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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

The Gathering

 

Developer

Illusion Softworks

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q1 2004

 

 

- Authentic Vietnam experience

- Top notch music and sound

- Huge levels

- Plenty of missions and online support

 

 

- Graphics are groundbreaking…well, in 1999 they would be

- AI is as smart as Jessica Simpson

- Gameplay mechanics feel hollow

- Technical gaffes graphically

- Framerate issues in hefty firefights

 

 

Review: American McGee's Alice (PC)

Review: Splinter Cell (PC)

Review: Vietcong (PC)

 

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Vietcong: Purple Haze

Score: 7.2/10

 

Forget everything you know from award winning Vietnam films such as Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and The Thin Red Line. Sure those movies portrayed a roughly accurate rendition of the 60s and 70s, but what I never got out of those movies was a genuine feeling as if I was actually there. With video game companies striking gold on WWII and modern warfare games, the Vietnam era has received little attention. Rarely does a game come from that period that truly captures the authentic feel and action of Vietnam. With Vietcong: Purple Haze, the Vietnam genre of videogames is finally taking steps in the right direction.

 

The hefty package of Vietcong: Purple Haze is in fact two games in one. The first is the original Vietcong released in 2003 while the other is an expansion pack, First Alpha, which we will unfold later.

 

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In the single player campaign you take control of Sergeant First Class Steve Hawkins, who is sent to Vietnam as an Intelligence Sergeant at Nui Pek Camp. The camp is where all of the mission briefings, mission documents, personal diary, and other possibly important information regarding your character and progress of the game is located. From there you can jump back into missions you have previously completed or continue forth through the storyline, which comprises 28 missions in all.

 

The opening cinematic sets forth the atmosphere of the game. With the plain fields, helicopters, and Vietnamese farmers all in full motion, the Vietnam setting is realized with great authenticity. Plain fields with Vietnamese families, huts built out of straw, and gorgeous mountains fill the scene and mesh together smoothly. Directly after the opening cinematic was where all of my glee started to wear off.

 

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The framerate became choppy immediately after I was in control of the game. While this was on the highest of settings few games are hardly ever choppy on my test system and the graphics engine in Vietcong has no reason to spawn choppiness. After lowering my settings uneasily, the framerate issue was solved although the graphics were still sub-par. Character anatomy is simply, for lack of a better word, goofy. Among skinny arms that don’t have an elbow

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bend, much like the dated graphics of Half-Life, bodies are not scaled differently and replicated. In other words, every one looks just like the next person with only different faces Even though the makeup of the bodies is awkward, the faces are actually well done. The lip-synching is cued up with good timing as are the facial muscles that correspond with speaking.

 

Like what was said earlier, the authentic Vietnam feel is nearly always present. The lush forests are detailed with moving shrubbery, animated frogs and other creatures, as well as towering trees that make the situation tense and nostalgic. If you can put aside the rough edges graphically, Vietcong: Purple Haze is easily the best “feeling” Vietnam game in recent memory.

 

One portion of the game that is executed to near perfection comes from the sound department. From the menu screen to the wet marshes, you’ll hear accurate music and lively clatter. Purple Haze features genuine music from the era which includes: Iggy Pop, Deep Purple, and The Standells. The music is played with great timing, such as in the end of a level or during a panoramic view of an area.

 

Missions are given through briefing cinematics in which the details are outlined as well as your objectives. During the cinematics you also learn more about the characters personalities. The dialog might be poorly written, but it helps distinguish characters simply by the tone or style of their speech. Once the mission is understood, you return to your bunker where you can look at your personal files, play previous missions, or jump into the next mission.

 

Purple Haze can be seen as a hit or a miss in terms of Gameplay. It’s as standard as a FPS can get with a few commands given here and there. For one, you can either have your pointman lead in a mission or you can personally deliver commands to your company. Either way you will achieve your goals, although it doesn’t make any difference in how the mission turns out. Picking up weapons, documents, and ammo in the field is a great component, since running out of ammo happens often. Dead bodies carry weapons and ammo after you frisk them. The weapons come in all different shapes and sizes and are accurate to the times once again. You can sport the standard M16 or pick up an AK-47 for the extra firepower. Pistols and grenades are present as well, but are superfluous additions since the difficulty of the game is…well, not that difficult.

 

The biggest disappointed of Vietcong has to be the AI. Take the worst AI you’ve ever seen in any game, multiply it by infinity, and you might have a small idea of how bad the AI really is. The VC (enemy) will stand directly in your line of fire and take your shots. Sometimes they will make it seen easier for you and run towards your fire. Watching these events unfold is a laughable occasion, except you won’t be laughing as the AI continues to baffle you with its incompetence mission in and mission out. 

 

The official mission pack First Alpha is exactly that: a mission pack, with a few extra maps, weapons, characters, and a custom game editor. The strategy guide included on First Alpha is another pointless addition to an already disappointing game. If you find yourself reading through the strategy guide at any point, I truly feel sorry for you and recommend playing a game easier than this…perhaps Barbie’s Horse Adventure.

 

The online component of Vietcong is one portion of the game devoted to pure fun. It won’t be hard finding a good server and the players come in the dozens. Don’t think that the servers will be filled in the next few months due to the overwhelming support Battlefield: Vietnam is receiving. Those few die-hard Vietcong followers will keep you company, but the multiplayer side of Vietcong is overshadowed by other online FPS games.

 

vietcong pc review          vietcong pc review

 

Vietcong is an aesthetic surprise with great visuals and sound; and a huge disappointment of Gameplay and AI. Both wrapped tightly together. Vietcong: Purple Haze had the potential of bringing the era back to life and in some ways delivers just that. It can be seen as a catalyst for other companies to venture through the era and publish qualities games. Vietcong is not a bad game on any level and will serve the inviting price tag fully. Just remember not to go into the game thinking this is the next Medal of Honor or Call of Duty, because it is nowhere near the standards set by those classics.

 

Eric Lahiji

element@armchairempire.com

 

March 24, 2004

 

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