games of last year. The prospect of numerous new weapons, maps, vehicles, and a brand new era creates an exciting opportunity for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC owners to see and try new things online. It's a compact return to the series' roots that simplifies and subtracts, yet sacrifices none of Bad Company 2's complexity.
What immediately stuck out to me, a level 26 who's played Bad Company 2 online for some 50-plus hours, is that seemingly everything in Vietnam is unlocked from minute one. I was looking forward to unlocking the new weapons - a collection of era-appropriate guns, including the fierce and powerful flame-thrower - because I'd previously maxed out each of my classes, but as far as I can see that incentive simply doesn't exist here.
This certainly isn't a deal-breaker. Instead, you simply get to play without the often annoying unfairness of other players using guns you don't have. Developer DICE earned its reputation on delicate balance, and unlocking everything from the get-go is simply a means of leveling the playing field. From a broader balance perspective, however, Vietnam is all over the place.
The environment is different from the core game, both in terms of the era and the aesthetic, and that plays into the design of the multiplayer arenas. Busted tanks, straw buildings, and trees serve as cover, but I never felt safe. I constantly felt exposed, which kept me moving and watching my back in a way I'd never before bothered to in Bad Company 2.
Vantage Point's opening area is a tight, winding valley with little room to breathe and plenty of opportunities to roast incoming troops with the new flamethrower. Hill 137's final zone is a wide open area on the side of a smouldering mountain - perfect for snipers to hide and take pot-shots at attackers during Rush matches.
Each map is well-designed, with varying uses of dense foliage for cover and verticality to suppress the opposition, but spawn camping is a serious issue in Vietnam. Your primary entry point in Conquest games is, in almost every case, exposed to enemies with advantageous positions, usually in a stationary vehicle. It's aggravating when a tank or boat can obliterate your entire team before they get their bearings, and it's something the community is currently exploiting wildly.
I tolerate this because the rest of Vietnam is such a sound addition to my favorite multiplayer shooter. Think of the expansion like this: Vietnam is to Bad Company 2 what Battlefield 1943 was to the first Bad Company. We have a few maps, less-capable weaponry (I miss my red dot sight), and a few kinks to straighten out. It's limited without feeling restricted, and at no point will you feel like there isn't enough content to keep you coming back.
Most importantly, though, it's enough change to make something you've done to death feel fresh and exciting again. It reminds you why you were obsessed with it in the first place.
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