If you’ve been paying attention to game industry trends this year, you’ve probably noticed the flood of new shooters that use the Vietnam War as a backdrop. All politically correctness sensibilities aside, this is, if you’re a shooter fan, a unique gaming opportunity. You’ve got a very intense conflict where the only sleep you’ll get is when you’re dead, that takes place in an incredibly hostile environment. If the enemy doesn’t get you, the jungle almost certainly will after a time. For a game to really tackle the Vietnam War properly, it needs to take this constant element of danger into effect, and sadly, Gathering’s Vietcong: Purple Haze, drops the ball in every aspect.
Purple Haze is simply a first person shooter set in the jungle. Sure you’ve got a squad of four men (radio man, medic, point man and yourself) to make it feel more tactical, but really, the extra characters feel like just another set of dull NPC’s that you are forced to interact with to keep the story moving. Your job is to stay alive while killing any “bad guy” you see and accomplishing a mix of missions, none of which are terribly compelling.
Any good combat game is matched up with a strong suite of weapons, and here’s where Vietcong starts to slide downhill. Sure there are plenty of weapons in the game, but they tend to all feel the same, and many lack the visceral feel required to make them seem realistic. A carbine should have a good bit of kick, for example, but in Vietcong, it’s nothing more than a slight nudge that throws off your aim. Pistols visually display a decent amount of kick that translates as an annoying inability to stay on target, but they give little, if any, controller feedback. In multiplayer, the weapon balance seems very out of whack, as ten shots with a pistol at close range won’t have nearly the effect of one short-range torso shot from any of the rifles in the game. Because of this, online multiplayer frequently turns into a mad dash for the rifles, and those players with the rifles quickly dominating the game.
Visually, Vietcong hovers in the average zone. The foliage, an integral part of any Vietnam-themed game, has a decent amount of detail, but there’s not enough of it to make you feel the claustrophobia that comes with slogging through the jungle. Water, which you spend a ton of time wading around in, feels mostly like blue-colored pathways through the game, which make splashy-splashy sounds when you step into it. If you’re stepping into a strong current, it would be nice to have to fight it a little bit, but alas, that’s not the case, as you walk through water as if it was a stone path. Other environments, such as ruined temples, look good, but far from great, lacking enough texturing to make you feel they are actually ancient temples. A little moss-texture goes a long way – and for some reason, that’s absent in Vietcong.
The AI is a real weak point in this game, for both your squadmates and the opposition. Most of the time, everyone just runs for straight shots at one another, even though the level loading screens constantly pitch you on finding appropriate cover, hitting the deck, etc. Watch in awe as enemy troops pop up from behind cover…and stay up, waiting for a headshot to put them out of their misery. They aren’t the only ones who want out of their misery, as the tediously slow single player game, which has you roaming around watching for exploding traps and mindless baddies will have you hoping for a swift end (to the game, that is.)
Online multiplayer is painful, it feels like something stitched together at the last minute by a couple of guys on the dev team who were big fans of Counter-Strike, but couldn’t be bothered to improve upon it. It’s a basic “pick a wimpy weapon, jump in the fray and pray you can get to the hidden good weapons before everyone else” venture. And oh boy, the lag, framerate skips and wonky weapon imbalance ensure you won’t play this much. When we went online, there were online games being played, but no more than a dozen at a time, and most with never more than four or five players in each game. If you really want to play online, you’ll be glad to know there’s a Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and a handful of other game types. All of the modes are serviceable, but no matter what the quantity of game types they have, it can’t cover for the laggy and uninteresting online play via Xbox Live.
Vietcong: Purple Haze lacks any real reason to be purchased by anyone, and frankly, it’s only a rental for when you’ve got a freebie rental coupon. There were some good ideas here, but they just weren’t implemented in any sort of fresh or interesting way, and when you’ve got great squad games like Rainbow Six 3 setting the standard for squad-based combat, games like this have a long way to go.
- Gameplay: 5.5
- Same old FPS action we’ve seen a million times. Just less enjoyable.
- Graphics: 6
- So-so stuff lacking much polish.
- Sound: 5
- Bland voice-acting and generic sound effects.
- Replay: 4
- Neither the single player nor the online multiplayer will keep you coming back to Vietcong for long.
- Overall: 5
- A solid yawn with nothing worth recommending over the multitude of better squad-based offerings out there