Men Of War: Vietnam is the latest installment in the popular military tactical shooter series from developer 1C Company. It naturally takes place during the Vietnam conflict where you control a group of soldiers looking to use every possible strategy to take out enemy combatants and accomplish the mission at hand.
Fun and complex gameplay make this a relatively deep title, but beware, this game is not for the casual player. It is hard! But after getting past the hellish learning curve, there is a very satisfying experience if you are willing to put in the time.
The campaign is split in two, with the first half of the game played from the North Vietnamese side, focusing on two Soviet military consultants along with two Vietcong soldiers trying to get back to the North after sustaining serious losses in an ambush.
The second half is focused on the U.S. campaign, where you control a special forces team made up of a diverse group of characters. Missions range from special operations to full-scale battles wherein your men will have to accomplish difficult tasks including reconnaissance, diversions, ambushes, and supporting allied offensives.
You start each level with a streamlined and easy to understand mission briefing that gives you everything you need to know about your task at hand. The briefing makes the game seem simple and straightforward, but after getting into the actual gameplay, there is a realization that you will have to think on the fly and focus on using a sound strategy in order to accomplish your objectives.
The first few times around, especially for new players, will most likely involve multiple missteps on your part, giving up your position, and seeing the enemy mercilessly taking advantage of your every wrong move. After losing your whole squad in an instant, you realize that cover and teamwork will be the only redeeming strategies.
Keeping hidden and coordinating your attacks is vital in this game, with a venture into open areas an almost guaranteed suicide. If not by the unbelievably accurate submachine gunners or rifleman, then it will be from the hidden sniper that takes you out from some unknown location.
Mercifully, all enemies show up on your HUD map, but finding them is another problem in itself. This game environment is densely populated to say the least. Trees and bushes cover the entire battlefield, so even a red dot showing you were the enemy is does not guarantee that you will actually find him.
This leads to one of my biggest qualms with Men of War: Vietnam. The vegetation and environment is so obtrusive, it is almost inevitable that you will lose your squad to the dense trees and canopy, making your job much more difficult. Squad mates that are not selected do in fact emit a blue outline glow, which makes finding them a bit easier, but that is still not enough. I understand the need to be accurate with the environment, but it truly hampers the gameplay, leading you to unwittingly walk into, or get caught in, enemy fire too many times.
Although cover is vital, and does protect you well, the enemies will eventually kill you if you stay flat-footed. Luckily, if you are fast enough, an ill-chosen spot can be overcome if you get out of there with a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, if one of your squad mates dies, he is gone until the next level, making it exponentially more difficult to successfully accomplish your objectives.
Very few times will you be able to finish a level as a one man army. It is possible, but you have to do everything perfect. A medic class would be an unbelievably helpful aspect of this game, but the seemingly diabolical developers have omitted this feature to the chagrin of many, including myself.
As you progress in Men of War: Vietnam you will have the opportunity to take advantage of many different types of soldiers, including snipers, mortars, riflemen, submachine-gunners and others at your disposal, with all of them playing their roles well if put in the right position. This diversity of options with regard to how you go about the missions gives the game deep complexity and makes replaying the levels a lot of fun because there are usually (not always) multiple ways to accomplish your objectives.
As you can already see, this game will take hours to get the hang of. After a basic grasp of the game is understood, you can start using hot-keys and custom commands to make your job easier. In fact, the amount of customization and options you have at your disposal is quite extensive. You can either directly control a unit, or tell them what to do with a click of the mouse. After becoming well versed in this game, the sky is the limit. But this will take a great deal of trial and error to actually get it working efficiently. Some would say too much.
Splitting the team up and taking advantage of individual skills is essential. Putting the wrong guys together basically guarantees failure. But when you have two squads moving in on enemy positions, everyone doing their job, the game brings a sense of satisfaction that (barely) trumps the frustration you may have had when getting used to the gameplay. Having your sniper take out four guys before they even know what is happening, while sending an assault squad to clean up the stragglers brings a feeling of accomplishment that very few other games offer.
As for the production value of the game, on most accounts it falls a little short. The music and voice acting is not good, not good at all. The voice-overs are so bad, that it actually becomes laughably entertaining in a way. Hearing an eastern European voice an American soldier from the south (or north for that matter) is too much of a stretch. The Vietcong sound ridiculous as well. The only guys who sound somewhat accurate are the Russians, but even they are hampered by lackluster dialogue. The music is not much better. Generic guitar riffs and fake 60’s rock is enough to make fans of Vietnam-era films (or anyone else for that matter) cringe.
With regard to graphics, Men of War is somewhat underwhelming. Even at full power, the character models are poor and environment textures are muddled. They added some nice glare features and other little enhancements, including very realistic vehicle models, but it just does not wow you like other current generation PC games.
One of the few redeeming factors is the excellent physics engine. Enemy combatants fall (or fly) realistically when hit, and it is a pleasure taking out vehicles with some of the more high powered weapons. Explosions are decent, but other than that, this is a game that requires a pretty good computer to display below average visuals.
Although you may want to toss your computer in frustration for the first few days (not hours, unfortunately), after getting a handle on how this game works, this can become a very satisfying experience, if you enjoy squad-based military RTS games. Considering this game is available for only $34.99, you can forgive the fact that the production value is low.
For die-hard military strategists and squad-based game fanatics, I have a hard time finding a better value. Men of War: Vietnam, if played correctly, can be a rewarding and entertaining experience, but the inherent difficulty in trying to put everything together to form that great experience ends up making this title somewhat flawed, leading to a game that cannot quite grasp the greatness it was reaching for.
Despite its shortcomings, Men of War: Vietnam features fun, challenging and satisfying gameplay that most die-hard strategy fans will immediately gravitate towards.