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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Global Star Software
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-4
October 05, 2004
Conflict: Denied Ops

Conflict: Denied Ops

Conflict: Denied Ops

Conflict: Global Storm

Conflict: Global Storm

More in this Series
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on December 09, 2004

Review: {Singing ala Rolling Stones} "I see a ?Nam game and I want to send it back..."

These days the gaming universe is none too kind to games that come out which are lacking in innovation or inspiration. With many high profile shooters hitting the shelves here in late 2004, it's hard to compete unless your product has a solid multiplayer component, great presentation, and gameplay that adds something new to the mix. Unfortunately, Conflict: Vietnam falls in line with many other average shooters of this era of console gaming, and is actually one of the most pedestrian war games to come along in a while. The game's heart is in the right place and there are fleeting moments where the game succeeds, but it just never seems to get out of first or second gear.

The game is developed by SCi who previously made the Conflict: Desert Storm games, and, unfortunately for the end user, this title has followed the same basic principles (or failings) of those earlier games. Conflict: Vietnam's gameplay also seems inspired by several other Xbox games to come out in the past couple of years ? namely the Tom Clancy franchise and the survival horror squad-based shooter, The Thing. Much like The Thing or Ghost Recon/Rainbow 6: 3, Conflict: Vietnam puts you in command of a squad leader (in this case, the uninspired Frank Wier, your typical "soldier for life" character) and has you lord over your 3 (or less) other unit members. The soldiers at your disposal are a machine gunner, sniper/grenadier, and a medic, each who carries slightly different equipment based on their discipline. Much like in The Thing or the Tom Clancy games, you can issue basic orders to your soldiers such as hold position, rally behind me and attack the enemy. You can actually take control of any soldier in the unit at anytime though, and this actually makes some situations easier since you can place people where you want and more quickly allocate supplies throughout the group. This squad-based interface isn't revolutionary, nor is it really even that good, but it does the job for orchestrating your team members' movements and attack patterns.

The real problems for the gameplay come from the shooting mechanics and the general style of action the game employs over its reasonably lengthy 14-level campaign. Shooting can be done in both third- and first-person perspectives, but each view has its issues. While first-person shooting does offer a little more precision in your targeting, the problem comes from the gun graphic being so large and bulky on your screen that it gets in the way. Games like Rainbow 6: 3 knew how to integrate weapon graphics into the view of the game without being too obtrusive, whereas Conflict: Vietnam makes the view seem cumbersome and also creates a challenge for when you have to pan to the side or move up or down. Shooting from the third-person perspective is somewhat easier and more satisfying, however it has its own set of challenges. Truly, this game should be played from this view, but this means you'll have to rely on auto aiming, which can be a bit dodgy. Additionally, since the auto aim doesn't really lock-on and you have to use the right thumbstick to aim, it becomes a very "floaty" affair when trying to pick off incoming enemies and you'll often waste more rounds than you have to. Then, when all the enemies are dead, you'll be wondering how on earth you killed them all with such wild aiming. It's certainly not unplayable, but really could've used some refining to make it a little more precise. As said though, the game does also suffer from gameplay that isn't very original or exciting. Yes, the developer has included some vehicle levels that have you using tanks and jeeps or gunning the turrets of a riverboat, and there are some OK level designs, but the whole game just isn't very interesting. Enemies pop-up randomly and are sometimes pushovers, but also sometimes quite tough. Other than that, it's just a rinse and repeat affair. I wish some of the objective aspects of the game were more fleshed out and the use of ?traps" and sabotage by the enemy played a more central role to gameplay.

Visually speaking, the quality is about on par with the so-so gameplay. While dense jungle is always going to pose a problem, there are still some pretty muddy textures to be found throughout the levels and the water effects and player models just don't look very good. We're not talking PS1 or anything here, but it definitely feels like first-generation Xbox game quality. The game occasionally does use CG cutscenes and these do actually look pretty solid and manage to provide a dose of energy to an otherwise underachieving visual package. A lack of 480p support is also of note.

Almost all aspects of the sound actually mesh together quite well, and this area of the game almost sticks out as being much better than the rest. Licensed music is used for much of the game and, while there isn't much of it, does add a layer of atmosphere that injects a bit of late 60s' emotion. You'll hear "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones and "Goin' Up The Country" by Canned Heat, which are both good, but it is somewhat eerie to have "Nowhere To Run" by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas playing (repeatedly) as you run around in your basic training camp ? trust me, it's weird. However, if a shortage of licensed tracks is a bit of a detriment, this is made up for by the inclusion of custom soundtrack support. It is cool to put your own flavour to the audio experience, but the gameplay being a bit stronger would've made this feature even better, of course. In-game Dolby Digital support is included and this does actually make the game somewhat more engrossing (but only by a bit); bullets will sound more immediate and grenades will definitely make you stand up and take notice. The rest of the audio is quite acceptable with reasonable, but not great, voice acting and solid sound effects to give each confrontation some ambiance ? it's too bad many of the conflicts don't last longer to really get you involved.

It should also be noted that the Xbox version contains 4-player multiplayer support where you and three friends can go through the single-player campaign together and each control a squad member. While this is a decent addition, the fact that the game itself isn't that engrossing actually renders this feature somewhat mute, but not entirely. A lack of any further multiplayer components, in particular Xbox Live support, really hurts this game's longevity as well. Still, the campaign is quite long and doesn't completely short shift you like some other average shooters do.

Bottom Line
As it stands, Conflict: Vietnam is just another squad-based shooter that will really only serve to pad the lower-middle ranks of the Xbox game library. The audio is the only real standout performer here, but even it can't trump dodgy controls, milk toast gameplay and no XBL support. It's a rental at best, folks.

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