For the longest time I have been completely unable to not enjoy any game based on the Vietnam conflict. Battlefield Vietnam, including the Bad Company 2 expansion pack, would be my favourite to date. I remember playing offline with bots because I didn’t have the internet, and still loving every second. Ever play Conflict: Vietnam? I did. Hours me and my friend spent playing that game on his PS2 and soaking up the jungly goodness it had to offer. How about Shellshock Nam ’67, Vietcong? Some were awful, yet utterly enjoyable and good fun. I am completely at odds to explain to you why I enjoy games based on Vietnam, because I have no idea myself!
Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a game I am in two minds about. Nothing in this game is particularly well done. The missions are repetitive, the AI is almost non existent, the graphics are average at best, helicopter and bombing missions are tedious for the most part and the on-rails sections are worse than awful. Saying all that, this game gives off a nostalgic vibe that I just cannot explain.
Air combat in jets is average, there is nothing special here. The controls seem standard and inoffensive to anyone who’s played an arcade style flight sim before. Helicopters on the other hand are a tad fiddly with several buttons sometimes required to be pressed at once to descend or ascend while moving. A little time with the game should get rid of any of these problems, but still can be a hindrance to newcomers.
The earlier parts of the game seem to be designed to drag on, almost taunting the player to give up. With objectives that seem pointless, like literally flying from one point to another just to watch a cutscene explain why you’re there, the game offers little incentive to continue past the first few missions. There are far too many missions in this game; I was convinced it was going to end at least four missions before the game decided it had made me ferry enough imaginary people back and forth.
If you ever played Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, and I hope you all did as it’s bloody fantastic, you’ll feel right at home with the on-rails sections. The only difference is that these manage to be worse than a game limited to the technology available ten years ago. With grenades blowing up “Double A”, as the game insistently refers to Anti-Aircraft guns as, and enemy troops standing perfectly still while you slaughter countless numbers of them this game made me wonder if it was trying to be taken seriously or not.
This appeared to be the case with the ‘story’ and other mechanics, like the fact you have to drop bombs but never get the satisfaction of seeing the explosion, as your planes turns realistically in its huge turning circle.
The voice acting in this game is frankly awful. This doesn't help the festering carcass of a story, pinned together by letters received from home. The ending is downright depressing and I understand it’s to make a point, but when the story is so badly depicted to the player and the emotional weight this then attempts to deliver is lost, the ending can come across as quite pointless and uninteresting. Altogether, the attempt at a narrative beyond that of the historical timeline that string the levels together seems fruitless, as it’s just plain hard to care.
So after all these seemingly unacceptable design choices, how am I going to explain why I enjoyed this game? Firstly, once past the first few missions the game seems to be very competent at what it does. It’s a flying game and it does it well. Is this going to be your next choice over say, Ace Combat? Probably not. This however doesn't for a second mean there is no enjoyment to be had here. If you start to take the game on face value you start to see the fun in it. The story and voice acting and even the mission structure can be ignored if you just see it as virtual shooting gallery, which in the end I started to. Also an honourable mention must go out to the three songs in the game that play constantly over and over again just to cement that low budget feeling.
Understanding what the game is trying to do will not really help you here, my recommendation is to ignore it and shoot stuff. Are there better ways to shoot stuff on your PC? Definitely. Are there better ways to fly around on your PC? You bet. So can I justify the asking price to you? No.
Please don’t consider this me saying the game is awful, because it’s not. It’s boring game design and ten year old mechanics can sometimes cause you to pull your hair out, but somewhere deep inside there is a good game trying to get out and you might find some fun like I did.
Especially if you have a secret burning love for Vietnam games.