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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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