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Operation: Vietnam

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Coyote Console
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Third Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

As a reference point - perhaps the only one required - see Capcom's 1985 Commando. Fans of classic gaming will instantly recognize the top-down scrolling gameplay and visuals as they launch into Majesco's 2007 Operation: Vietnam. One legitimate question at this point might be, "Why bother remaking a classic game like Commando?" One could just as legitimately answer, "Why not?" If there were more companies looking back at some of the formulas that worked in the past, we might have less to suffer through with rehashed versions of failed modern games. Yes, Survival Horror, I'm talking to you!

The reason I bring all this up is because Operation: Vietnam looks for the most part, like pure ass. Even where retro graphics are concerned, it isn't very good. The sound is just mediocre if you don't count the repetition of gunshots throughout the game that will eventually have you reaching for the volume knob. And yet with all this, we ended up coming back because Operation: Vietnam doesn't disappoint in its gameplay. Put a good game together and you won't need to worry about next-gen graphics or sound. There will obviously be people that can't get past the first ten minutes of Operation: Vietnam without feeling they've been ripped off. The other issue that may arise is how wise it was to host a bloody, Vietnam-themed game on the most kiddie-friendly of consoles. Parents I know aren't rushing out to expose their kids to a good old-fashioned jungle combat simulator, however old-skool it may be. Guess that's what the Teen rating is for...


Gameplay:

Commando was a great game that introduced war-themed scrolling shooters to the masses. As great as it was, how much better could it be to cross-breed this classic gameplay style with squad-based combat? Operation: Vietnam does a nice job of using squad combat to spice up an old formula.

As the game begins, you find yourself in familiar territory, inhabiting the carcass of a lone soldier. Moving through the jungle, you quickly encounter the enemy. Squeeze a burst of machine-gun fire and then another and watch the enemy crumple in a pile with a pitiful "aaargh!" This can't be all that's on the menu, right? Nope. Exploring the jungle further, you find a switch and quickly learn that the switch is attached to a cage where one of your comrades is imprisoned. The first character you rescue is the doctor, an important person. The game's first-aid packs are more useful when the doctor is leading the group, and the first lesson in switching between squad members is delivered. Four squad commands are available and only one allows you to control a character directly. Characters otherwise can be put on attack mode, told to follow, or told to stay. The third and fourth members of your party each have special skills that will come in incredibly handy. Sharpshooting and heavy munitions round out the team, but most gamers will feel most comfortable using the original character since he's the most well-rounded.

As a mission-based game, Operation: Vietnam does some interesting things to reinforce the squad concept. Early into the game, you split up and the pairing is not what most strategic gamers would choose. Instead of balanced teams, the two-man teams imposed on you are polar opposites. One team contains the doctor and the average guy, while the other team contains both the specialists. This kind of stuff is contained also in the design of each mission area and various obstacles thrown in your way. Operation: Vietnam is not a stupid game. It isn't going to appear on anyone's "Game of the" list, either. If you like classic or retro gaming, you will definitely dig this. It is a shame there aren't inventive things done with touch controls, sound or multiplayer. A more ambitious outing that took advantage of the special DS features would be worthy of special mention.


Difficulty:

Enemy A.I. is not terribly complex, but the developers did a nice job of assigning enemies a consistently aggressive stance. By the time you are firing on enemies, they are right on top of you, unless you use the sharpshooter. Every ability has its downside and the sharpshooter's is his limited firing frequency. As a group, it is fairly easy to dominate most enemies, but there are some entrenched enemies or bosses that will try your best abilities. In these cases, you'll fall back on twitch-timing and also take advantage of some special weapons. Grenades and air strikes allow you to take out tougher enemies, and the guy with the rocket-launcher is a force to be reckoned with. Some nice variety in enemy attack styles helps to keep Operation: Vietnam out of the mud. Surprise attacks, enemy bunkers and other tricks abound to keep you on your toes.

Game Mechanics:

The DS touch controls are mostly used to control the squad and give commands to your men. There are times when you encounter a puzzle and the squad commands are necessary, but mostly they're a nice-to-have feature. The doctor's ability to heal at roughly twice the efficiency as any of the other team members comes in very handy. Depending on how you like to play, you may find yourself preferring to play as one squad member over another, since each has some strategic value. The buttons on the DS are mapped to different weapons the men can use as long as they have ample supplies. Puzzle commands are mostly just a matter of standing near the trigger or switch, so there's not much strategy or touchy stuff required.

Operation: Vietnam doesn't disappoint on the retro gaming front. It isn't much to look at, but it delivers the goods in the gameplay department. If you are a fan of the old side-scrolling arcade classics, you'll find this especially nice since not much original content of this type has been seen in quite a while. You can only play Commando so many times before you start looking for a new challenge. Approached with the right attitude, Operation: Vietnam can provide some good entertainment.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Microsoft Xbox 360 Two Worlds Nintendo DS Turn It Around

 
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