The Vietnam War is considered one of the most controversial military operations in U.S. history. It is still officially classified as a “Conflict.” Because of the controversy, the Vietnam War was largely considered taboo in the gaming industry. Most war games were set in World War I or World War II.
This trend has changed in recent years, with the Vietnam War becoming a more popular setting after the glut of World War II-based games. However, a glut of games set during the Vietnam War has appeared recently. One of the latest games to enter the fray is Shellshock: Nam ’67.
Shellshock was originally scheduled to be released a couple of months ago, but Eidos delayed the release of the game because it said that the market wasn’t clamoring for another Vietnam-era FPS. Later it was revealed that Sony bought out Guerilla, the developer responsible for the highly anticipated Killzone. It appears that once the buyout was finalized, Guerilla dropped the ball on Shellshock.
At first glance, the game doesn’t look bad. The game has a grainy look that makes it look like a movie that was filmed during that era. There are some textures that enhance the look of the character models for your troops. However, once you dig deeper, several issues arise.
The first issue is the sheer number of clipping problems. Between missions, you will sometimes be at a base talking with other members of your squad. You are able to run between tents in the base. The tent ropes actually go through you. There are also issues with the foliage in the jungle going through you. After dying, I once though that part of an arm and leg was blown off, but I later figured out that it was actually them going through the ground.
While your troop is well animated, the enemy is not. Several frames of animation seem to be missing while they are moving. It also doesn’t help that most of the enemies look exactly the same.
The environment has some nice touches, such as lamps in hideouts, but the polygon count is low. The rocks look too square, the landscapes are pointed more than they are rounded, and the water doesn’t really look like water. The amount of pop-in for the graphics is incredibly bad. I don’t think I’ve seen pop-in this bad since the lower settings of Strike Commander on the PC. There were also some framerate issues in the game as well that would seem to happen randomly. After going to the menu and going back to the game, the framerate issues disappeared.
Shellshock has a lot of licensed music in the game from artists such as Sonny and Cher, Roy Orbison, and the Monkees. However, when I first started up the game, I couldn’t tell if the song was an original recording or just a bad recording from a cover band. I actually laughed out loud when I heard it. The other music is used for background during the cutscenes, but it doesn’t feature prominently throughout the game.
A game set in a time like this is going to be gritty, so you can expect a lot of swearing. While this is understandable, the timing of it used is about on par with a 12-year-old who just learned them. It sounds forced and unrealistic.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the voice-overs sounded good. While the voiceover of your sergeant was done well, the other acting was so over-the-top it was almost like listening to high-school students trying to voice-over a cartoon. The VC voiceovers were especially bad.
Normally shooters are fairly straightforward, but Shellshock requires the use of every button on the DualShock 2 controller. The dual analog sticks are used for movement and aiming. While movement is fine, aiming seems to be a bit more difficult to do, even more than other shooters.
On the D-pad, left and right peeks left and right or zooms in and out while in scope mode and up looks through binoculars. L1 runs while L2 makes you go prone. R1 uses item (such as firing your gun or throwing a gun), and R2 brings up your inventory. X uses and item, circle reloads your weapon, triangle crouches, and square quickly switches weapons.
Do the controls sound confusing? That’s because they are. The controls never are comfortable to the point where they are second nature. They try to do too much with the controller and end up becoming nothing more than an overextended mess.
Some of these issues wouldn’t be a problem if Shellshock had compelling gameplay. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
The missions are incredibly linear. The typical mission has you move from point A to point B, get ambushed or complete an objective, move to point C, rinse, and repeat. My impression of Vietnam was a dense jungle. After playing this game I found out that there were several paths cleared out, as well as several clearings inside the jungle.
The missions aren’t always clear either. Towards the beginning of the game you need to blow up a tunnel. When I reached the entrance to the tunnel I was ready to blow up, but I wasn’t able to lay down any explosives. It wasn’t until I actually went inside the tunnel that I was able to blow it up. In another mission, you need to find a weapons cache in a village. You look under haystacks to find it. To find the extra weapons, you actually have to blow up the haystacks with a grenade to find them. Once I found the weapons cache, but the game didn’t recognize that I had found it, so I had to restart the mission from a waypoint and go there again.
The AI in the game is brain dead. The enemy will sometimes use cover, but they can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Anyone who has seen UHF will remember the Rambo parody scene where Weird Al is standing still two feet away from the enemy, and the enemy still can’t hit him. Occasionally a lucky shot will come by, but unless the enemy is behind a gun turret, their aim is pretty bad.
Unfortunately, your squad seems to have the same issues. They will move right in your line of fire as you are shooting, and they have a hard time aiming as well. They don’t take much cover and can get shot. However, if they do get shot, they seem to be able to get back up after a few seconds.
It doesn’t help that your aiming never feels very tight. The loose controls make aiming a problem. Instead of hiding in cover and picking off enemy forces, I found it far easier to run up to the enemy and shoot them.
The gameplay is unrealistic and never draws you in. Instead of being fun, it feels more like a chore to play.There are 13 missions included in Shellshock. However, they don’t take very long to complete once you figure out what the mission objectives are. There aren’t any incentives to replay the game, and although you select from three different characters at the beginning of the game, it doesn’t make a difference which character you select.