On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Vietcong took advantage of a ceasefire that typically occurred during the celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, ‘Tet’. A surprise attack was carried out across many cities in South Vietnam including Hue and the capital city of Saigon. The U.S. troops and ARVN were mostly on leave and enjoying the holidays, but were still able to “snap-to” and repel the attacks.
American confidence was diminished even though there were extensive losses of enemy equipment and soldiers and the fact we considered the attacks a failure. Shortly after, the war was considered “unwinable” and President Lyndon B. Johnson reduced aerial bombardment of North Vietnam, and started reducing the American troops in Vietnam. The final troops were not removed until 1975, and the ‘Tet offensive’ was considered the turning point in our level of involvement.
This is the historical storyline for Pterodon’s first-person shooter (FPS) Vietcong 2. You start in the ancient city of Hue as a U.S. Captain escorting a wartime correspondent around so that he can report on the holiday festivities. This ends up being a fight for their lives in a tough urban setting. Later on you get to experience the war from the other side as a Vietcong conscript fighting the South Vietnamese Army in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam.
Sounds really cool, does it not? Well this is where I was sadly disappointed. Read on to find out why.
The graphics are not bad if you like four to five year old graphics! I don’t think they have updated the engine from the original Vietcong game. The game booklet says it requires DirectX 9.0c and requires your video card to handle Shader 2.0 rendering, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
The physics engine is an atrocity to gaming as well. The jeep ride was closer to steering a canoe then a jeep. It actually moved in increments instead of a nice smooth turn. It wasn’t a frame rate issue either. Other parts of the game did chug along on a system that was above the recommended specs. Even at that I couldn’t understand why it even needed the specs it did recommend. It was like someone put a lawn mower engine in a Corvette.
Player physics and weapon physics were okay, but nothing compared to games like F.E.A.R. or Battlefield 2. It wasn’t even a close contest. Quite often I found myself killing enemies but not understanding why or how I did it. The textures to the players and background were plain and basic at best.
The game menus look like the original placeholders you might see in alpha software. Did they run out of time on this game? If you ask me they wasted whatever time they did spend. I know I am being harsh, but this game is a piece of crap. In fact, I don’t even know if it’s worth your time to read on.
About the only thing this game had to offer was a decent storyline. The voice acting was really good, but only up to the point where an officer was still speaking while drinking from a wine glass. Man that guy has some talents. The developers did do a half decent job creating a Vietnam War environment including drunken soldiers and Vietnamese whores. “You number one G.I.” could be heard in a broken English accent.
They made an attempt to emulate the different sounds that weapons make when firing, but they were not very realistic. The weapons fire did make you feel you were in a combat situation at least. Background noises were pretty good like the sound helicopter rotors make when they are spinning up or at full throttle. Explosions weren’t bad either, but could have been more “earth-shattering.”
Looks like they tried their best to provide a 60’s music flair. Some songs reminded you of a guitar student trying to play Hendrix licks. They even paid homage or ripped off, whichever way you see it, the intro scene to Apocalypse Now where the ceiling fan in the room reminds the soldier of the helicopter rotors. It would have been cool to use actual music from the era especially since they would probably not have had to pay to use them.
Pterodon used the standard FPS WASD setup for the game. “Q” and “E” can be used to lean left or right. They also included default settings for going prone, jumping, and crouching. Weapons were completely handled by the mouse. You use the left button to fire and the right one to aim. The middle button or scroll wheel handled reloading, but you could also use “R” to accomplish that.
The options menu allows you to customize the game to suit your tastes as well as your system performance. Here you could change your default keyboard and mouse settings. Other options included the ability to change the crosshair colors, toggle in-game menus or HUD on and off, chat and message displays as well as a cool feature named “Grenade Whistle” Turning this feature on would allow you to simulate what happens when a large explosion occurs near you. Your ears will actually ring, and you will only hear bits and pieces of messages and orders or in some cases not at all. This effect is only temporary of course, but a very nice feature.
The video customizations were very robust, and used sliders so that you could get the most graphically without negatively affecting system performance. Again I don’t see why, but it existed nonetheless. You could adjust the ragdoll physics, character details, ammunition and weapons details, and textures. Sound settings were also available and included a speaker test utility so that you could find the right match.
Although they have a great concept, and a few unique features like the Grenade Whistle I mentioned earlier, the gameplay was so bad I had to quit playing it after 2 hours. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I was actually wishing that I could play Bratz: Rock Angelz instead. Yeah, it was that bad.
The game starts off very slow building the setting and showing you how everyone was in party mode. You talk to your drunken buddies watching strippers; you have a conversation with your whore, and have basic conversations with different Vietnamese soldiers. You finally speak to your Commanding Officer (C.O.) and get orders to escort a war correspondent around. Ten minutes into the game, and I haven’t fired a weapon yet. What kind of FPS is this? Shortly after introducing the war correspondent around at a hotel party for dignitaries all hell breaks loose, and you nearly get killed by an RPG.
The battles were very spontaneous which definitely kept you on your toes, but I didn’t really feel like I was actually killing the soldiers. I shot in their direction and they would go down. It felt like I was playing Duck Hunt where close enough was okay. Sporadically I would be told I could pick something up, and then it would say I couldn’t. This brings me to another feature I didn’t like. You had to target ammo, weapons, and health packs in order to pick them up instead of the traditional run or walk over them.
The weapons didn’t have a realistic kick to them either. Enemy AI was horrid as they would always rush in and try to overwhelm you, but they would just end up being cannon fodder. Occasionally they would take cover, but they did not do a good job of it.
The health system absolutely sucked. Each time you took damage it would reduce the overall maximum of the meter so that the game would become increasingly more difficult to survive. I don’t mind a challenge, but it just wasn’t balanced enough. I just hated playing this game. It wasn’t fun at all.
I didn’t even test the multi-player that was available because I couldn’t stand playing this game so what was the point. In case you care at this point, Vietcong 2 does offer a plethora of multi-player options like Coop mode, Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, and Assault mode. All this is brought to you via the GameSpy network.
If you can stomach the single player portion or even get through it for that matter you will unlock the ability to play the game as a Vietnamese soldier in the rice paddies and jungles around his village. Maybe you would be able to play Russian Roulette with a developer, and get to say, “Mau, di di mau!”
The multi-player works very much like the Battlefield series with different unit choices like Medic or Sniper, and has all the promotional ranks like PFC and Sergeant. This all sounds really cool if you could find someone who actually is crazy enough to have this game installed on their PC.
The game retailed at $29.95, but I would be hard pressed to even pay $2.99 for the game. Especially when you can spend $30 to $50 on high quality games like Battlefield 2, F.E.A.R. and Call of Duty 2.