Impressions: Battlefield Vietnam vs. Unreal Tournament 2004

Many would probably suggest that comparing Unreal Tournament 2004 and Battlefield Vietnam is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, and honestly thatÂ's a fair conclusion. However, comparing apples and oranges is valid within certain constraints, certainly more so than comparing, say, apples and flagpoles. In fact, there are probably more similarities between the two games than is at first apparent, and their simultaneous release puts them, for better or worse, in direct competition with one another.

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And so, for those of you on the fence I offer a few first impressions from the time IÂ've spent so far with both. Being impressions these thoughts are not meant to be a comprehensive or a complete analysis. Look for a full and more detailed review of both games in the coming weeks.

LetÂ's talk for a moment about the similarities these games share that make a comparison valid. At the basic level both games are first person PC shooters, both games expand upon an existing franchise, and both focus more on evolving the games that sired them as opposed to creating an entirely new experience. Beyond that, both games focus heavily on online play, neither having a plot driven single player experience. Both feature ground, vehicular, and air based combat. Both games use modified versions of their previous game engine, neither building in any appreciable technical way on its predecessor, though each actually end up requiring some notable increase in system requirements. Finally the gameplay of both are exciting and immersive experiences which place a premium on teamwork.

And, as should be no surprise, the experience of playing one is virtually nothing like the experience of the other. Where Unreal Tournament 2004 is a fast and frenetic cavalcade of exaggerated explosions set in a sports like atmosphere, Battlefield Vietnam has moments where the pace and ambiance of the game makes you feel like getting a skull tattoo and buying a CCR album. Unreal Tournament is a very structured environment with carefully designed levels, while Battlefield Vietnam is an almost dauntingly open landscape where one can easily get lost or wander into the sites of a distant sniper.

Visually speaking both games are gorgeous in their own distinctive way. UT2K4 is full of bright colors and distinctive levels set against such venues as arctic vistas, rusted martian landscapes, angular gothic structures, or a hard lined industrial factory. The character models are widely varied from the semi-human, to the alien, to the tormented damned, and every single one of them is toting one of several thick meaty weapon. On the other hand, Battlefield Vietnam remains determined to stick to earth in both setting and visual restraint. Avoiding graphical hyperbole, Vietnam may or may not look like that actual area of the world upon which the game is based – I could no more say for certain than I could speak on the texture moon dust – but it certainly looks like some movies IÂ've seen, and as a child of the technological age, thatÂ's good enough for me. Grounded in reality, Battlefield Vietnam manages to convey a real sense of place, where UT2K4, though visually compelling, never really manages to feel like anything short of a constructed play arena.

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Battlefield Vietnam also gets notable points for a vastly improved audio experience over its predecessor. Not only does the game feature licensed music from the era, but it implements that music, radio commentary, and some occasionally disconcerting propaganda into the game in a very immersive way. Adding a neat Doppler effect – the music emanating from passing vehicles goes through a Doppler shift as the vehicles cruises by – and a much more imposing Saving Private Ryan sound effect as bullets whiz near your head, and youÂ've got something genuinely compelling to listen to. Meanwhile UT2k4Â's sounds are generally passable, but unremarkable.

That said, Battlefield Vietnam retains some inauspicious and occasionally show-stopping sound bugs from 1942. The fact that these issues which seriously impeded the 1942 experience from the beginning have not been dealt with by now is utterly ridiculous. As is the miserable single-player experience of Battlefield Vietnam. My original thoughts for 1942 were that if you were going to do that piss-poor a job with bot support, then you shouldnÂ't have bothered at all. As it turns out, those are my exact thoughts again on this second pass. It would be an exercise of unnecessary finger calisthenics to itemize the failings of Battlefield VietnamÂ's miserable bots, so weÂ'll just leave it sufficed to say that the single player element is nothing more than an arena to practice crashing helicopters in.

Unreal Tournament on the other hand has a fully fleshed single player mode with some well considered enhancements. Instead of just being a crash course in the contained maps and gametypes, the new system rewards victories and notable achievements with cash which you can use to challenge opponents, win new players for your team, and spend on your teamÂ's health and payroll. ItÂ's a surface enhancement that adds a little depth – and it is very little compared to a fully designed single player campaign. Additionally, and in sharp contrast to Battlefield Vietnam, UTÂ's bot AI remains outstanding and competitive. Unlike Vietnam there is genuine fun to be had in a quick round with the bots.

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Where Unreal Tournament 2004 really shines, however is in its new gametypes and its implementation of vehicles. The revamped assault mode and new onslaught mode are, simply, fantastic. The only real complaint one could probably levy against Epic is that they didnÂ't include enough new maps for these gametypes, and really isnÂ't that just a compliment in disguise? With this not being a full fledged review, IÂ'll spare you the game-manual specifics and point you toward the demo if youÂ're curious, and just leave it stated that the full version implementation of these already popular modes is every bit as fun as the demo implies.

