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After being shell-shocked by a purple haze, TVG once again heads back to the conflict in Vietnam to fight alongside the Men of Valor…
In a summer of war, gore, and more, TVG has experienced so many Tour of Duties to Nam, that weâ??ve been asked to attend the next Vietnam Veteranâ??s Reunion down in a Mississippi backwater in the Spring; so itâ??s with a renewed hunger to shred VC in the paddy fields outside of Saigon, that we found ourselves signing up to the US Marines, ready to return to the killing fields.
Men of Valor is one of the last Vietnam games to be released this year, so the pressure must have been on at 2015, developers of the game, to create a title that would stand above the crowded market and yell at the top of its voice, â??Buy me â?“ you wonâ??t regret it!â?
Itâ??s very easy for todayâ??s developers to create games that are carbon-copies of previous titles, and the first-person shooting genre is definitely at a point where the current standards have been set in stone for a number of years. Even id Softwareâ??s Doom 3 was lambasted by some for being too similar at a fundamental level to the usual FPS fare, and with two of the biggest FPS sequels â?“ namely Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 â?“ only weeks away from release, Men of Valor finds itself fighting a war on both fronts; having to compete late in the game for supremacy in the Vietnam stakes, it must also try and get noticed as the tidal wave of marketing and public anticipation for the Xbox and PC behemoths coming in November increases.
Thankfully, 2015 went into the development of MoV after they developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for EA, which was praised by a lot of people for developing a grittier, realistic interpretation of the war compared to other titles in the MoH franchise. In order to get that recognition, the gameâ??s developers have introduced a few little touches in an attempt to make MoV stand out, which weâ??ll talk about a little later.
The single-player game begins in 1965, during the early stages of the war and 10 years before the US pulled out of Vietnam. MoV sees players take control of Dean Shepard, a US Marine from Tulsa, Oklahoma as he fights to stay alive in the VC occupied jungles of Nam. After completing a short training â??moduleâ??, Shepard finds himself in a US military base outside of Da Nang with some of your fellow marines, all waiting to experience the conflict at first-hand.
During the course of the game, before and after the missions, Shepard writes letters home to Oklahoma, where his parents still live. This correspondence between the son writing about his first-hand experiences, and the parents who receive them, and gain extra information on the war from the TV, adds a personal feel to the game lacking in other FPS titles, and allows players the chance to develop an empathy with Shepard and his family. This sense of empathy is developed further when Shepard dies in the game, a letter is sent from the Commanding Officer to the family offering his deepest sympathies for their loss. It may not seem like much of an addition on face value, but the fact that you get to know your characterâ??s background and family adds a certain depth to the game, which means that you donâ??t run into battle quite as gung-ho as you perhaps normally would.
Some of the touches added to the game by the developers have been made to the HUD. For us, the use of the staff of Aesculapius (do a Google image search) to denote Shepardâ??s health and whether he is bleeding, is a great touch and really helps players to judge how close - or not - to death the character actually is â?“ it makes a change from seeing a health bar on screen. Also Shepard, like real people, bleeds when shot and this is represented on screen with the help of the staff of Aesculapius again. The level of health on the staff symbol drops, leaving a red translucent level behind. Players then have to press a button repeatedly to get their health up the dropping red level before they â??bleed to deathâ??. What 2015 have essentially developed by including this feature is a new dynamic to the FPS genre; instead of now relying on med kits to patch up your health, players have to now find the best cover as soon as possible so they can bandage up Shepardâ??s wounds and stop the bleeding.
The compass in the top right of the screen has also been evolved from other FPS titles, with the inclusion of a yellow marker that rises and falls depending on how close Shepard is to the target objective. Itâ??s a great idea that means that the HUD no longer needs an onscreen map or radar, and provides the game with more realism â?“ it also means that when the VC launch an ambush that you are unprepared for the attack.
Continuing with weapons, the range of weaponry available to players is quite good, with everything from M14 rifles to grenade launchers ready to use against the VC guerrillas. Judging distances whilst throwing grenades can be a bit tricky, but after going through the training course at the beginning of the game, it becomes almost second nature. Overall there is a good mix of weaponry, from fully automatic machine guns, to drum guns, and all feel very solid and deadly. Thatâ??s not to say that we would recommend you to run into the killing fields with a hand gun, but none of the weapons feel really weak â?“ they are all fatal at their respective ranges.
