Not many war games on the market make it a special note to whoop your bottoms and sock it to you in the face, but that's just what Men of War: Vietnam does – and it does it well. Like previous Men of War titles, 1C have not budged on the difficulty challenge and it will take all your wit and cunning to best the enemy.
The Men of War series is a platoon-based strategy game and unlike most real-time strategy titles you don't command an entire army, just the one platoon or less. While some may be skeptical of Vietnam, the worry can be put to rest as it isn't a simple expansion on previous Men of War games. The game feels whole and would-be strategists or platoon commanders out there will surely get a kick out of it.
Men of War: Vietnam is set in Vietnam (if you haven't already figured that one out) and players will be leopard crawling their way through its thick jungles on more than one occasion. The good thing about the game's single player campaign is that there are two of them. Players can experience the Vietnam war through the eyes of both the Americans and the Vietcong. It's interesting to say the least and certainly offers plenty of variation to the overall experience. In addition to the two single player campaigns, there is a four-player online co-operative mode for those that like strategizing with other players.
The game is played up close to the platoon in command, although players can zoom in and out to a certain distance. Commands can be given to selected troops, be they take cover, open fire or using an ability via hotkeys. Moving around is as simple as hitting the left-mouse button over the desired area. Just about anything in the game can act as cover for your men, including a simple bush. Utilizing the game's simple cover system is a key aspect to combat, whereas simply running up and guns blazing at the enemy in question is a surefire way to reward your gung-ho with a game-over screen.
With that said, the controls are a challenge in and of themselves. Getting used to them will take a while even though they can be fully mapped to anyone's liking. The biggest issue is that the camera is mapped to the keyboard, which makes controlling it feel very rigid. The problem becomes even more pronounced when you take your men through the jungle in order to avoid detection. Not only does the thick foliage and vegetation provide great cover from enemy eyes, but yours as well.
At the very least, the combat can be rather deep depending on how patient players are. Sending men together as a whole group to claim an objective isn't the best of strategies. Perhaps set a sniper at a high vantage point to provide pin-point cover fire, or have machine gunners suppress the enemy with a constant volley while another squad of men flank the objective. There are many ways to play the game and it's always satisfying when a strategy works.
Men of War: Vietnam also includes a looting system, giving the overall experience a somewhat RPG-esque feel similar to Dungeon Siege or Diablo. Players can loot the bodies of fallen enemies for ammunition, pyrotechnics and medical kits – which are incredibly handy considering the difficulty challenge. Weapons can also be picked up and knowing that these arms would be hard to spot from the distance of the camera, the game highlights both dead bodies and items that can be picked up with a simple push of a button.
Vietnam is a region lush with green. The jungles and foliage provide plenty of cover for your men, and if that's not enough there are always man-made covers like fox-holes and guard towers. While the visuals aren't the most impressive, the world comes to life when canopies start to sway in the wind, or shake violently from a grenade explosion. The tension is even more pronounced when everything is silent and only ambient noises like the sound of the swaying trees and chirping of insects can be heard, building up to the moment when you spring the attack on an unsuspecting enemy squad, or vice versa. Unfortunately, the soundtrack can get rather grating after an extended amount of time.
Despite its faults, Men of War: Vietnam offers a surprising amount of freedom to player tactics and allows for the game to be played however players want. While the overall experience is much slower than other strategy games, requiring patience and cunning, it's always satisfying to know you can claim an entire compound with just a few men. However, issues like the camera and general controls make the already tough challenge even more challenging, albeit in a frustrating manner. All in all, it's a hard game to get into, but once you're in, that's when it becomes an experience worth sticking out.
|» A deep, flexible combat engagement system.|
|» The world feels real, with swaying foliage and believable ambience.|
|» Two campaigns, one from the perspective of the Americans and another from that of the Vietnamese.|
|» Controls take awhile to get used to despite being fully mappable.|
|» The camera is the most annoying thing you'll encounter.|
|» The soundtrack can get on your nerves.|