Vietcong: Purple Haze
Vietnam during the early 70′s wasn’t much fun. My living room during the process of reviewing Vietcong: Purple Haze wasn’t either. Not that I was having problems with suicidal jinks, continuous rain, breeding heat of Asqwankan blood suckers, but rather of boredom, irritation and surprise. Why my Tour of Duty still was worth the effort for a bit without having to go for “five bucks for fukkie-fukkie”, you can read in the Xbox review of this Vietnam shooter below.
The intro movie starts promising though: with authentic footage a realistic sketch is made of one of the dirtiest wars of the last century. Also the music and the fact that the person you’ll be playing later on gives commentary with the images makes that the atmosphere is right from the start.
In the following menu you the choice between 4 tutorials, seperate missions (which you need to unlock first), the singleplayer campaign and the multiplayer options. The Tutorial doesn’t promise much good. The instructor acts a bit tough and thinks he can imitate the legendary scene from Full Metal Jacket, while he doesn’t even succeed in synching his lips with his laughable yelling. On top of that the sound is very mediocre and you can hardly hear him brabble out of his neck. Also the way you need to call on artillery is done pretty clumsy and neadlessly complicated if you ask me.
On to the singleplayer campaign. The first impressions I got weren’t too bad. Each mission starts and ends with a nice movie. You’re instantly squadleader and get a couple of men under your care, each with their own speciality. The medic cures you (partially) when you get hurt, the engineer takes care of the ammo, with the radioman you can communicate with HQ, and the gunner can be commanded to lay a “base of fire”. The “Point Man” will be used the most: he searches the way and tells when enemies or boobietraps have been signaled. A very fun concept and it feels exciting to wander through the jungle with these guys.. but that’s where it ends.
There are certainly some strong points in the gameplay that make the campaign worthwile in some way. Taking cover behind obstacles (by ducking) and then looking through your ironsights is done very well. It adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere and really turns the gunfights into true cat&mouse games. The gamers that like Call of Duty or a bit slower and more tactical FPS games will most definitely appreciate this. Also the opponents make good use of cover and attack all in all pretty realistically.
That’s the end of the good news. The list of downpoints is logically a bit longer. The friendly AI is not so good. Although they do their task loyally, the listen very badly to your orders to attack or retreat. Also the point man sometimes runs around like if he’s lost his lenzes, delays, or needs to be talked to repeatedly to continue. Also I missed some concern with my team buddies. Especially when at the start of a mission I was told that two of my guys were Killed in Action, I felt sold and couldn’t give a Vietnamese ass anymore what happened to any of them.
There doesn’t seem to be a red line in the campaign either; the missions are very apart from each other and some are plain dumb. There’s one where you have to walk for about 50 meters and shoot 10 people. That’s it ! Also the fact that your pickup zone is 25km from where your mission took place doesn’t really help the realism. But the small maps, linear structure and green painted square walls as border of the playing grounds (literally) don’t do that either.
The length of these missions is very meagre aswell. Some are completed after 15 minutes, other tend to take a little longer. In total you’ll finish the 19 available ones pretty fast and the replayability value is very low aswell.
I already shortly commented on the sound. Next to the bad voice-acting, the sound effects are reasonably doable. The same can be said of the graphics. These do what they need to, the textures are ok and the objects like trees, bushes and rocks, are a bit square but not really bothering. Also the models and faces are decent although after playing Half-Life 2 we’ve come a lot further than what’s on display here. The layout of the controls could have been done a lot better aswell: untill boredom strikes in you’ll unwillingly go to the map overview. Where are those completely customisable controls ?
The multiplayer doesn’t need much explanation. Everything goes smooth and you can have fun with it for a while. The amount of opposition however will be little with the coming of Halo 2.
Vietcong: Purple Haze was a pretty decent FPS on PC. The port towards Xbox however has made lots of things go wrong. If you want a Vietnam shooter at all costs, get the original. That one has a lot more missions and is just more fun. The Xbox-version is despite a couple of nice moments and a good atmosphere rather pale. Not only because of the short singleplayer but also because the good concept of squad-based and rather tactical gameplay is done short by the bad AI, the abominable pathfinding and sometimes miserable mission structure and mapdesign.
Need I say that there are better FPS-choices available for Microsoft’s console ?