1 April 2005 | 0
In many first-person shooters, the jungle is a forbidden territory, signalling the end of the map; you have to turn around and find another way. In Vietcong, you’ll fight your way through dense screens of vegetation, pausing frequently to check for movement and crouching behind rocks and tree stumps to listen for voices. Throw in a mix of solo and squad-based missions, add a variety of jeep, helicopter and riverboat sequences and you get a very entertaining game.
As Sgt Steve Hawkins, US Special Forces, you’ll lead charges up mountains to attack enemy bunkers, pursue VC patrols down rocky streams within steep canyons, and worm your way through vast tunnel networks to gather intelligence. For most of the missions, you will command a squad of soldiers, each of whom have different roles and react differently under fire. Hawkins and his squad mates interact during the briefings at Nui Pek, a besieged Army base. The dialogue is suitably over the top and the cut scenes include some classic music from the era. There is no real storyline, but the obvious futility of each successful US mission in the face of an unrelenting enemy sets the scene for the satisfyingly ironic conclusion to the game. There are more than 20 single-player missions. Multiplayer and skirmish modes are also included.
A problem was encountered when the game was first installed; it suffered from serious frame rate issues that made it almost unplayable. Testing on three systems showed the same problem. Even on a high-end PC with the graphics set to low, there was considerable lag and it was very difficult to aim and fire at the enemy. This has been widely reported on the Internet and can be fixed by downloading a patch from the Vietcong Website. This could be frustrating for many users, but once the patch was downloaded, there were no more frame rate problems.
Combat almost always takes place at short or medium range, against camouflaged and entrenched opponents. Gameplay is challenging and fast-paced. One of the most unique features of the game is the ability to fight from cover. When behind an object, such as a fallen tree, stump or boulder, simply hold down the crouch button and the right mouse button. Hawkins will raise his gun sights to eye-level and poke his weapon over or around the object.
The proprietary graphics engine has been adapted from Pteradon’s fantasy flight simulator, Flying Heroes. It is not the most powerful engine currently available, but the terrain, lighting and weather effects are among the best ever for a FPS. The jungle looks lush and damp and the massive outdoor areas are often breathtakingly cinematic. However, without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, the textures used for ground surfaces, leaves and water look chunky and plain up close. Dead soldiers and discarded objects will clip through solid surfaces, often making it difficult to search the bodies or collect badly needed ammo.
Vietcong may be the best game in this genre since MOH: Allied Assault, thanks to its innovative combat features and outstanding art design. It does enough things very well that it might eventually be considered a classic. However, there promises to be several other good FPS titles released leading up to Christmas, including at least two others set in Southeast Asia. Anyone concerned about the technical issues can afford to let this one pass.