STAFF REVIEW of Conflict: Vietnam (Xbox)

Sunday, October 17, 2004.
by Reclaimer

Conflict:  Vietnam Box art Conflict: Vietnam is the latest offering from Pivotal Games and SCI. Their latest game is the continuation of the 4 player squad combat sleeper series Conflict: Desert Storm and Conflict: Desert Storm 2 \"Back To Baghdad\". Conflict: Vietnam was nearly doomed earlier this year when it\'s developer, Gotham Games went out of business shortly after the Conflict: Desert Storm 2 game was released. Fortunately, developer The Gathering was tapped to picked up the game and bring it to fruition. So with the continuation of a great series with a brand new development team at the wheel, Conflict Vietnam gets a fresh start and a new look since the last two games.
It seems lately there is a large flux of video games covering the Vietnam War on the market. Each game tries to stand out on it\'s own with some unique aspect of game play. Today, I\'m going to take you into the jungle with The Gathering\'s Conflict: Vietnam and see what it\'s all about.

If you are any sort of familiar with the Conflict game line, you know that the series is built around a 4-player squad combat game. You can play the games with up to 4 people split screen cooperatively, or alone using the computer to control your teammates.
Conflict Vietnam continues where the franchise left off and makes large improvements in several categories.
As your campaign begins you begin as the role of your unit\'s brand new combat field medic. You are stationed with the 101st Airborne currently deployed in Vietnam. Everyone has a nickname \"in country\" and since you are brand new to the bush, they call you Cherry right off from the start.
Conflict Vietnam has the familiar training level in the beginning of the game but instead of the boot camp phase like the last two games, you have to run around the base camp completing storyline advancing objectives to become familiar with the control scheme. The entire introduction phase ties in with the story as soon as it gets done you\'re thrown into the action seamlessly.
As Cherry you control a squad of three other soldiers in your unit.
As said before, you are the medic. Your squad comprises of men named Ragman who is you close quarter combat specialist armed with a submachine gun and shotgun. Junior is your sniper, and Hoss is your M60 gunner and heavy weapons specialist.
Each skill is performed best by the specialist attached to it, so if a particular action requires to be done, you have to utilize that specialist to achieve the best results. Though you can trade weapons and actions around, if you want the best, you\'d let that particular person do it.
Through different control schemes, you can arrange movement and firing orders. You can have your men fan out, move to an area, cover down, return to you, hold fire or fire at will. You can switch between any person in your squad at will and personally control them. Whoever you switch to becomes the squad leader. You have no obligation to control one man throughout the entire game. You are actually expected at some points to switch around to achieve optimum results.
Between each mission your actions of each member is tallied up into points. These points can be used to purchase statistic points used to upgrade your character\'s skills. Each character has several core skills and each can be upgraded as you wish. You could in theory actually change your character?s primary skill to something else through this manner.
I found that your squad does have fairly good artificial intelligence. They won\'t try to get themselves killed, but they won\'t do much beyond what you tell them to do. They will patch themselves up, they do protect themselves and they do give you tips on what you are supposed to be doing. In fact, you notice that each character has specific and noticeable personality traits as you play along. They tend not to feel like robots.
As for the Vietcong\'s intelligence, as far as I\'ve gotten in the game I only have been able to detect 3 actions from your enemy. They either hide and snipe at you, they set up ambushes on you, or you hear their battle bugle sound in the distance and they come out rushing you. The enemy does put up good fights and marksmanship does apply greatly to your fight. You can blow people\'s heads off for the instant kill, or anything less then a center mass shot will just wound them. Be forewarned though that sometimes the fallen enemy laying on the ground is not dead. Many times an enemy wounded on the ground will pull a grenade out and throw it at your feet when you come to inspect your work.
As you get comfortable with the game, the story places you at the beginning of the Tet Offensive and the action just becomes insanely intense. From then on the game becomes a paranoid and intense fight. The jungles give a very good paranoid feeling of not seeing your enemy and the fact you can hear them sometimes but not see them adds to that factor.

The visual factor of this game takes a giant improvement from the last two games in this series. It looks familiar and it plays the same as the last, but there are many improvements in the graphics department. There are a lot more visual details in the game and a great way has been gone to maintain authenticity with the visuals.
I would hardly call it more of the same from this franchise, but it\'s more accurate to say that it\'s a very large and satisfactory improvement in the series. The only disappointment I could find in regards to the visuals is that in the split screen multiplayer mode, the outdoor settings make it very difficult to view your corner of the screen and see what the full scope of what is happening. It\'s hard to appreciate the game in that mode and it nearly comes off as a disappointment because the 4-player aspect is what built that game. In this game, too much of a good thing is practically true.

To be honest, I guess it wouldn\'t be a 1960\'s era game without the 60\'s era music. The game\'s original score does include several songs from that era including the classic Rolling Stone\'s song \"Paint it Black.\" But, if there was anything that made this franchise noticeable was the sound in the games. The musical score for Conflict Vietnam is excellent. It builds ambience and mood, but it doesn\'t interfere with the game play. Conflict Vietnam also carries on the tradition of utilizing the Xbox\'s custom soundtrack mode and remaining one of the few action games that does that. As for the rest of the sound scheme, all sounds heard in the game are found to be authentic and realistic in all its surround sound glory. The Conflict games always had good sound environments. But this time, more emphasis has been placed on the gun battles and the first things you notice is that the guns are loud. Much louder than must games and that\'s the way it should be. Guns roar when fired and that\'s portrayed in the game.
The one thing I found extremely striking about this game is the amount of voice acting in the game. There is just an incredible amount of spoken dialogue in the game. Your squad communicates to you, characters in the game communicate to you, and it?s all very well done and very realistic.
Now, I\'m no prude or anything, but I\'ll have to admit that it has to be at least since the Vice City videogame have I heard the amount of curse words used constantly in the game. Every curse word I can think of is used on a routine basis. Does it detract from the game? I don\'t think so, I think it builds the personalities and helps build the feel of the game. But a word of advice to parents or younger players is that game uses an excessive amount of foul language. But it\'s marked on the ESRB rating.

If there is anything I would like to suggest to the developers in the next game in the series is that they should implement Xbox Live for the cooperative game play. With over a million subscribers to Live, there is no excuse for a squad warfare game to not utilize the services of XBL to promote that mode. It\'s hard enough using split screen to enjoy the game.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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