Tactical squad games are becoming one of the most popular genres on the consoles today after enjoying many great games on the PC platform. Games such as Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six are setting the benchmark for others to follow and many are trying. The latest such one is Conflict Vietnam, set in the Vietnam War the game obviously offers a much different gaming experience to the aforementioned but the concept of squad based combat remains the same. The developer has done a fine job in creating a competent squad game that remains true to the Vietnam war environment.
Conflict Vietnam follows the story of four special forces soldiers in the years 1967 and 68, broken from their unit during the Tet offensive. You take command of these four soldiers each having strengths and weaknesses. These four soldiers are on a task to survive and return to friendly lines. Throughout the campaign a few twists and turns are encountered which lengthen and enhance the story.
You have a command of four soldiers who make up a squad. None of these soldiers can die due to their importance in the ongoing storyline. If a soldier goes down, the others have a limited amount of time to heal them before the mission ends as a failure. Each of the four soldiers can perform tasks but by default the game has put them into classes such as a heavy weapons user and medic. Losing the medic to gun fire is not a fatal mistake as any soldier can use the healing kits. Via a number of commands you can control the AI soldiers and give commands such as follow, stay, hold fire or fire at will. You don't have to babysit them most of the time as they will fire upon an enemy automatically should they become a threat. Missions can include reaching a medical evac, clearing a Vietcong position or even escaping friendly napalm bombing runs.
Conflict Vietnam is played at either a third or first person viewpoint and each view has some effect on how the game plays. When using third person an auto aim of sorts is enabled although to encourage players to use the first person mode, can at times offer very little accuracy. The first person mode removes the auto aim but you can pick enemies off from a far greater distance. It can be hard to control the reticle and most of the time we found it easier to keep to the third person view despite the lower accuracy.
Even on the easiest difficulty level, the game offers a fairly stiff challenge for any gamer. The first one or two missions will most likely be a breeze to those who have played tactical action games before but being thrown into an ambush or escaping as a prisoner of war will test the tactical mettle of even the most seasoned veteran. Most of the time the AI get strength from their numbers but they aren't afraid to mix it up and use grenades against you or attack you while healing. They lay in wait to ambush you and often have more powerful weapons. Aside from this you also have to keep an eye out for the many traps featured in the game although you are usually warned about an upcoming trap by another squad member. If you get stuck cheats are available.
It's not all rosy for Conflict Vietnam however and there is a few problems we have with the game. The first is the AI of the team mates. Most of the time they will listen to your commands, but occasionally they will charge towards the enemy and get themselves shot or run head first into a grenade. Considering you only have a limited number of saves per level this can be frustrating. The other problem is the way the game gives its objectives. While its realistic that objectives change during a battle, trudging through the jungle to one side of a map only to be told you have to catch up to something like a boat right on the other side of the map can get monotonous, and the game does this with missions objectives quite a bit.
One area where Conflict Vietnam succeeds is creating an accurate atmosphere of what it may have felt like in the jungles during the war. Crawling through the jungle and not coming across an enemy for a while can be quite unnerving and you will begin to wonder if it's too quiet, before most likely coming across a heavily fortified enemy position or trap. Also an eerie silence is sometimes present after a situation where all soldiers in the squad die with only animal noises to be heard.
The characterization of the soldiers also assists with this. Each of them throughout the CG movies come across as grossly different from each other and sometimes get into fights with each other giving the game a very human element. This characterization also continued on via skill points awarded at the end of each mission to improve different aspects of each soldier. You can ask the game to spend them automatically or manually improve each soldier to your liking, so you can have four very generic soldiers or each one specialized.
The campaign is set across fourteen missions plus a training level and despite the fact the war was fought in the jungle, the developers have managed to include a great deal of variety into both the mission structures and locations. The maps are huge but its almost impossible to get lost due to the guide marker on the compass. The game is very linear, following the paths will almost always get you to the mission objective. You will fight in the jungles and sometimes in urban areas but some vehicles and vehicle missions have been included to keep the game fresh.
Although the graphics aren't the most impressive aspect of the game they do the job and even assist with the great atmosphere the game features. The frame rate also remains constantly stable even when multiple firefights or explosions are taking place. Visuals also give a gritty feel to the game, especially in the urban environments. The player models are highly detailed while the Vietcong are fairly generic but they do have a few different classes. In terms of sound effects the voice acting is highly impressive and really carries the characterization the developers have placed in the game for the four soldiers. Music is licensed from the era but is only heard when either in a friendly base or vehicle.
Conflict Vietnam is a very solid squad based game with a deep and engaging story to back up the gameplay on offer. Fans of squad based games are really going to enjoy the challenge of keeping the troops alive while others may enjoy the atmosphere the game evokes during play. Anyone who plays Conflict Vietnam will most likely not come away disappointed.