Men Of Valor
Pm sure like me, many of you have drunkenly leapt into bushes shouting stuff like "Fire in the Hole!" or "Doc Jay and Eightball are wasted!" at unsavoury hours of the morning. Hell, a friend of mine once did it up at St Andrews in Scotch-land only to find Prince William staring at him like he was a ’Nam-obsessed madman. All of a sudden, game developers have got wind of this market and are queuing up to show us exactly what it’s like to be in 'a world of shit’. Men Of Valor is a leading member of this offensive, fighting off competition from Battlefield Vietnam, Vietcong and er. Line Of Sight: Vietnam. Indeed, this could be the game that truly puts the ’oo’ back into 'poontang'.
Men Of Valor is a squad-based FPS from the company that gave us Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault, the authenticity and vibe of which are legend. Recreating Vietnam, of course, is a very different and far messier proposition, and 2015 has pulled out all stops to take us there. From the slogans stencilled on the back of Flak jackets and the '60s rock blaring out of APCs, right through to the gunners leaning out of helicopters spraying the jungle and shouting, 'Git some you stinkin' bastards!’, it’s immediately clear that 2015 has nailed the atmosphere of 'Nam.
"We wanted to do another historical military shooter, but felt it was time for something different," explains John Whitmore, director of development. "We wanted to feature groups of men rather than individuals, and Vietnam was the natural choice. In the jungle environments, the fighting style was going to be different from WWII. There’s a very different kind of battle and gameplay flow.
"We just got really excited about the project," adds Whitmore. "The music, the weapons, the helicopters, the crickets chirruping at night. We all got really jazzed about the idea."
The player takes the role of Dean Shepard, a young African-American who joins the Marines and is sent to Vietnam in April of 1965. The action religiously follows the path of the war: starting with fairly low-key patrols and seek-and-destroy missions in and around Danang, it moves on through the many and various victories and defeats of the US. You’ll fight in Operation Starlight, the first major ground battle of the war, you'll root out underground supply caches and tunnel networks in the VC-held 'Iron Triangle’, and after a fashion you’ll find yourself in and around Khe Sanh. fending off the VC’s Tet Offensive. 2015 has really done their homework on this one.
Some people (like me) would have cobbled together a Vietnam game from repeated viewings of 'Nam movies, with the vague hope of crow-barring in a line like, "You climb obstacles like old people f**k!" Whitmore and his gang, on the other hand, have gone to newsreels, period accounts, veterans’ letters and history books as well as doing a huge amount of research on climatology and the flora and fauna of South East Asia.
About half the game will take place in the jungle proper, 20 per cent in ruined cities and the rest in a variety of rice paddies, bases and VC tunnels. The story, which is generally relayed through Dean’s letters home to his mum, revolves around the relationships within the squad and the perils they face as the war drags on. Meanwhile, Dean’s brother, Jamie, adds even more tension to the mix by being a general screw-up; incapable of coping with Marine life and liable to be in need of a daring rescue come the endgame.
Rumble In The Jungle
To convey how the atmosphere of male camaraderie, violence and potential death is conjured up in Men Of Valor, it would perhaps be best to describe a typical scene. You and your squad are travelling along a dirt track through dense shrubland; from an FPS point of view you are one of the black guys laying grief on the white guys, telling them they couldn't ever be a 'brother’with you back home. The language is full-on, as you’d expect from soldiers fighting in a real war. Suddenly the APC stops, and a tingling feeling tells you something is about kick off. A peasant is trying to move a stubborn cow off the road, so a marine climbs down and has a lengthy argument with him. You hesitantly scan the tree line for an attack while your less-observant comrades continue arsing around. Just when your tension levels are beginning to ebb, the marine on the road takes a step back and explodes into chunks of meat. Suddenly bullets are flying, you're all cowering behind the APC with your squad-mates screaming, "Charlie's everywhere!" Then the counter-attack begins...
No Time To Bleed
As you can tell, the scripted sequences in this game are something special, but the realism in your fellow marines is top notch too; and it’s not just the voice-acting, the '60s slang and military lingo that does this either. "You see your guys taking cover, covering their heads and getting suppressed," says John. "They're not supermen marching through the jungle shooting everything they see. Their first reaction is not wanting to get shot - self-preservation. If they do get shot they’ll be calling out to you to make sure a letter gets home to their wife or something. They all have at least one death sequence; it gets really emotional.
And if a guy can’t make it to the end of the map then that’s one less guy to watch your back." Eventually you'll also be promoted to a rank that allows you to give basic flanking, defensive and offensive commands, so you may well end up sending your newfound buddies to their early deaths. It’s currently unclear if there’ll be a huge number of driveable vehicles in the game, although rumours abound of a thrilling motorbike chase through the jungle. You'll definitely be riding a variety of jeeps, APCs, 'Mules’ and speedy patrol boats.
