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.
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.