NOT AS GOOD AS:
WAIT FOR IT:
Star Wars: Battlefront
You're separated from your squad, facing the terrible certainty of death in the tall grass. Here comes Chuck, followed by 40 tons of Soviet-made steel with a smug bastard behind the turret, safe in the knowledge that he's encased in the hardest nut to crack in all of Uncle Sam's ill-advised cookout. This is no softheaded A.I., programmed to play a short part in a script designed to highlight your heroism. Behind every pair of enemy eyes is a human opponent hell-bent on sending your ass home in a pine box (or to the Hanoi Hilton, if you're so lucky).
Before your trembling finger can find the radio key that summons help, a dragon with a bowel full of bushmasters (and one blueleg who's still asking how he disembarks) arrives, breathing suppressing fire. As the Huey sinks into short orbit and your backup hits the ground running, all hell breaks loose. Welcome to Vietnam, soldier.
The rules of engagement remain largely unchanged from those of Battlefield 1942. U.S. and NVA forces start each firefight with a fixed allotment of tickets. Because each "combat advisor" killed in action costs one ticket, simple attrition slightly reduces the total, whereas losing ground really taxes your team's resources. To control the land, you must make good use of your specialists, and that's where Vietnam starts to scream. Your time in the bush radically changes depending on whether you play as a grunt, sharpshooter, heavy-weapons handler, or engineer. So if you get sick of losing sniper duels, you can always sabotage the enemy's motor pool as a sapper.
Going toe-to-toe in an impenetrable tangle of trees changes everything, too, since colored name tags no longer announce the enemy's whereabouts, allowing room for strategy and subterfugegomers (or GIs) can and will materialize from the undergrowth. And although the flora is staticyou'll see no telltale rustling as tangos creep about or bushes flattened by a chopper's downwashit certainly beats Rising Sun's plywood cutouts and tropical wallpaper. Most everything is rich, multilayered, and convincingly rendered.
Several games let you play soldier in the sticks; it's what awaits beyond the bush, in the streets of ravaged cities, on the beaten path of access roads, and in the skies above that makes Vietnam so electrifying. All the hardware that makes modern warfare hell is here, and from the moment you see the enemy hightail it at the first sound of your F-4 Phantom's engines, you'll know why every FPSbe it set in the future or that fabled galaxy far, far awayis out to imitate the Battlefield formula. Piloting takes practice, mind you, and not every combatant is cut from flyboy cloth, but master the art, and you'll soon be parachuting from burning helos into the cockpits of enemy planes conveniently prepped for takeoff. A kick-ass soundtrack of war anthems accessible from vehicle radios will add to the ambience (unfortunately, videogames weren't around to answer when Edwin Starr asked what war is good for).
Fearsome as they are, Vietnam's killing machines aren't without Achilles' heels. Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles pulverize fast movers as readily as plastique tears open tanks. In fact, the game is so appreciably balanced that anything goes in each brilliant battle, provided you've got the reflexes and good sense to make it happen. Nonetheless, this war isn't all wine and roses. Skill without strategy is the slowest route to victory, yet without additional programs like Roger Wilco, you can't communicate with your platoon effectively enough to employ them later. Also, from a visual standpoint, little of 1942's aging technology has improved (some scenery actually looks less lifelike). But even if it's not quite the revolution its predecessor was, EA's latest tour of duty is every bit as rock 'n' roll.
Parachuting out of choppers and jets, manning the turrets on a transport boat, quietly stalking your prey through the thick jungle, barreling a jeep into the enemy camp and jumping out before it crushes three of their guys
it would actually take effort to make this not work.