The most striking thing about ValuSoft's new war-themed shooter is how many different titles it has. The name on the box is Elite Forces Vietnam Special Assignment 2. The official Web site lists it as Vietnam 2: Special Assignment. After you install it, the game's icon is labeled BlackOps 2. When it's actually running, the name on the taskbar is Vietnam: BlackOps 2. Then, in a sort of grand finale of many of the different words associated with it up to this point, the title screen calls it Vietnam 2 Black Ops Special Assignment. Whatever you call it (this review will refer to it simply as Elite Forces Vietnam 2 Black Ops Special Assignment), the search for its true title unfortunately ends up being more interesting than the game itself.
Although several of its many names might lead you to believe that Vietnam 2 is about a second Vietnam War that perhaps takes place in the future, it's actually set during the real Vietnam War. A rogue American Colonel has established his own kingdom in a temple deep in the Cambodian jungle. Your orders are to track him down and kill him. If that sounds familiar, it's probably because it's the plot of Apocalypse Now.
The gameplay has also been lifted from other sources. Vietnam 2 is a generic shooter in the worst sense of the phrase. Everything here has been done before, and done better. You'll trudge through 12 levels, and at the end, you won't remember any of it.
The environments are uniformly bland. You'll visit giant stone forts, sewers, narrow valleys that represent outdoor areas, and lots and lots of tunnels in which the Vietcong have apparently hidden their nation's supply of crates. There are a few parts that take place in what might be the densest fog ever seen in a game. The horizon is literally about 4 feet in front of you, though that doesn't stop enemies 30 yards away from immediately pinpointing your position and firing at you. The LithTech engine powers the graphics, and though it's been the rendering force behind a few good games, this definitely isn't one of them.
A looping ambient sound-effects track accompanies the environments, and it's occasionally effective. However, there's a silent 4-second gap every time a track resets, which repeatedly kills whatever atmosphere it manages to build. The enemies all have screeching, over-the-top Asian accents while screaming things such as "Die Amelican!" At pre-scripted moments, your character occasionally rattles off one-liners. Some of them can be ignored, but a few are just inexplicable. At one point, after climbing through some underground tunnels, you emerge into a rocky cavern. For some reason, this causes your character to sarcastically say, "What's this, a stupid cave?"
The firefights are on par with the generally lackluster standards set by the other elements of Vietnam 2. Enemies usually appear in groups of four or five, and though they exhibit a small amount of intelligence--for instance, they'll often stay behind cover rather than run straight at you--the battles are generally devoid of any compelling action. The standard elements are all there: guns, rocket launchers, and grenades. But the game never manages to create the sense of breathless excitement that separates good shooters from bad ones. Every fight seems exactly the same, except for the ones that take place in thick fog, which add a layer of annoyance to the boredom.
No multiplayer options are included. Though given how the single-player game turned out, you're probably not missing much.
As a budget-priced game, it's arguable that Vietnam 2 should be judged against a lower standard. Still, it's hard to imagine standards low enough to warrant playing it. Unless you have a dedicated manservant who'll play it for you, you'll still have to invest a significant amount of your precious time finishing it. To put things in perspective, the great Serious Sam was a budget-priced game too. And Elite Forces Vietnam 2 Black Ops Special Assignment is no Serious Sam.