Battlefield Vietnam follows the same objectives as Battlefield 1942, involving the capture of key locations on large maps, with the dominating force draining a set number of points from the opposition; the winner being the team that forces the other to drop to zero. Players can join teams representing the United States, ARVN, Viet Cong and NVA, depending on the map.
The game gives the player a variety of weapons, spanning the M16 and AK47 to punji sticks and land mines that were used as booby-traps, as well as access to a large range of vehicles including tanks, jeeps and aircraft. It also has several additions to it, such as air-lifting vehicles and playing the radio in any vehicle from a wide selection of 1960s music. Another notable enhancement is the ability to fire from the passenger sides of vehicles this time around, rather than having to sit and watch. Also, helicopters hover by themselves (assuming there is a person in the pilot seat, and the helicopter is balanced) without requiring constant tapping of the keyboard, and the engineer class is sometimes equipped with a blowtorch that allows for sabotage or eliminating a threat, such as a tank.
The game features a variety of famous military vehicles from the war, that are drivable by players. These include tanks such as the M60 Patton, the AH-1 Cobra and the F-4 Phantom II. However, Vietcong players also get access to a wide range of vehicles, such as the Mig-21 jet fighter, T-54 tank and even a scooter.
It is primarily an online multi-player game, although it is possible to play single-player, but as pointed out in a number of game reviews there were some key issues that caused problems. In the first release the gameplay was marred by technical flaws and balance issues, though this was partially addressed in the first patch; in particular, the infamous American anti-armour kit that had featured both the M60 and LAW was removed after frequent complaints about its excessive strength compared to any other kit.
There are numerous modifications (called mods) to Battlefield Vietnam in development. Many Battlefield 1942 mods changed over to BFV as well as many new ones were announced. Many of the existing, released BF1942 mods may at some point create a BFV version as well. How many modifications will actually be released is unknown, especially with the release of Battlefield 2.
There are several mods available for Battlefield Vietnam, such as the "Eve of Destruction" mod, which uses better quality models for vehicles and weapons, as well as introducing new ones and new maps. Other popular mods for Battlefield Vietnam are "Operation Peacekeeper", and "Point of Existence" also known as PoE. PoE takes place in 2007, with a hypothetical war between the United States and Russia over oilfields in Africa.