The Vietnam War is something of a mystery. It was one of the bloodiest conflicts of recent years and America's first real defeat despite technical superiority.
There are several reasons known to have contributed to the loss of the war. Not least of these was the political aspect. Politicians have this wonderful way of starting wars and then continually interfering, making it impossible for the military to act effectively. Then there was the fact that this was the first televised war. People could see the atrocities almost as soon as they had happened. Propaganda was, if anything, negative.
Finally, there was the flexibility of the enemy forces. This proved to be the decisive factor in many engagements. American equipment and tactics left their troops vulnerable on several occasions. Difficult material from the point of view of game design.
The author has been wise enough to avoid a large scale game which would have required unwieldy commands and unit types, as well as needing to incorporate the political factors. Instead, the game is a collection of six mini-games, each scenario based on a medium-sized engagement that actually took place. Each scenario may be played at any of three difficulty levels, with the extra option of having historically accurate deployment at the beginning of the game.
All the prompts you need to make your selection are displayed in large but tidy text along with a mini-version of the relevant scenario map, so setting up is easy. So is play. The game uses phased movement and combat and is controlled, for the most part, by the joystick. This is a far better method than the old, six directional numeric control featured in their older games.
The reason for this is because SSI have dropped the old hex system in favour of the free-flowing technique introduced in Field of Fire. The map is smooth scrolling, which is a vast improvement on the old system where the screen would re-draw as the cursor reached the edge of the visible map.
It's not all good news, however. The unit symbols are pretty pathetic, being a series of badly redefined characters. Whereas before you had most of a unit's information incorporated into its map marker, a message line is now employed whenever the cursor is above a friendly unit. As is the case with most SSI games, only one player may take part and there is no choice of forces. A save game feature is included.
Units are scaled to represent individual vehicles or small-fire teams of infantry. Consequently, the game is largely tactical in nature. This is ideal for the format and works well in play. The atmosphere is intense from start to finish. Overall, the feeling is one of increased sophistication at no cost to playability.
Each unit has its ID, strength, movement allowance and armour factors displayed when selected. Unit types are truck, infantry, APC (M113), recoil-less rifle, tank (M48 Patton or M41 Walker Bulldog), helicopter and 81mm mortar. Support and infantry units may be carried by APCs or helicopters. This is often the only way to get at the enemy. Line of sight limitations and bad terrain often inhibit your armour from making the most of its firepower.
Artillery barrages and air strikes may be called upon during each turn, but the speed of enemy force movement limits their effectiveness. If an enemy unit is in heavy cover, only helicopters can really fight them. The single exception to this is the mortar unit which is the most flexible form of indirect fire system you possess.
The rules booklet is comprehensive and clear. However, the one I had was a photocopy from the American packaging. Once these games are released over here, such booklets are often clumsily compressed into a folded leaflet. As long as nothing is left out, this should not be important.
Vietnam is a game that captures the essence of bloody and confusing battle that was so typical of the war. The victory and difficulty levels present a fair but demanding challenge. But most of all, I liked the absence of sensationalism (with the possible exception of the game's cover). A deep understanding of events and circumstances shows throughout the game and the result is a pleasantly educational but startlingly horrific and compelling simulation which I recommend without hesitation.
Unit symbols take some getting used to but the rules booklet is thorough.
Good, smooth scrolling maps and attractive character set.
Excellent. If the content remains the same when these are reprinted for the English market, there should be no complaints.
Incredibly atmospheric and realistic. Getting the best from your forces under tough conditions will be the goal of many players for months.
Value For Money 90%
Contrary to popular belief, the best things in life are never free.
SSI continue to set the pace.