Summary: Battlefield Vietnam was officially unleashed today. Jakub's been toiling around with a copy of the game in recent days and has written up some first impressions of the game, focusing mostly on the offline and technical aspects. So come check this piece out man, it's groovy.
The first thing you'll notice upon firing up BF:V is that, well, it's a lot like Battlefield 1942. Although the graphics are updated, especially with the use of pixel shaders, there is no denying the resemblance to the original. Vehicle dynamics are identical, world physics are unchanged and the animation is straight out of the first game. The use of pixel shaders and bump mapping is subtle, giving waves to water and shine to metal.
The models and animation still have their somewhat clunky Battlefield 1942 quality, but given the performance trade-offs involved in performance, this isn't a point we'd harp about. The biggest graphical improvements are actually the levels.
The terrain of Vietnam is lush and green, and the game simulates this by the use of a myriad of grass and shrub textures. The rolling hills are supplemented by a relatively rich assortment of trees and bushes, though this isn't quite the three-layered tropical forest canopy that was made famous by the war itself. This is supplemented by a great swath of huts, sheds and lean-tos that pepper the landscape. If there's one thing that Battlefield Vietnam doesn't lack, it's cover.
You'll need that cover, too. Air power is a serious factor in the game. Not only does each team usually have a pair or two of jets, but helicopters now supplement them. Such a preponderance of air power would make life quite difficult for the average grunt on the ground, if not for the extra cover provided by the terrain.
To combat that air power, most of which is focused on the American side, the North Vietnamese Army has hand-held surface to air missiles and anti-aircraft tanks like the ZSU. On several maps the NVA is also capable of fielding its own aircraft, like the MiG-17, MiG-21 jets and Mi-8 helicopter. However, guided air-to-air missiles are exclusive to the F-4 Phantom. All other jets must make do with cannon. The cannon are much more powerful than aircraft mounted machine guns were in BF1942, but hitting your enemies is more difficult, given the high speeds everyone is flying at.
Realism again takes a back seat in favor of gameplay, since helicopters are considerably more durable than aircraft, but this is to compensate for their slow motion and the ease with which they are hit. One of the more useful things certain choppers can do is to pick up cargo. While you may wonder where the laws of physics have gone when you see a Huey flying around with a Patton tank chained to it, there's no denying the dramatic effect of a tank being dropped in behind enemy lines - or even firing at enemies while still airborne.
Since the master server wasn't up yet, we spent most of our time with the bots provided by EA. While they're not as competent as the UT bots, they are a marked improvement over their Battlefield 1942 counterparts. There are still instances when they'll stay in one spot or circle pointlessly, but the problem isn't near the same degree as it was with the earlier incarnation of this franchise. The bots are capable helicopter pilots, crashing more than an experienced human but nothing too egregious. They actually have some human traits as well. For example, some bots enjoy taking a perfectly good transport helo, flying off alone (leaving their teammates behind), and over enemy territory, where they eject, parachute and leave the copter to crash.
An equally great improvement has been made with the sound effects. Battlefield Vietnam sounds as good as Call of Duty, which is a real surprise - I didn't expect anyone to come close to Call of Duty for quite a while. Every effect you can think of has been updated, from pistols and rifles through tank guns, to the big explosions. You can even hear the shell casings from an M60 machine gun hit the ground.
We'll have a full review ready soon, after the online community has a chance to form and we can fairly judge multiplayer. Stay tuned!
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