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Tycho / on Wed, Mar 17 2004 at 4:30 am

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Vietnam Is Actually Kind Of Complex

Jesus, so what do I talk about today?  UT2004 retail?  Battlefield Vietnam?  Pandora Tomorrow?  I know a shit ton about Pandora Tomorrow, I could probably go on all day.  The comic‘s about Battlefield, though - I suppose that’s as good as anything.

I was poking around Battlefield Central when it became entirely clear the game was probably out, and I should go buy it.  The guy at the Northgate EB knows not to ask me if I preordered it, we have an understanding on the issue.  I told him once that maybe down in San Francisco they pre-order their games, and that’s good enough if you live in San Francisco, but here in America we don’t abide by that kind of nonsense.  He and I are resolved that it’s a lifestyle choice, it’s something I tolerate but I’ll be God Damned if they make me equate it with a regular purchase.   

Battlefield 1942 is, I believe, second only to Counter-Strike in terms of its online popularity.  Unreal Tournament 2004 will make a splash I’d warrant, but B1942 is real, real big.  There are also demos available for it, if you have just returned from the mines of Pluto and are out of step with the interactive entertainment that has taken root while you sailed between worlds.  The reason I establish this is because I don’t want to spend a whole post talking about Battlefield.  I don’t want to be up here saying, “Now, footballs can be distinguished from shuttlecocks in the following ways.”  There is some basic shit I expect you to know when you visit my site.  And if you do not, I will recoil from you, as though having touched the greasy, third-party gum beneath a barstool.

What we will be talking about are the points of distinction between the original Battlefield that so many people love, and this new contraption that will undoubtedly inspire a breadth of opinion.  We will not be piercing the moral quandaries at the heart of the conflict, discussing the military language of the period, or dealing with factual accounts of Vietnam.  Well, except for one thing:  my stepdad says that the way he and his guys would fish in ‘Nam was to press a grenade with the pin pulled down into a jar of peanut butter.  They would then drop this jar from a great height via helicopter, and he tells me that when the jar hit the surface of the water and cracked, the grenade was released and the resultant shockwave of water, glass, shrapnel, and I assume peanut butter would either kill fish or just kick the shit out of them, causing them to float where they could be scooped up by the Huey.  Okay, that’s all the facts.  No more, that’s it.

If you purchase Battlefield Vietnam, install it, and then run it with the expectation that you will not be driving vehicles around on hilly terrain while you shoot guys, you will be in for a shock.  We are talking about an incremental shift in the way the game is played.  This may fill you with rage, and cause you to write a review of this nature.  Outside of some animation bugs and the fact that my American soldier can’t stop speaking Vietnamese for some reason, I’m actually pretty happy with it.  They made some changes to the way the Conquest mode works that I think make it a better game.  But this is not Battlefield 2, and you will be disappointed if that is the context you see it in.

The ability of a single individual to run roughshod over the countryside, snaring points willy-nilly and generally pulling army-of-one style bullshit has been hampered somewhat.  The number of people you have at a given point determines how fast a point is captured, so moving groups of people into points is encouraged in ways that did not exist prior.  Going a step beyond the idea of mobile spawn points already introduced by mods and official expansions, there is a placeable spawn point that can be picked up by a helicopter and dropped off anywhere.  The North Vietnamese have a “tunnel” (a la C&C Generals’ GLA) that they may move from place to place as well.  Helicopters aren’t only limited to moving spawn points, of course - they can also grab vehicles and haul them to other parts of the map.  I think that’s really hot, though it requires a level of player collaboration that I haven’t seen much of in my first few rounds - I think people are still getting used to the game.     

The different boats, tanks, planes, and jeeps will probably be very familiar to you, and with the exception of heat-seeking rockets in the aircraft (or carried by NVA troops) you will not be caught off-guard.  On the other hand, the helicopters I mentioned are fairly significant - particularly if you have not played Desert Combat.  They may surprise you even if you have played the popular modern combat modification, because controlling them is a far more humane procedure in Battlefield Vietnam than you might be familiar with.  The Gamespot review refers to the difficulty of managing these craft, and while they might be difficult compared to jeeps, I only had to crash one or two before I got the hang of it.  To compare, flying helicopters in DC is like bending a spoon with your mind or trying to walk a tyrannosaur.  To say they are unwieldy is to have a good shot at Understatement Of The Year. 

The classes have been condensed significantly, down to a Soldier, an Engineer, an Anti-Armor, and a Sniper.  I’m all for it, there used to be too many - but it does create a balance issue Ivan talks about in the 1up review I mentioned earlier.  There is a US Anti-Armor class that gets a LAW as well as an M60, which is to say that they are Gods of Destruction.  Since the “on foot” gameplay has always been of a very high lethality index in this series, there’s no reason not to just take this class every time and act as the agent of divine retribution.  Between your disposable rocket launcher and your heavy machinegun, you represent a buffet of death that is open twenty-four hours a day.   

The things that I like best about BV aren’t related to gameplay so much as they are related to immersion.  Gameplay wise, we’re talking about Battlefield 1942 with tufts of foliage and a few visual tweaks that look as though the engine has consented to modernity, albeit begrudgingly.  You can shoot from the passenger seat of jeeps, plant mortars like in Desert Combat…  It’s fine.  Single player is garbage, just as it was in days of yore.  If they can rein in that glaring balance issue, it recommends itself pretty well at its thirty five dollar price point.  I think they have a sense internally about exactly how much we will pay for what is essentially an extremely professional mod. 

Sound-wise, though, the aural environment is extremely intense.  Weapons, vehicles, ambients, all accurate and genuine and harrowing.  They licensed several “period” songs for the title which perfect the presentation, and you will hear these songs blaring from helicopters as they pass by with full Doppler effect.  When you read about it, maybe it doesn’t seem like much.  To actually bring up the song list in your vehicle online and choose a song that everybody can hear is a very powerful feature in practice.  You can play your own songs as well, but then other people couldn’t hear them, and when you have the opportunity to alter the environment like that I don’t know why you wouldn’t choose to.             

(CW)TB out.

it ain’t me


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