Battlefield Vietnam

Review

posted 4/4/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PC
Many of you know Battlefield 1942 as the insanely addictive juggernaut that it is today, but how many of you remember just how flawed and cumbersome the game was at the time of its launch? Although the premise was neat, the execution was sloppy, the ping was god awful and the framerate was unbearable on a number of systems. In short, Electronic Arts released an unfinished game and charged an unsuspecting public $40 a pop to beta test it. About a full year later the Swedes at DICE finally brought the game around and the version 1.6 patch offers us the addictive experience that we remember today. Funny thing here, you know that old saying “those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it” that your teachers pummeled you with during high school? Any guesses as to which group of Swedes and Canadians slept through that lesson during their youth?

In addition to feeling like a thinly veiled expansion pack Battlefield Vietnam is also unplayable on a number of systems. First and foremost is the fact that a number of people who bought the game from popular retailers, such as EBGames, GameStop and CompUSA, are getting invalid CD KEY errors. It’s not all bad though because at least it gives those poor saps enough time to read the reviews and realize the plethora of issues that plague this title. Unless they’re the most hardheaded fanboy on the face of the planet I’d assume that they’d be wise enough to take the refund and purchase a more polished and complete title. But let’s say he’s adamant about playing the game, exactly what will he be faced with?

How about an unserviceable interface that unnecessarily complicates matters? How about an inane mini-map system that’s been placed into a diamond formation so that it obscures more of your view? Not enough? How about an amazingly unbalanced game where the Americans have a walking tank and the NVAs have to rely on the Vietnamese equivalent of sticks and stones? And that’s barring that they can actually get the game to start up in the first place. Amateur is a great word to describe Battlefield Vietnam as is “thinly-veiled expansion pack.”

Instead of utilizing the clean and easy to read interface that we’ve grown accustomed to in BF1942 the designers opted for a more modern look that really detracts from the game. It’s not exactly the most distracting interface on the face of the planet by why further complicate matters? My most hated change is that the kill tallies are placed on the bottom left of the screen as opposed to the top right. It’s hard enough to tell when you’ve actually disposed of an enemy but having to direct your eyes down and completely away from the field of view is just deadly. It was a problem that plagued BF1942 too but at least it was in a good location that was generally easy to read (due mainly to it being set against the sky) and didn’t require too much concentration. What the game really needs is some sort of indicator to let you know that you’ve racked up a kill. Not necessarily a pinging sound but maybe just a little icon that flashes on the screen momentarily to let you know that you’ve mowed that bastard down and it’s safe to move on.

A minor annoyance comes from the fact that the minimap on the top of the screen has been formatted to a diamond shape. It’s pointless and cuts off a pretty large portion of the playing field. I would have rather it been a square, that way I’d have more of an indication of where I was headed. As a result I found myself having to zoom out much more often than usual or just pressing m and consulting the full-screen map.

Probably the most annoying part of the interface is the unnecessary clutter that fills the spawn and map interfaces. Pressing enter used to bring up an overview of the map and a selection of kits on the side. Now you’re getting a cavalcade of icons, numbers and other pointless inclusions such as a larger representation of the scoreboard. Guys, the score tallies already pop up each time I die and if I’m not paying attention I can always press tab to check it out. Why did you feel the need to plaster it all over my screen when I’m trying to select my spawn point? All it does is makes things complicated; the designers keep telling us that this is an arcade game at heart so why do they keep throwing more ingredients into the soup? As a strange oddity this game actually takes a step back from the version 1.6 release of BF1942 and lacks the map vote and player kick vote functions. Something's telling me that they just coded this game and decided that they could get away with releasing a patch at a later date.

If you can get past these annoyances you’ll find that the interface isn’t all bad. A new timer takes the guesswork out of capturing spawn points. Now when you attack a spawn point you’ll know exactly how long it’ll take before you can claim it as your own. As a nice touch, the more people who are in the capturing halo, the quicker the timer goes down. This is an excellent way to encourage teamwork and group tactics. Probably my favorite addition is what the game calls a 3D map. Pushing Q gives you on-screen indicators of where your friendlies are and where the spawn points are. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of where the fights are and where your comrades are hiding. I wish that it would have shown enemy positions that were in your line of sight as well but perhaps it would have made the combat too easy.
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