Next stop is Vietnam.
With games like Vietcong and Battlefield: Vietnam tearing down the proverbial walls of Jericho, the largely untouched Vietnam War has become a viable digital staging ground and many developers are rushing to cash in on the latest craze. If gaming is any indication, Vietnam is the new World War II.
No strangers to war, Vivendi and developer 2015 (Medal of Honor: Allied Assault) are among the growing few to thrust FPS enthusiasts into the jungles, rice fields and villages of Southeast Asia. Their entry, Men of Valor, has undergone the scrutiny of our crack squad of solider monkeys, and what we found is an action-oriented FPS that offers some decent fun. But with very familiar gameplay and a number of technical issues, the game doesn't do much to sway the tide of battle.
Standing at full attention is your character, Dean Shepard, an African-American marine recruit new to the military. The year is 1965 and, like most soldiers, Dean is not alone. But even with a few fellow marines watching your back, you and your company won't have time to think about political powder kegs, protests or propaganda. Survival requires ignorance in the face of the traditions, the landscape and the overwhelming odds against you.
However, the story does touch on some of the racial and political tension the Vietnam War is famous for. It does so without offending advocates or those who oppose the war. It's worth a tip of the hat to the writers for bravely stomping through some of the more taboo Vietnam-isms like the justification for war, equality and the moral issues that go hand in hand with shooting at people.
The gameplay functions much more within the typical FPS box. Men of Valor walks down the same path as games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. The missions are a mixed bag of heavily scripted point-to-point jaunts, defensive hold-your-ground stints, gunner missions set on rails and a few variations in between. The action and intensity among the thick foliage is commendable and there are several close-quarter skirmishes that really get the blood pumping, but it never reaches the artistic level of its forbears. Sure, being chopper-lifted into battle is great and watching napalm rain on swarming hordes of Vietcong is epic, yet the action and scripting do not coalesce quite as cleanly as in MOH or CoD.
One reason for this is that the scripting doesn't play out with the same sense of realism; events seem more contrived and forced than the natural occurrences of war. It feels a little more like glorified target practice due to the subpar A.I. Enemies do not seek cover or really exhibit much in the way of strategy beyond shooting at you with great skill. Furthermore, the character animation is very jerky and unpolished; enemies often appear to be floating across the ground. It simply doesn't compete with the overall quality of others Vietnam games.
But at a passing glance, Men of Valor puts up a strong fight. Over fifteen different rifles and pistols are at your disposal, not to mention your ability to lay mines and fire arching grenades with the M79 "gloop gun" grenade launcher. While the list of artillery isn't very long, it does suit the era and each weapon handles nicely.
It all goes down easy with highly-detailed, immersive environments. The textures are sharp and colorful without being obnoxious or unbelievable. Particle effects, gunfire, and explosions are all realistic and intense. When it gets moving, the game captures the chaotic nature of the Vietnam conflict well. Unsurprisingly, the PC version looks a damn sight better than the Xbox version, but no matter where you house Men of Valor, the game looks pretty good.
When the thirteen hour single-player trek is done, PC and Xbox owners alike will turn toward the multiplayer games. There are more maps on the PC version, but the Xbox version isn't really that far behind. On both systems, you'll find Team and free-for all Deathmatches, two Capture the Flag modes and a Defend/Assault mode. The Xbox exclusively allows you to co-op the campaign in split-screen, while the PC gets an exclusive Frontline game type in which you must capture and hold points on the map ala Battlefield Vietnam or Joint Ops. Of course, those two games are better than this one. Still, the full plate of online modes extends the game's a game that truly needs it.
Despite the fact that it gets the job done, Men of Valor is generally disappointing. It's a decent game, but just nowhere near as enjoyable or impressive as the many new FPS recruits who have recently landed on the retail battlefield. Since Conscientious Objector status can result in jail time, hundred of thousands in fines and character assassination, we suggest you rent this war before enlisting.