Of all the Vietnam-theme titles announced last year the one that showed the most promise was Vivendi’s Men of Valor
. And for good reason, it was being helmed by 2015, the famed developers behind Electronic Arts’ masterpiece, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
. With MOH:AA 2015 didn’t invent the WWII-themed shooter, it merely reinvented it and added what it needed the most; emotion and humanity. Now the same folks look to recreate that same magic with their latest release, but as we’ve found out with the plethora of Vietnam-era titles this year, the time period is different and the subject matter is distinctly different from what we’re used to. Can 2015 reverse the trend and show the gaming industry that Vietnam is indeed the next big thing? Or will it succumb to the same problems that plagued so many others before it?
I was so impressed by Men of Valor at E3 that I almost missed the private Half Life 2 presentation. One of the developers was giving me a demonstration and he had just handed me the reins when John Yan told me that it was our turn to enter the Half Life 2 theatre. I seriously contemplated missing the HL2 theatre in order to get some hands-on time with Men of Valor, it was that good. But now that I’ve had a chance to play the game in the confines of my own living room I’m less impressed with the game. The allure of the title has worn off and the game that once seemed so impressive was merely just average.
This isn’t to say that it’s entirely 2015’s fault. Plenty of Vietnam-themed titles were released this year but Men of Valor is the only one that comes close to getting it right. It’s an excellent recreation of the mood and feeling of the era, adding in what the genre desperately needed, humanity and the feeling of emotion and empathy. The developers didn’t take a position on whether the war was right or wrong but they did an excellent job of showing the horrors that faced our boys overseas. They did it with restraint too, they didn’t take it to the extreme like Shellshock ‘Nam 67
did and they didn’t miss the point entirely like in Conflict: Vietnam
. They merely present the war to you and invite you to offer your own conclusions as to the merits of our interference.
To do this the developers utilized the same system they used in MOH:AA. You assume the role of a soldier in the war and before each mission, you write a letter home that gives the player some incite into the mind of the character. That letter helps serve as filler between load times while setting up the next part of the game. I’ve always liked this system and feel that it fits in well here. I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but it should be noted that the protagonist is black. Instead of turning into a race issue though it further solidifies the ties between races. In the thick of the battle it doesn’t matter if your comrades or black, white or yellow, all that matters is that you care for one another and do what it takes to make it out together. The game pushes this issue and if not for a few references in the letters, you forget about the color lines entirely.
It takes more than one man to win a war and for this you’ll always be accompanied by a squadron of soldiers. This makes the combat more intense as it opens the door to more avenues of success. It was breathtaking when it first appeared in Call of Duty
and it’s still a joy to watch it unfold today. There’s nothing quite like storming a village with one of your squad mates laying down cover fire while another flanks the enemies from the other side. It’s a shame that were given the option of delegating orders to your mates but they’re good at handling themselves.
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