The US air superiority is also well represented. One bit of the game we saw was an assault on a village by five or six helicopter gunships, with you manning a machine gun and shooting VC as they scattered. Furthermore, you’ll be able to call in support from helicopter gunships and missiles, mini-guns and napalm from helpful fighters and bombers. As in the real war, the catalogue of available weapon reads like the Christmas list of an aspiring dictator: M14 Battle Rifles. M-16s, Communist SKS with folding bayonets, AK47s, the TT3 pistol, a variety of rocket launchers and a range of sub-machine guns from the Thomson to the PPSH 41. This list of death-bringing machinery may mean nothing to you. but you can probably make out that 2015 is striving to give both an accurate view of the war and a wide variety of ways to make a head explode.
But how about the politics? How can you make a game out of a conflict that even when viewed alongside the vast catalogue of meaningless wars available to us, never really made any sense? "No matter what you feel about the war, it's difficult to argue that Vietnam was as much a threat to the world as, say, Nazi Germany," says John. "Having said that, the bullets they were firing were just as deadly to you and your friends as they were in WWII. The encounters you found yourselves in were just as important to you and your friends because if you made it out then you made it home alive."
Of course, the true horror of battle will never be captured in a videogame, thankfully, but Men Of Valor looks set to pull off the rare trick of pumping some emotion and feeling into the warzone, while leaving the fun intact. And if it can even get close to the quality of Allied Assault, then it has every chance of doing for Danang what MOH did for Omaha Beach.
Men Of Valor Makes A Commendable Statement With Lead Character Dean Shepard
Men Of Valor is set to be a landmark in that it is one of the first games to feature a black main character. Aside from movie tie-ins such as Blade 2, we've scratched our heads and can’t think of too many similar examples, not in an FPS anyway, and as such 2015's efforts are highly laudable. "The African-American experience was an extremely large part of the war," points out John Whitmore. "White people were fighting alongside black people for the first time in Vietnam, and a lot of prejudices were overcome. You still feel its impacts today." So pats on the back all round at 2015, i though whether a black character will be used in the boxing and 7 marketing of the game is a different matter entirely. Certainly, we couldn’t obtain an image of Dean for this piece and had to go with this generic chap. VU Games, the ball is in your court.
Download Men Of Valor
In The 30 years since hostilities ceased, the war in Vietnam has come to be regarded as the most psychologically damaging conflict in Western history. But that hasn't stopped anyone from drinking in the psychotic oddities of Apocalypse Now or, heaven forbid, Rambo: First Blood Part Two. Until recently, game developers largely veered away from the potential political pitfalls inherent with Vietnam, steering towards the more classic confrontations. Then, about nine months ago, the floodgates suddenly and dramatically burst open, and now you can barely see for games set in 'Nam.
Take for instance the lads at 2015, whose Spielbergian success with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault crowned them kings of realistic combat. But with the upcoming Men Of Valor: Vietnam, the company (or what's left of them after 22 key developers left to make Call Of Duty) is heading into sweatier territory.
The game's timeline begins with the American insertion in 1965 and culminates appropriately with the 1968 Tet Offensive, and each game level is rigorously based on documented encounters. Players begin as a US Marine private, but survival leads to a series of transfers and promotions that offer a veritable buffet of war experience. The scripted sequences that etched MOH permanently into players' memories will return, though with a darker tone appropriate to Vietnam.
More so than in Medal of Honor, the emphasis is on ordinary people in extraordinary situations. While the inspired cinematic style of Allied Assault left more than a few players with combat shock, there wasn't much to identify with among the rank and file. Men Of Valor addresses that by relying more on squad tactics, with a simple command system in place to guide your mates. Dashing through the game commando-like won't be a viable option, but this isn't quite a tactical shooter either. Rather, MOV hopes you'll care enough about your compadres to keep each other alive.
To create the dense jungle environments a highly modified version of the Unreal engine has been cranked up, and the result is already impressive. Seeing the game at E3, we were particularly struck by a scene in which a dense jungle, buzzing with helicopters, was rent asunder by an eruption of napalm-fuelled flame from an air strike. Character models boast finer detail than in MOH, and meticulous period gear maintains the sense of realism. The real test, however, will be how the engine handles nighttime firefights, which have not yet been demonstrated.
On the multiplayer front, a co-op mode covering the entire single-player campaign promises to be smashing, as does the selection of drivable vehicles. But perhaps the most difficult task faced by Men Of Valor will be competing with the likes of Call Of Duty, Medal Of Honor: Pacific Assault and 300 or so other Vietnam games. The E3 demos showed a promising start, with plenty of visceral, unflinching action and a darker, bloodier atmosphere than Medal Of Honor. The only downside is the wait - Men Of Valor won't appear until late 2004.
The jungle got fun and games, but it's also enough to bring you to your sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-knees. Set in 1965-era Vietnam, Men of Valor (made by some ex-Metfal of Honor staffers) follows raw private Dean Shepard through three years of first-person Commie blasting, from water buffalo-ridden Da Nang to the bombed-out brothels of Saigon. It's Xbox only, but for a reason-- the amount of stuff happening at once, from planes buzzing to soldiers shouting at each other to lines of napalm lazily flaming off in the distance, taxes the big black box to its limits. Expect 16-player matches online, too, in arenas where Metal Gear Solid-style stealth and strategic use of environmental cover win out over Rambo-style bravado.