SCi/Pivotal
GlobarStar
Shooter
1-4
10.06.04

Conflict: Vietnam


Ahh, my favorite war game series returns. Believe it or not, but the Conflict series (Desert Storm 1 & 2) has been my war/shooting fixture of choice since their inception in 2002. For their next war game, SCi chose a whole new conflict. This time the conflict is in Vietnam. And this time, they took the time to add in more of a real story. You are in control of four US soldiers that were cut of behind enemy lines. You start off at your base, until you realize it's being over taken by Vietcong. The game features real events that happened, and this is the wildest Conflict game yet!

Gameplay

After being shown this game at E3, there were numerous amounts of added features when compared to past Conflict games. I'll first mention a few of the new additions. Firstly, you have many more commands to issue. You can now order another soldier to go and heal a wounded one. You can also just call for a medic instead of taking out a health pack and risk being shot. Other commands, such as ordering a soldier to shield another soldier really helps. You can even order them to pick up an item. There's also a simplified way to throw grenades. All you have to do now is just press the black button instead of cycling through your inventory. As usual, with any gun you can zoom in at any target to see closer. Also on zoom-ins, with most of the rifles, you can see your actual gun up close. There's sometimes more than one path to get to an objective, which adds a bit of realism to the game. One major enhancement to the series is the ability to basically "train" an individual. You can upgrade and choose what type of skills they should be good at. There's an RPG-style skill points system to use after each mission. Some of the skill categories to upgrade are pistol, assault rife, medic, booby traps, etc. Each character does have their own unique strengths, but you can virtually make all of your soldiers very keen snipers, all medics, or whatever you want to. The only problem is you need to play a few levels if you want all 4 snipers so you can find weapons and ammo. I wouldn't recommend something like that however, because you'll need automatic gunners for close range. I always tried to get the bonus objectives done, only because it gives you more skill points to use. The game further evolves realistically in a way that would seem natural. As you play, and complete missions, your teammates become closer to each other. In turn, their nicknames will change (at least one did while playing in the normal difficulty). But their initial nicknames are Ragman, Junior, Hoss, and Cherry. They have real names obviously, but they aren't really used. Another aspect that's different from previous Conflict games is that this time you cannot pick up as many weapons as you want to, and the limitation is life-like. You actually see what guns your carrying on your back, and they don't just "appear" when you switch to a new one. The character will grab any weapons or items that he uses from his backpack. To make room for new weapons, you can swap them anytime if you find a new one that you want.

These days a war game really needs to have multiplayer ability. This is one of the main reasons why all of the Conflict games are so good. But not just multiplayer, but co-op multiplayer is the key. You can play over 90% of the main campaign with 3 other friends (the first mission is single player only). Another thing that war games need, and that Conflict has, is the ability to be able to control different members of your squad. In the single player campaign, you are in full and complete control of 4 men. This means giving orders as a team or individual. This is the only Xbox series (the Conflict series, that is) to offer full control of the team like this. In multiplayer, with two human players, the squad gets split up into two's. Of the four team members, no two are alike. They have different views of the war, different weapon specialties (which can be altered), and come from different backgrounds.

The gameplay engine is 95% the same as the other Conflict games. The gameplay can be extremely tough, which can be a good thing. It seems to be a little harder if you play with more than 2 people. When everyone has to fend for themselves, a good team will stick together. But that is up whom you're playing with. In Conflict Vietnam, it's never a good idea to have the team of 4 always stay close together. If one booby trap goes off, your team will be wiped out in a split second. You are mostly on the ground, but there are a few times where you're in a tank, helicopter, riverboat, and a jeep. All of those are fully equipped with enough ammo to take out plenty of Vietcong.

One thing I didn't like about the gameplay was that certain events (enemies will not attack) would not happen you until all 4 of your men cross a certain point. The only reason I wanted to keep a teammate back was just in case we all died, then I would use him to heal us. I only had this issue on maybe 2 of the earlier levels, therefore I was still able to use my strategy 99% of the time. The enemy AI seems slightly more advanced, but they sometimes run continuously into a wall, or whatever they are stuck on. It doesn't happen very often however, but it's just not right.

You can get in tight situations where you are getting bombed, and you have to think fast utilizing all 4 men. Then if one or more of them dies, you have to work even harder and figure out how you're going to get out of it. Some levels do a very good job of cutting you off by attacking you with heavy gunfire, so you may have to form a plan if you want to advance. The game does a great job of giving me the feeling of tension, and also giving me a glimpse of how bad the war really was. Enemies will jump down from hiding spots and come at you in packs for an ambush. Each level is designed uniquely, has it's own feel, and has major differences in objectives. I don't want to give anything away, but watch out for the napalm!

