Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam Preview

This tactical 3D strategy game from Digital Reality will attempt to reproduce the gritty atmosphere of MGM Studios' motion picture.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1986 film Platoon, which starred Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen, was a gritty re-creation of the incredibly difficult jungle warfare that American commandos faced in the Vietnam War. Developer Digital Reality has tackled the challenge of re-creating the look and feel of the motion picture in its upcoming 3D tactical game, Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam. Platoon will have a few references to the more cinematic moments of the film, but it won't actually follow the story or have any of the characters from the movie.

Platoon's story will unfold through cinematic in-engine cutscenes.
Platoon's story will unfold through cinematic in-engine cutscenes.

But Platoon will have the same sort of look and feel as the motion picture. In fact, Digital Reality is trying to make each of the game's characters seem as real as those in the movie. In the game's single-player missions, you'll play as Sergeant Martin Lionsdale, a young officer who's just left behind his newlywed wife to join the effort in Vietnam. As Lionsdale, you'll lead a company of soldiers, and every single one of your troops will have his own set of voice samples, carry himself and his gear differently, and have a fully fleshed-out background story. Platoon will have a total of 15 different missions, each of which will have multiple objectives, and several of which will be based on some of the most well-known conflicts in the war, including Operation Shiny Bayonet and Operation Pershing in South Vietnam. The game will also feature six additional multiplayer-only maps that will let players play as either American or Viet Cong troops in various multiplayer modes, including head-to-head deathmatch and capture the flag. And Platoon will let you jump into any of the game's maps for a quick skirmish game as well.

In order to help convey the sense of fighting in grueling, small-scale jungle conflicts, Platoon's fully 3D engine will render the Vietnamese countryside tree by individually rendered tree and will also have full day-night cycles. In addition, Platoon will have weather effects like the infamously heavy rain that made crawling through the jungles as difficult and demoralizing as the "jungle" scene in the movie made it out to be. However, Platoon's scenery won't just be for show--the game will make good use of its 3D terrain, which will actually provide extra tactical considerations in battle. Soldiers who gain control of hilltops and towers will get an accuracy and damage bonus from their height advantage. Heavy trees, vegetation, and buildings will provide some cover from gunfire, but buildings can be blown up, along with any cowardly recruits who happen to be hiding inside or behind them. In some missions, your troops will even be able to take cover by diving into a foxhole--but so will your enemies.

This M-60-toting machine gunner will prove invaluable for base defense.
This M-60-toting machine gunner will prove invaluable for base defense.

In order to survive in the field, you'll need to recruit a balanced squad with a variety of different skills and abilities. Platoon's soldiers will have several different abilities, including different levels of weapon accuracy and proficiency at dodging incoming attacks, as well as other physical attributes. Soldiers can increase their abilities by gaining enough field experience to get promoted. Your troops can rise from the rank of private all the way to general, and the most decorated officers will have not only the most powerful abilities, but they'll also have clearance to commission the most powerful hardware from HQ.

You're Gonna Love the 'Nam

Take good care of your soldiers, or they'll have to retreat.
Take good care of your soldiers, or they'll have to retreat.

Platoon will have a pool of about 40 different soldiers to choose from, and like in Pyro Studios' excellent 2001 tactical strategy game Commandos 2, each of Platoon's soldiers will have very different skills and specializations. You can expect to see soldiers trained as scouts, engineers, and medics, as well as combat specialists with training in different types of combat, like long-range marksmanship, heavy artillery, and close combat. Soldiers who sustain a certain number of injuries in battle will have to retire to the sidelines and be replaced with fresh recruits, and the more severely wounded your soldiers are, the longer they'll be out of commission. As such, during your tour of duty, you'll be faced with the tough choice of pulling out an injured operative early to keep him on active duty or taking the risk of keeping him in the field longer to gain more experience.

The most important unit in the game will be the commander, and in the single-player game, that'll be Sergeant Lionsdale, who will have the ability to call for medics, additional ammo, and even reinforcements. Even better, Lionsdale will also have the ability to call in napalm and air strikes, which can have devastating effects on enemy soldiers who are clustered together--though he'll have to make sure that he and his men are at least a good 30 meters away, or they'll get caught in the blast. And fortunately, even though many of Lionsdale's troops start the game as flat-footed novice soldiers, they'll have at least gone through basic training, so they'll be able to conceal themselves by either crouching or lying prone.

 This air strike would have been even more devastating...if it had been called on the enemy.
This air strike would have been even more devastating...if it had been called on the enemy.

In order to keep Lionsdale's troops moving as a cohesive unit, Platoon's interface will have a number of handy features. For instance, you'll be able to select different companies within your squad by pressing a number key--Lionsdale is bound to the "1" key by default, and other groups, like riflemen, M-60 heavy machine gunners, and so forth, will be bound to subsequent number keys. You'll also be able to select a company by clicking on the appropriate weapon icon in the upper right corner of the screen. Platoon will have a simple iconic interface that will let you set your troops' behavior at aggressive, normal, and cautious levels, which will determine whether or not they'll open fire and pursue enemies once they've made contact.

In addition to line of sight, Platoon will have what the developers call a "line of sound"--that is, enemy units onscreen will have floating icons above their heads that will clearly indicate whether they've seen or heard your troops or not. Once they have, you'll be able to deploy your squads one by one or advance them all at once. Once you command them to open fire, your troops will automatically stop moving, drop down, draw their weapons, and go at it, and it'll be up to you to manage their health, ammunition supply, and morale.

Platoon looks like it will combine several interesting ideas from successful tactical strategy games, though it's still got a ways to go. The game is scheduled for release next year.

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