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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Gathering

 

Developer

Pterodon

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Unique setting gives game a level of freshness hard to come by in the genre

- Nice mixture of stealth, squad-level tactics, and brutal firefights

- Nicely fine-tuned to work with lower-end systems

 

 

- Some A.I. quirks can cause annoyances

- The auto-detect function for system performance simply does not work, forcing users to set things manually

 

 

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Vietcong

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

The Vietnam War remains a huge scar on the American psyche thirty years after the resolution of conflict.  Mired in the intricacies of jungle combat overseas and the political turmoil of the anti-war movement at home, America found itself in a war it couldnít, at least easily, win.  That, combined with the embarrassing treatment of the returning soldiers by the anti-war protesters, has kept the war on the front burner far longer than the actual importance of the conflict would deserve.  Despite this, or maybe because of it, high profile games about the war were, until recently, nearly non-existent.  Before Vietcong, the most successful Vietnam-based game was likely NAM 1975 by Japanese developer SNK from way back in 1990.  So, at least in setting, Vietcong is fairly fresh.  After the explosion of WWII games during the last few years, it is nice to move to a different conflict with a much different feel.

 

vietcong pc review          vietcong pc review

 

With its focus on squad-based tactics and the ultra-realistic trappings of its setting, it would be possible for players to go into Vietcong expecting a Rainbow Six-type tactical shooter.  If that is what players are looking for, they need to look elsewhere.  Despite the ability to take control of a squad of differently-skilled teammates and the enormously realistic portrayal of the dangers of jungle conflict, Vietcong is an action FPS at heart.  Those squad-based tactics and realistic environmental dangers do, however, place the game well above the average FPS in both fun and emotional impact.  In fact, if it werenít for some jarring A.I. issues, Vietcong could well be a must-have game.  Even with the A.I. problems, the game is a solid FPS that will appeal to a wide range of gamers, especially those interested in the war in Vietnam.

 

The Vietnam War setting really does add a lot to the game play, in much the same way the WWII setting helped Medal of Honor raise the FPS bar.  Crawling around the jungle disarming ďboobyĒ traps and exposing Punji stick pits is great fun, as is invading intricate webs of tunnels to root out the enemy.  Those enemy pop out of trap-doors in the jungle floor and hide amongst innocent villagers for surprise attacks.  All of the elements that made the Vietnam War fascinating for armchair tacticians are here.  There is no key moment like MOHís D-Day assault to really show off the setting, but taken in totality the experience is just as rich.

 

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Gameplay involves fairly straight-forward FPS style combat mixed with the occasional puzzle-like elements (find the booby traps and disarm them without blowing everyone to bits) and the fairly cool ability to call in air strikes (which I was incredibly bad at, alas).  Everything is smooth and intuitive with nary a moment of confusion about where to go or what to do next.  While under your command, the platoon-mates behave intelligently and follow the orders given them 

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nearly perfectly (though occasionally path-finding issues cause you to have to give the orders a second time and the designated point man can behave really strangely at times).  On missions where you are in command, the only real problem I have with the A.I. is they often donít have the sense to get out of the way when a grenade lands right in front of them, though usually they do scatter when the snipers start firing. 

 

On the other hand, the A.I. of friendly soldiers who are not under your control is amazingly bad and, at its worst, can cause a virtual lock-up of the game.  On one level, which involved the soldiers hunting to find the hole where the Vietcong had dug in to the compound, friendly A.I. will follow the player up narrow paths.  When the player turns around, there isnít room to slide past the friendly soldiers who refuse to budge.  There is nothing to do in this situation other than restart the level at the last save since the player is controlling only himself and the command menu is disabled.  Iím pretty sure that this is the most annoying thing to happen to me in a game this year, and if it had happened more often, Iím sure I would have lowered the gameís score accordingly.  As it is, those type of instances happen rarely, so it probably isnít enough to keep most people from enjoying the game.

 

vietcong pc review          vietcong pc review

 

Coming kind of on the cusp of a graphics Renaissance led by Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, it is hard for any game to seem graphically impressive.  Still, every graphical element of Vietcong reeks of hard work and polish.  Only the facial animations fall to the level of average; everything else ranges from above-average to excellent.  Best of all, the game runs incredibly well on the recommended system and plays nicely on even the minimum system as long as the higher end graphical flourishes are turned off.  It should be noted, however, that regardless of the systemís prowess, it takes a bit of fine tuning to get the game running wellónothing that old-school PC users arenít use to, but I imagine it could be annoying to power gamers with state-of-the-art PCís and video-cards who are use to just firing up the game, maximizing all the settings and taking off.  My brother actually left the house highly disappointed with how the game ran on my relatively high-end system and was stunned when he returned and everything looked and played 100% better.

 

Vietcong doesnít really bring a lot of new things to the table, but it does most of the old genre conventions very well.  The uniqueness of the setting and the Platoon/Full Metal Jacket inspired cut-scenes and soundtrack add a lot to the experience.  I had fun with Vietcong, and I imagine that will be true for the majority of FPS war game fans.

 

- Tolen Dante

(June 29, 2003)

 

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