The control is awesome. You can switch weapons, change teammates, and give orders with ease. The simple control scheme is another reason this series has been successful. The only part that is iffy is when you are crawling & rolling on the ground in the prone position. I couldn't always get the shot off that I wanted. The controls are pretty easy to get used to if you're a newcomer to the series. Veterans of the Conflict series will know exactly how everything works. There are over 25 weapons to use that include rifles, pistols, heavy weapons, etc. There are also many stationary Vietcong weapons that you can utilize. They range from machine guns to grenade launchers. Some of the levels, playing the first time through, took a buddy and me over an hour and a half to complete! You really have to sneak around the jungle, and SCi did a great job of giving you the Vietnam feel. For the entire 14 missions, I was totally immersed.

Graphics

This game was in development for over 2 years, and it's the best-looking Conflict game yet. The detailed visuals in Conflict: Vietnam are something the entire Conflict series has never seen. With that in mind, SCi took their time in the graphics area. The animations have vastly improved. When running away from enemy fire you'll be taking hits, and if shot till you need a medic, your character will fall fluidly to the ground. You actually see the blood spill out of his leg (or wherever he's taking bullets from) as he falls to the earth. You can also be laid up against a rock, and it shows that the developer stepped it up a notch. So, the body physics engine has been totally updated. Another example would be when I launched a grenade, and a Vietcong flew in the air and tumbled as he crashed to the ground. The jungle and villages are the main terrains that you'll be fighting on, and their designed ever so nicely. There's so many different types of trees, bushes and foliage. If there's words being spoken, you'll see the mouth move on the character that's talking.

One thing that bothered me was how in one of the early levels, the enemies appeared from thin air, and ambushed me. Every once in a while I noticed this. It just takes away from the realistic-ness when you clear an area, and then you see an enemy magically appear. I like the fact that I can get ambushed, but not that way. Don't get me wrong though, it only happened a couple of times. Besides enemies appearing from thin air, the graphics are superb. You got it all: bugs flying around, mist in the jungle, streams, treacherous rain, and the mucky waters of Vietnam. The character models have been also been updated. The gameplay remains smooth at all times with no slowdown. The graphics aren't anything ground breaking, but they remain solid and are clean and smooth. The fallen enemies don't really seem to disappear that often, even when you're playing with 3 or 4 players. Besides the overall graphics being smaller in multiplayer, they never go down in quality when in split screen. The lighting effects are great, especially in the tombs and at night when there's lightning.

Sound

The soundtrack really gives you the late 60s/vietnam feeling. The opening soundtrack sequence takes you away from modern combat, and brings you back to what it was like back then. The rest of the music is very well orchestrated. But I like to do what I always do, and that's use my custom soundtracks.

There's an awful lot of profanity and tense moments between your team. It gave me a sense of how the atmosphere can be while in the middle of a battle. That is something that SCi was always good at doing with the Conflict series. There's so much gunfire going off, tanks rolling around, and pouring rain, that the sound sucked me in. From the beginning of the game you hear your name being called over the PA speaker. As with the graphics, SCi went all out in the sound department.

Replay Value

As typical within the Conflict series, this game offers high replay value. Even though there is no Xbox Live support what-so-ever, the 14 levels are very massive and there's enough to keep you busy for all your wartime needs. I thought that there might be a co-op online mode of play or Xbox Live support to download new levels, but there's nothing like that. It really isn't that big of a blow though. System Link support would have been perfect for a game like this, yet it's non-existent.

Bottom Line:

I'm really happy to see where SCi went with this series. The Conflict games are among the best war games that I have ever experienced. Make sure you add this game to your collection. If you own Conflict Desert Storm I & II, then you sure as heck better complete the trio and get this game. For the experience, the situations, the impressive little details, and the interactive ability this game gives you, it deserves at least a 9. The multiplayer feature also plays an important role of adding extra replay value. I felt like I was in Vietnam fighting off the enemy. My message to players who enjoyed the first 2 Conflict games: buy Conflict: Vietnam now! It's the best Conflict yet.

I can't seem to find the point where this game loses fans. There's not much wrong with this game. A few glitches would be when you are using a sniper rifle. I don't know if a branch is in the way, but sometimes when you fire off a shot at an enemy's head, they don't die. Or another time me and a buddy were unloading on one enemy from point blank range and he took forever to die. Or maybe it's because every so often you get stuck because of poor-collision detection? All of those are just minor issues, and don't take much away from the fun and exciting gameplay.

Related Links:

Official Conflict Vietnam Website
Official Conflict Vietnam Website (Europe)

-Steve Melanson




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