Men of Valor: Vietnam Updated Impressions

We take a look at several new levels in Sierra and 2015's upcoming PC and Xbox first-person shooter.

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Men of Valor: Vietnam is the upcoming first-person shooter for the PC and Xbox that casts you as a member of a squad of US troops that must fight its way through the dense jungles and rocky hills of the Vietnamese countryside. We got our first glimpse of the game at last year's E3, which gave us a taste for the promising direction the game was headed in. The mix of cinematic sequences, which blended in with gameplay, showed off developer 2015's skill at crafting a tight first-person shooter. We had the chance to take a look at a new version of the Xbox game today, which let us get a peek at several new levels as well as the game's multiplayer.

Men of Valor: Vietnam puts you in the role of Dean Shepard, an African-American marine who will, in a nearly unprecedented feat in a video game, live to fight his way through the early stages of the conflict in Vietnam and make it to the Tet Offensive. Well, he'll have the opportunity to go through said stages anyway. Whether or not Dean actually survives is up to you. You'll have to guide him through 13 missions that are spread throughout Vietnam. While the journey isn't going to be easy, Dean is armed for the occasion with 21 weapons from both sides of the war. The single-player game features a linear structure that sends you through the various missions as Dean. You'll work in tandem with an AI-controlled squad, which will react intelligently to your behavior and will back you up as needed. We ended up seeing four areas, including an open field, a forest, a rice paddy, and an urban environment set in the rubble of a city. The radically different areas showed off the diverse play styles you'll have to adopt when going through the game.

The basic gameplay owes quite a bit to 2015's previous work and serves up an appealing mix of cinematics and gameplay that will suck you into the story and keep you on your toes. The transitions between missions will be handled by the presentation of letters that Dean writes to home. The narrated segments will help move the story along and will segue into gameplay. The effect is a slick transition from a simple picture near the letter he's been writing, which fills up the entire screen. Once you're in the game, the controls are nicely laid out and owe a tip of the hat to Halo's now-classic scheme, but they do feature some nice touches that work in the context of the game. Clicking in the left analog stick once will let you crouch, while clicking it two times will make you go prone, which is essential for both taking cover and firing accurately. Holding the left trigger will move you in to a new targeting mode that will let you aim more accurately. The A button will let you switch between firing modes on your selected weapon, if available. The Y button will let you search bodies for health pickups, ammo, and new weapons--when you're near them. The B button will let you bandage yourself, which helps reduce the amount of damage you take in combat if you're quick about it. Basically, if you manage to hold still and can press B after taking some hits, the amount of damage you take will be reduced. The bandage effect is much less effective if you try it while moving, but it's better than nothing if you're hanging on by a thread.

In addition to the robust single-player game, Men of Valor: Vietnam will also feature a nice suite of multiplayer options. You'll be able to play through the single-player game with a friend--in co-op--via system link, split-screen, or Xbox Live. If you're looking for a more varied multiplayer experience, the game will also feature five multiplayer game types and eight multiplayer maps. You can expect the standard suite of Xbox Live features, although whether the game will offer downloadable content has not yet been announced. You'll be able to play as a number of different characters, each with his or her own unique attributes and weapon sets. The most striking aspect of our brief multiplayer game was the decidedly different feel the deathmatch game had when it was set in the forest. While you'll learn that cover is your best friend in the single-player game, this lesson is really driven home in the multiplayer game. Anyone used to the fast-paced experience of Unreal or Quake will likely be able to adapt to Men of Valor, but we're pleased to see that the game rewards methodical play as well. While you can run through the jungle and blow up anything that moves, there's something innately satisfying about sneaking around in the shrubbery and taking someone out unawares.

The graphics in the game are shaping up very nicely, though to be fair, we did see the game shown on a HDTV setup at 480p resolution. The environments we saw offered a nice sense of scale. The large levels were nicely expansive in feel, while the forest areas tempered their wide-open spaces with dense foliage. The urban environments looked impressive and featured all manner of debris, which was strewn about, along with scattered fires--much as you'd expect from a war zone. The special effects for explosions, a pretty key element in this kind of game, looked pleasantly destructive. The same held true for the napalm strikes from air support. The animation we saw still seemed a little rough around the edges, but it didn't diminish the impressive visual punch of the cinematic sequence, which fluidly segued into actual gameplay. The aforementioned quality hung tight, even in the split-screen multiplayer game, which certainly bodes well for the final game.

The audio in the game is shaping up to be an excellent complement to the strong visual package. The game's Dolby 5.1 support did a fine job of showing off the sound effects and voice in the game. Weapons-fire packs a nice punch, as do the explosions. Combat is given an added layer of intensity thanks to chatter from both your fellow squadmates and your enemies. 2015 has implemented a dynamic AI-driven audio system that pulls from roughly 600 sound bites, including 300 from your men and 300 from your enemies, which are all used during battle. The resulting audio makes for a very immersive albeit sometimes nerve-racking experience during combat. Amid all of the assorted sound, you'll also hear some nicely done voice acting from Phil Lamarr, of Samurai Jack and Justice League fame. The music in the game, although sometimes tough to hear when all hell is breaking loose (which happens pretty frequently), seems well done and is being handled by a well-known composer, who will be revealed in the coming months. You'll also hear several licensed music tracks from the time period.

From what we've seen so far, Men of Valor: Vietnam is shaping up very well on the Xbox. The game has a lot to offer in both single- and multiplayer modes. The control is solid, and the graphics are impressive, thus ensuring that gamers will find plenty to appreciate on the Xbox. However, PC owners shouldn't fret that they're getting nothing more than a console port. 2015 will be rebalancing and tweaking the game's features and difficulty for PC players to compensate for mouse and keyboard support and to accommodate the slight difference in audience. Men of Valor: Vietnam is currently slated to ship this October for the PC and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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