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.
Download Men Of Valor
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.