Something that the game also implements quiet nicely is the fact that for some of the time, Shepard will have to crawl on his front in order manoeuvre around VC installations, or when ambushing a small band of enemies in the jungle undergrowth. Having to find some cover, whether it takes the form of a felled tree or a boulder, is something that players will find themselves doing in order to survive. Within certain missions, haste is your enemy just as much as the VC. When you find yourself crawling along the ground whilst a hail of VC bullets zip over your head like an army of rampaging hornets, the gritty reality of war hits home. Whilst many titles have tried to replicate effective jungle vegetation, 2015 have really nailed it; trekking through the undergrowth you can almost smell the lushness of the greenery.
It does have to be pointed out though that the AI of the enemies is sometimes a weak spot in the game, as there were several occurrences when VC guerrillas ran to the side of you, and instead of firing at you at a range of vicious and deadly accuracy, they would proceed to aim and shoot at some of your comrades found further back in the battlefield. To be honest though, it is a relatively minor niggle to the extent that whilst it was noticeable, we virtually blanked it out and continued with the game.
Graphically, the game is superior to some of the other Vietnam titles that have been released this year, and the lush jungle of the South Asian country has been recreated to a high standard; unlike some of the other Nam games this year, it does feel as though you are crawling along the jungle floor. The multiplayer missions which take place in urban areas are strewn in rubble and the overall look to the street sequences is one of absolute devastation. The developers have managed to create amazing looking explosions, thanks to an advanced particle system, which means dust clouds and fireballs, are very dynamic and almost fluid in their movements.
2015 have also used explosions to move from the excellent cut-scenes to the player-controlled action as seamlessly as possible. This is exemplified right at the start of the first mission, when the Marineâ??s are throwing around an American Football, only for a cut-scene to stop their game to show a VC missile attack on the base. The use of letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the screen when cut-scenes are playing, only add to the cinematic feel of the game. The developers have managed to create a game with very high production values, perhaps due to the time that they spent working on Allied Assault for EA?
The developers have managed to give the game a great sense of atmosphere, and, strangely enough considering the game takes place for the most part out in the jungle, an incredible sense of claustrophobia. This is not to say that the gameâ??s environments are small, indeed some are quite expansive; but the fact that some of the time you find yourself crawling on your belly, using a fallen tree for cover with VC bullets zipping over your head, really feels overbearing and restrictive â?“ raise your head, and youâ??re a dead man.
The game is also full of scripted elements which means that the game can turn from being a relatively quiet patrol to a high octane explosion filled shoot-out in seconds, which would mirror real-life ambushes and counter-strikes to a high degree. It also means that the pace of the game fluctuates very well, and this is something that MoV accomplishes more effectively than some of the other Vietnam games released earlier in the year. It really does flow well, and instead of being completely fast paced from the outset, the lulls serve to add to the anticipation for when the battles really do begin.
As with most of the other Nam titles, music from the era does feature in the game, and it can be quite surreal having to listen to James Brown when you find yourself rolling on top of an Armoured Personnel Carrier through the paddy fields of Vietnam â?“ however, it all adds to the realism of the game. As youâ??d expect, MoV also features brilliant VC phrases including, â??We kill you GI!â? as Shepard and the rest of the patrol find themselves ambushed by a gang of â??Charlies.â? The game also features animal sound effects that are sprung upon you, just as you expect VC to burst out of the tree line to attack in the calm before the storm â?“ and when the sonic storm erupts, a cacophony of gunfire is expelled through the TV speakers, which adds to the chaos of battle.
Away from the Singleplayer mode, Men of Valor has a number of Live! options included, and the usual string of Deathmatches and variants are available to play. The multiplayer maps in the game vary from the US Embassy to the jungle ruins, and they can be huge. The Live! games are really fun to play, and even though a major advancement hasnâ??t been achieved in the modes, the gameâ??s atmosphere and environments mean that MoV is one of the most enjoyable games that weâ??ve played on the platform â?“ especially when you find yourself playing against a bunch of Americans all trying to right their defeat at the end of the ten year conflict. PC gamers can rest easy too, as the PC version of the game will also include the multiplayer modes, so they too can sneak about the ruins of the deathmatch maps.
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