18th Aug 2004 | 11:17
Vietnam? We don't know what all the fuss was about. If you ask us, hanging about in the tropics drinking beer, eating barbecued food, razzing about in helicopters with the stereo turned up and making boom-boom with loads of fit locals sounds great.
It wasn't so minty for everyone involved, though. Like Cherry: a farm-fresh country boy drafted in 1968. He finds himself assigned to a four man squad containing Ragman (a battle-hardened, takes-no-crap Vietnam vet), Junior (a trash-talking black sniper from the Bronx), and Hoss (a redneck from the Deep South who thinks the Ku Klux Clan are just good ol' boys having fun). If developers Pivotal were playing stereotype bingo they'd have a full house, right here.
Things start with Cherry's arrival at Ghost Town, a US base. It's a glorified tutorial, but the licensed Rolling Stones music and sweary chat establishes atmosphere. You'll conduct jungle patrols, repel the Tet Offensive, and eventually end up stranded behind enemy lines.
Nam That Tune
The stronger personalities of your buddies mean you care more about developing their skills - and hurt more when they spear their arse on a punji stake trap. Each character must earn his own skill points, so if you only use one soldier the rest of your squad won't gain any new skills.
But Conflict: Vietnam's biggest departure from the Desert Storm games is the setting. While CDS had you fighting through dusty urban streets, Nam's all about the jungle. The early levels still feel very enclosed, though, and sneaking through the bush usually leads you to an invisible wall.
If you stay in the confines of the level you'll find the simplicity of Conflict's command system remains and has been streamlined even further with a context sensitive cursor. No more mucking about, just move the cursor over something and the game will usually anticipate exactly what you want to do.
It's still Conflict, only set in the jungle and polished with some gameplay tweaks. Thing is, with the likes of Battlefield: Vietnam setting the standard for Nam atmosphere, and Full Spectrum Warrior raising the bar for squad-based strategy, we're not sure if Conflict still has the ammunition to take them down. Our hearts and minds are not yet won over.