STAFF REVIEW of Air Conflicts: Vietnam (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Air Conflicts: Vietnam Box art In the pantheon of World War II games, there's the good, the bad, and the ugly. Air Conflicts Vietnam falls into none of those categories. Set in the beginning stages of the USA’s involvement with Vietnam, Air Conflicts Vietnam are just as the name implies, flying only. You have multiple jets and helicopters to select from, but not all of them are unlocked at the beginning. You also have pilots to choose from which offer different characteristic ratings in dogfighting, bombing, AA defense, and more. Going into this game, try not to think about this as an advanced flying sim, or even an intense flying combat game. Instead set your goal bar very, very low and you just may enjoy some of what Air Conflicts Vietnam (ACV) has to offer. Here's hoping we don't go down behind enemy lines but I can't make any of the campaign you are given a brief cinematic story of how the USA got involved with Vietnam in the beginning.

The threat of Communism spreading over the globe terrified civilians and the USA and its military might was to join forces with other countries over the globe and fight back. You play the role of a pilot who is one of the first to arrive in Vietnam at the start of the war. The story unfortunately is vapor thin with hardly any substance outside of 'fly here' and 'shoot there' aspects. This is disappointing because with Vietnam you have such a palate of content, scenes, and scenarios that can be taken right from history to bring to life such a pivotal point in mankind. Regardless of your political viewpoints on the Vietnam War, the fact remains that you could get more content from a Time Life video collection, than in the story in Air Conflicts Vietnam. A shallow start, but let's start to pull up from this nose dive.

The plane and helicopters from the Vietnam era are properly modeled; however, since this game is focused on only flying, shooting, and bombing, you would hope that the mechanics of flight not only made sense, but were accurate with the laws of physics. I hate to break it to you but they are not. For starters your left and right bumpers will maneuver the plane into a barrel roll to either side and pushing both together will effectively loop your plane. The Left and Right triggers are used for firing your weapons and your X and Y buttons are used for controlling speed.

While the button layouts are somewhat misleading, the actual physics involved with the flight itself are some that will leave you scratching your head. In reality when your helicopter has its nose pointed downward, forward flight is involved, but in ACV it's possible to fly a helicopter backwards while having the nose pointed down. Also given that one control stick tilt's the aircraft, and the other controls direction of movement, you can really perform some unbelievable flying. I say unbelievable because that's exactly what it is and it's a shame that such effort was made to devote to a realistic time period and yet the realism for flying seemed to be a nonexistent theory to the developers. You cannot control the plane on a flat axis so what you end up getting is a constant loss of depth perception which will ultimately lead to a very short lifespan since not all realistic maneuverability is included in ACV. Looks like we lost the right engine on that one, but it's ok because we still have one engine left.

When you talk priorities about ACV you can definitely see that visually the game tries to make a stunning impact, but there are some issues as well with this. Starting off, the aircraft models are done well and accurately depict the aircraft of the time period with good accuracy. The issue though with this is that if you don't fly in 3rd person view, you won't get to experience the detail. Flying from the viewpoint of just a target reticle on the screen will completely negate any graphic beauty of your plane flying through the Vietnam skies, and instead enable you to focus on the dark green, brown, and even darker green color scheme that blankets throughout this game. You can switch to a bombing camera as well to give you a top down view of your surrounding areas, but they are done in such a mediocre way that you really have nothing beautiful to look at.

If looking at slightly average graphics didn't help ACV, the sounds though aren't that much better. The weapon sounds are definitely a big plus and are done well; however, there isn't much that stands out as a piece of audio mastery. The soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired and the voice over acting can be quite comical at times, especially when you lose a wingman during combat. Looks like we just lost our last engine, things aren't looking well.

Given that Air Conflicts Vietnam released on November 19th you would expect that there would be some form of multiplayer and there is, but no one is playing it. At time of this writing there is literally no one playing this game online. You can though host a game if you want that consists of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. It is also possible to customize the weather, scenery, number of players, and more, but if no one is playing, good luck trying to find a game. This is a major problem for ACV because if the game released doesn't provide the quality to warrant at least one person to want to play this game online, it's time to scrap what you have and start over. This is where we start to lose full control of the plane and start heading in a massive dive.

Air Conflicts Vietnam was originally priced at $29.99 which is about $24.99 more than it's worth, and now has been reduced in price to just $19.99 brand new. While saving $10 is always nice, there's no earthly justification for purchasing this game. It makes you feel though, a bit melancholy when you think of the effort put into this and Kalypso putting their stamp of approval on such a dissapointment, but all sympathy goes right out the window when you hear the price.

So just a quick recap; you have planes that defy the universal laws of physics, a control scheme that feels schizophrenic, graphics that are marginally ok to look at, audio support that is powerless, an unsubstantial story, and a multiplayer system that even though is there, is completely nonexistent due to no one playing. I'm failing to see why anyone would even want to spend $19.99 on a retail game that packs less quality and content than some $9.99 arcade title. Sorry Kalypso, but Air Conflicts Vietnam just got shot down. This is one game that should go MIA.

Overall: 4.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.5 / 10
Sound: 3.8 / 10


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