Whenever I think about the Vietnam War, some great films come instantly to mind. Who could forget Francis Ford Coppolas Apocalypse Now or Stanley Kubricks Full Metal Jacket and how they capture the mental effects that the war had on the soldiers. My personal favorite has always been Oliver Stones Platoon because it showed just how horrible it all was, both physically and mentally. Of course among these great flicks, there were some real bombs as well (Casualties of War being one that instantly come to mind). Recently there has been a shift in war game themes. After so many World War II titles, companies have decided to take on the Vietnam War with a force (four different games released within a month long window). Perhaps the unique game of the bunch comes from the tag team of Vivendi Universal and 2015 (developers of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for PC). Let us examine Men of Valor and its uniqueness in the war of Vietnam games.
The 60s and the early 70s were a confusing and hectic period of time for the United States of America. There was civil unrest that caused movements in just about every city, seeking equal rights for both African Americans and women, which lead to groups like the Black Panthers forming. There was also the drug revolution that made things a bit strange for some. In a time of protests, rallies and Woodstock, it was as if society was almost splitting at the seems and to top it all off, there was a war going on which only made times even more stressful and tragic. While America was going through a growing stage, its children were fighting for our freedom and their lives in some nightmarish jungle half way across the world. May we never forget their sacrifice, and with games like Men of Valor, we never should.
Men of Valor begins with your characters first tour of duty. Each new level begins with you writing a letter to your Mother letting her know where you are and what youre up to. After a calm start featuring going out on patrol and playing some football with the other soldiers in your squad, youre attacked by distant soldiers. So the action begins which takes you and your squad deep into the thick jungle, through local villages and cities, and down the river for a little Apocalypse Now action. Youll also get the opportunity to step behind a helicopter mounted machine gun for a bit of the death from above action. 2015 made sure to give players the full Vietnam War experience in all the various missions.
While some players might roll their eyes and think oh great, another first person shooter war game when looking at Men of Valor, there are some unique aspects that should be considered before dismissing the title. First, the dialogue. 2015 went to former military personal who served in Vietnam to create dialogue that would be accurate for the times and situations, producing on e of the rawest scripts in war game history. Members of your squad use curse words about as much as Joe Pesci did in Goodfellas, Casino and Raging Bull combined. Second unique feature is that your character is African American within a predominantly African American squad. No other video game has ever told a war story from the African American point of view. Third is how damage is inflicted on your character. Normally in these sorts of games, you get shot, you lose life and the way to get it back is by finding med kits either lying around or dropped by fallen troopers. In Men of Valor there are two types of injuries: permanent and bleeding. Permanent is damage taken that decrease your life automatically and can only be recovered through med kits and canteens. Bleeding is damage that can actually be stopped by applying bandaging to the wound (simply holding the B button for a certain length of time). This is an excellent feature considering med kits are scarce (only way to find them is by searching the bodies of dead soldiers) and save points are few and far between.
In addition to the single player campaign, Men of Valor also offers online play via Xbox Live. While they offer the standard team vs. team games and death matches, the unique feature of chain of command comes into play. Similar to Star Wars Battlefront, each rank comes with a different specialty (snipers, explosions, turrets, etc.) which makes character selection and team communication so important (you wouldnt necessary want a team comprised entirely of snipers). On top of that, this is possibly the best multiplayer online gaming experience of all the Vietnam War games, hit outside of that category, while it does present the rank feature, it could have trouble standing with games like Rainbow Six 3 and Counter Strike (and Halo 2 once November 9th comes around).
Youll have to forgive me for using such a cliché, but the quality of gameplay is similar to a rollercoaster rideit has its ups and downs. One of the higher points is the suspense of the game. Enemies blend into the jungle so well that by the time you see them, theyve probably started shooting at you. This took my normal run into the middle of the area and fire like a madman battle plan and changed it to tip-toe through Vietnam, through the hostiles, very quietly (so I wimped out, so what). The good news is that usually you can let another member of your squad lead and jump in once the action starts. At this point, things go a bit down. First, the Vietnamese soldiers are amazing long range shooters, however they are terrible close range shooters. Second, your fellow troops in the squad are good for a laughbut not much else. At one point a squad member just stood with his hands at his sides and got shot seven times before even getting his gun in firing position. Third, in the midst of this intense firefight, the lovely frame rate freezes appeared making it just a bit difficult to fight at one hundred percent mental clarity. Once the fight is over, the game goes on a high note by not having ammo and med kits just lying about everywhere. The only way to get these items is searching the bodies of fallen soldiers. Basically, youll want to use cover whenever possible and not waste ammo in firefights.
The controls in Men of Valor are similar to most first person shooters with a few exceptions. First, pressing the left trigger will allow you to precise aim, which allows for more accurate shots. The longer you hold down the button (the screen target crosshairs will become smaller for better targeting) the better shot youll have. Another important button that will quickly become your best friend is the B button. Its dedicated use is to bandage bleeding wounds to prevent major health lose. Considering how scarce med kits are, youll be bandaging every injury you possible can. Finally, you can use the directional pad as a quick select option for your weapons as opposed to scrolling through using the white button. Remember soldier, every second counts in the heat of ba speaking we have a good news/bad news situation with Men of Valor. The good news is that everything looks spectacular. The jungles are lush with tall grass, trees and all forms of vegetation that seem to go on forever in all directions (trust me, you will use the compass all the time in the jungle). The down side to the amazing look is that it hides enemies easily, which could make times too suspenseful for sensitive players. Character design is very detailed and as amazing as this may sound, each character (Even the enemy soldiers) has there own distinct features, so it wont seem like an endless army of clones coming your way. About the only negative I could find (besides the frame rate problems) is that the bullet trails seem to be a few degrees off from the gun they game from. It may seem nitpicky, but if youre trying to locate an enemy via a bullet trail, it can get really confusing and result in you shooting air.
Sounds like a match to me. The dialogue is rough and filled with cursing and ethic slurs, just as youd suspect to hear during the Vietnam War. Perhaps the best aspect of the sound is the soundtrack. In the first few minutes of playing, I heard Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and California Dreaming by The Mamas and the Papas just to name a couple. Finally, a game that spares no expense on the music selection. Concerning the sound effects, if you have your Xbox hooked into a Dolby Digital sound system, youll swear the war was really taking place in your living room. I just wish that there had been a bit more voice variety. It was often difficult to determine who was talking based on the sound of the voice. Would mixing it up a little been too much to ask?
So what are the Men of Valor weak points? The big one is frame rate glitches, which seems to be the biggest killer of great first person shooter games. Its not as unbearable as most, but its still an issue that could have been prevented with a bit of work. In addition to the frame rate, the single player campaign is extremely short and can be beat in a single afternoon. This is definitely a title built around its online multiplayer game experience. Finally, the common sound of character voices and bullet trail inaccuracies summarize the negatives of the game. Yet despite these drawbacks, Men of Valor still ends up being a good game overall.
With the holiday season looming in the background of the autumn weather, we need to sift through all the games that will hit shelves in the months to come. As I said early on, there have been a few Vietnam War themed games released in the last month, and with its unique differences, Men of Valor stands on its own two feet with a noteworthy single player game and solid online gameplay. The graphics alone help players really feel like theyre running with a battle hardened squad through the Vietnamese jungle. For fans of the eras music, 2015 has created the absolute perfect soundtrack. Finally, the unique rank based Live play makes Men of Valor a game worthy of players attention. So suit up men, were hitting that jungle with a fury of fire!!!