Vietcong hands-on preview

We take a hands-on look at this upcoming shooter set during the Vietnam War.

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Czech developer Illusion Softworks took everyone by surprise last year with its extremely stylish and very atmospheric action game Mafia. The company's next project is Vietcong, a Vietnam War-era first-person shooter that Illusion is currently coproducing with developer Pterodon. Though the game won't actually replicate historical skirmishes from the war, developer Pterodon has invested a considerable amount of time in researching the weapons, tactics, and locations that will appear in the game. Fortunately for us, we recently had the opportunity to try out the game in a few of its multiplayer modes. In addition to standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, Vietcong will feature a capture-the-flag mode and cooperative multiplayer against computer-controlled opponents.

Vietcong takes place in the thick of the Vietnam War.
Vietcong takes place in the thick of the Vietnam War.

As you might expect from a game whose missions take place during the year 1967, Vietcong will feature contemporary weapons and equipment. In the single-player game, you'll play as a member of an elite US Special Forces squad, though in multiplayer, you'll be able to play either as the US soldiers or as VC guerrilla forces, each of which will have comparable weapons and equipment for the sake of game balance. While Vietcong won't be an exacting, realistic shooter--the developer has opted to go easy on realistic concerns like weapon kickback for the sake of having an accessible, fast-paced game--it will have many of the trappings of a modern-day team-based shooter, including character classes, real-world weapons, and authentic-looking environments based loosely on developer Pterodon's visits to the jungles of Vietnam.

As in many other realistic shooters, players in Vietcong will be armed with a primary firearm, a sidearm, a melee weapon, and hand grenades. US troops will be able to use weapons like the M16 assault rifle, the US-M3 grease gun, and the Thompson machine gun (also known as the tommy gun), while VC troops will use weapons like the AK-47 semiautomatic pistol and the Soviet-manufactured Dragunov sniper rifle. Of course, since the game will also have different playable character classes, such as soldier, heavy gunner, sniper, medic, and radioman, you'll be able to try out heavier hardware and also use special abilities like tending to wounded teammates and calling in air strikes. Vietcong's single-player game will eventually let you control up to five such specialists in the same squad over the course of the game's 20 single-player missions, and though you won't be required to do anything as complex as set multiple waypoints for your team, you'll be able to give them simple commands to follow you or to provide cover as you dash forward to secure the next perimeter.

The game's weapons seem to lend themselves well to multiplayer matches.
The game's weapons seem to lend themselves well to multiplayer matches.

In multiplayer, Vietcong will let you choose which side to play on, grab a primary weapon, and jump into multiplayer modes such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, co-op, or capture the flag. However, even though you'll be able to equip yourself at the start of a match, you won't be forced to stick with a single weapon the entire time, since Vietcong will let you drop your M60 heavy machine gun and grab a sniper rifle from a fallen foe in the middle of a match. Each of the game's weapons has a good, solid feel to it, and while all-purpose weapons like the M16 are good in multiple situations, we found that several weapons can be particularly effective when used in specific situations; for instance, the double-barreled hunting rifle takes a while to reload, but it can be devastating at close range. Vietcong's weapons seem well suited for head-to-head deathmatch games, but they're even better for team games in which skilled teammates choose weapons that complement each other well and use them in appropriate situations; weapons with a high rate of fire, like the AK-47, aren't particularly damaging but are good for providing cover fire, for instance.

But the most striking thing about Vietcong seems to be its environments--many of them are very, very densely packed with different objects. While playing, you may be reminded of recent games like Soldier of Fortune II or Ghost Recon and its expansion packs, which featured levels that took place in and around large buildings, as well as in overgrown jungles, but Vietcong's environments will be even denser. We were able to play through two multiplayer maps, one of which was a jungle map and one that was situated in a ruined temple. The jungle map was bordered by foothills and filled with extremely dense foliage, including fallen logs, bushes, high grass, and vines, not to mention pits, trenches lined with barbed wire, dugouts, and natural rock formations. The temple map was full of mazelike twists and turns, narrow tunnels, and walls that had half-crumbled to pieces. Both maps are a good representation of what you can expect in Vietcong--areas that feature both wide-open spaces for short, violent standoffs and enclosed, crowded areas where that last bit of scenery at the end of the corridor starts to resemble an enemy soldier as you run past. The game's dense scenery also makes flushing out enemy snipers particularly challenging, as we saw from our time with the game's cooperative multiplayer mode, in which a team of players goes up against a team of computer-controlled enemies.

Dense foliage can provide cover for you..,and for your enemies, too.
Dense foliage can provide cover for you..,and for your enemies, too.

The developers of Vietcong are clearly trying to re-create the intensity and the challenge of fighting your way through some of the most unapproachable terrain of the Vietnam war, thanks to its dense environments and fast pace. But from what we've seen, the game will also be very accessible and easy to jump into for anyone who's ever played a first-person shooter. We'll find out how the game turns out when it's released later this year.

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