The success of UT2K4Â's new modes shouldnÂ't be seen as a strike against Battlefield Vietnam for not doing anything new. After all, UT 2003 left me and a number of others, fairly cold, so UT2004 showed up with something to prove. The Battlefield series, however, already had the gameplay in spades from its earlier incarnation, and it seems likely that complicated or clever new modes would have been widely ignored. DICE wisely decided to focus on taking their success and moving it to a new era. Some will say this doesnÂ't validate a genuine sequel, but itÂ's a point of complete subjectivity. For me, I have no issue with Battlefield Vietnam playing in a very similar fashion to 1942, and would almost have been disappointed had they strayed too far.

All told, it looks like weÂ've got two engrossing and entertaining games on our hands; similar in several important respects, but different enough that playing one doesnÂ't satisfy the longing to get some time in on the other. I hesitate to pass any serious judgment at this point, but I did put that pesky little Â"˜vs.Â' in the article title so I guess IÂ'm committed to some opinion. So, while I have no doubt that Battlefield Vietnam is going to devour a serious number of gaming hours, in these first few IÂ'm left a little concerned about some lingering bugs and poor bot support – itÂ's not much, I know. With UT2K4Â's well designed new play modes it just canÂ't help but step up as a flashier title on first glance. In the end the real issue, one which I canÂ't begin to comment on, is longevity which will ultimately define which game succeeds to the greater degree. At this point, IÂ'm just enthusiastic about having two stellar and long awaited games on my hard drive, and if youÂ'll excuse me IÂ'm going to go play them now.

- Elysium

Comments

So which one are we gonna play on GWJ nights?

We will play Unreal Tournament 2004 and wait for someone to create a Vietnam War mod. Then we can shoot the vietcong with friggin laser beams and change history!

Honestly, I don't like the feeling of UT2k4. It feels half assed (vehicle movement, and hud the the cars), not to mention the ground combat isn't to my liking. BFV is the same way. Actually I don't like either game. I'll wait for Pandora Tomorrow while I continue to play Steel Battalion: Line of Contact.

Nice impressions. I agree that it is nice to have two games on the ole hard drive that will be there for I am sure a year or more for myself. That is rare these days for most people.

Edwin wrote:

Honestly, I don't like the feeling of UT2k4. It feels half assed (vehicle movement, and hud the the cars), not to mention the ground combat isn't to my liking. BFV is the same way. Actually I don't like either game. I'll wait for Pandora Tomorrow while I continue to play Steel Battalion: Line of Contact.

If I had spent $249 on a game, I'd probably keep playing it until the day I die.

Meanwhile UT2k4's sounds are generally passable, but unremarkable.

Are we playing the same game? The sounds are terrific in UT2K4! The sound of the tank shots has been improved from the demo, It sounds really painful now. The pain sounds that units make are great and leaping off the train into the ground really makes me cringe. All the weapons sound pretty meaty, like they're gonna hurt somebody. The voices are pretty good. They even got little things like robots having their own robotic jumping sound.

I dunno, I think UT2K4 is great and all, but it is just too damned fast. I feel like shaking my fist at everyone as yelling "Stop jumping around, you damn punk kids!! How am I supposed to see what your character model looks like!"

"Of all the Seldon Crises we've faced, that was the Seldon Crisiest, baby." - Salvor Hardin as played by Will Smith

Have I missed something? Is there a "Foundation" movie coming out?

I still have UT2k4 sealed in the box, because I won't have an opportunity to play until Sat. at the earliest. Occasionally, I take the box out and stare at it, though...

Have I missed something? Is there a "Foundation" movie coming out?

No, that was just a script someone made up to make fun of all the sh*tty Asimov movies coming out, thank God.

I fired up BF:V for 5 minutes last night and went back to playing UT2k4- if anything, BF:V initially feels even less polished to me than the diamond-in-the-rough BF1942. I'm sure I will go back to it soon, though.

Which game you like better will depend a lot on personal preference, but so far BF:V is much more buggy. UT2004 is a more polished product, and it sounds great on my 5.1 surround sound.

Damn you Best Buy! They put my SE order on backorder? Why bother pre-ordering?

EDIT: I canceled that crap. I guess I will have to (grudgingly) give my money to EB.

So I'm not the only one Best Buy screwed over? At least I'm not alone. How is it you can preorder a game and have it backordered? And the EB in my area is sold out of the SE Version. Now what?

I had to go buy the regular version.

hubbinsd wrote:
Edwin wrote:

Honestly, I don't like the feeling of UT2k4. It feels half assed (vehicle movement, and hud the the cars), not to mention the ground combat isn't to my liking. BFV is the same way. Actually I don't like either game. I'll wait for Pandora Tomorrow while I continue to play Steel Battalion: Line of Contact.

If I had spent $249 on a game, I'd probably keep playing it until the day I die.

I paid $194 exactly because #1 I got the original used, and #2 I used my employee discount (I work at GameStop).

Edit: That is including FL sales tax of 7%.