If there was one title you could directly compare to the success of Counter Strike when it came to online gameplay, it would have to be Battlefield 1942, or more specifically, Battlefield 1942 and its mods. Despite the fact both games had less than perfect engines at their prime, millions of gamers can't be wrong. Well, as you would surely already know, the Battlefield series is back in the form of Battlefield Vietnam, and this title is here to combine the worlds of classic gameplay and new generation technology.
First of all, unlike the original, BF Vietnam features no single player campaign mode whatsoever. Instead, offline gaming can only be done in an "instant battle", which was also in the original. The campaign mode was never really a storyline as such, it was just a collection of instant battles with somewhat of a purpose, so its absence isn't a huge disaster, I just feel slightly more attention could have been directed towards the single player side of things.
Naturally, the entire range of vehicles and weaponry has changed for BF Vietnam, as the 20 odd years between the second world war and the Vietnam conflict brought upon completely different tools of combat, including the mainstream military use of jets, improved tanks, and the helicopter to name a few. Not only this, but some of the new vehicles and aircraft can perform unique functions. For example, certain helicopters can now drop ropes down to pick up ground vehicles themselves for transportation into hot zones. Also, in most vehicles, you can select from a list of authentic 60's songs, including the ability to insert your own music. This is a very nifty little feature, as it was actually used in the conflict by the US as scare tactics (Think inspirational Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries). Unfortunately, my old favorite "puff the magic dragon" doesn't seem to make it into Battlefield Vietnam, but I guess a chain-gun beast spitting 6000 rounds per minute would have made the game a tad one sided.
Stealth is certainly more of a realistic strategy now, mainly thanks to the environments. Rather than the open desert plains or scarce city wastelands of the original, BF Vietnam is completely based in your typical Vietnam scenery, which includes lush fields and dense jungles to name a few. This directly changes the gameplay for the better, as it is now possible to conduct surprise attacks, and on the other hand, hide booby traps. One draw back compared to the original however is the lack of scenery variation in BF Vietnam. Naturally, such a small scaled war geographically has limited changes in environment. This is unlike World War II which was fought in pretty much every likely environment on earth. Nevertheless, the maps are as varied as possible while still remaining realistic including some urban maps; just don't expect the same level of variation as the original.
As far as the gameplay goes overall though, fans of the original should not be disappointed. The same successful fundamentals remain, which means BF Vietnam's best feature is by far its gameplay. There was nothing quite like going into a server with 40 odd other people in the original, and that remains here with BF Vietnam, and if anything, the pleasure has been enhanced thanks to the huge array of improvements and additions. The same "ticket" gamemode remains as the most popular, which generally gave both sides a certain amount of tickets, depleting when certain flags are not held and when people are killed and respawn.
New to BF Vietnam is the ability to move spawn points in the same way you would move vehicles as mentioned above. This is done by picking up a rather large cube-like cargo box with a chopper located at the original spawn point on some maps. The chopper uses its alternate fire function to pick the cargo up, which you then release where you wish the cargo to drop, which effectively creates a new spawn point. This process takes a little getting use to, as the chopper is not exactly easy to manoeuvre precisely at first, but you will get the hang of it quick enough. I suggest you do this in the instant battle single player mode, BF Vietnam generally relies heavily on choppers for transportation and holding up your entire team while you try to refine your flying skills is not a great idea.
Visually, BF Vietnam is also great. With the use of advanced pixel shaders comes a higher grade in visual quality, and luckily, the engine is well equipped to handle the increase in visual quality while still feeling and performing well. Player models are far more realistic and the animations aren't bad either, particularly the weapon reloading animations. As stated before, the environments in BF Vietnam are typical for the Vietnam war we've come to expect in the gaming world, but thanks to the powerful graphical engine, BF Vietnam probably has the most convincing implementation out, allowing for real world strategies - after all, you can't use your camo if the game's graphic engine has a hard time keeping the environment up to scratch.
After reading less than impressive opinions from some BF1942 fans out there, I must say there are a few things that Battlefield Vietnam should have improved upon but failed to do so, but all-in-all, this is a game to remember for the year 2004. Whilst it doesn't quite completely fulfill the imagination and hopes that I'm sure many fans had coming into its release, there is no doubting that BF Vietnam is an improvement that will attract even more gamers to the series. It is hard to say if BF Vietnam will share the same online success as the original did however, but if it doesn't, that could only be because of the increasing stiff competition for online FPS gaming and not because of BF Vietnam's wrong doing, after all, you can only physically play one game at a time. The bottom line is this - if you loved the Battlefield series before, you will most probably want to marry it now. It is practically the same thing, just louder, bigger and better.