Though it may seem insensitive and callous, the fact remains that war and conflict make for great video games.?As a result, in the world of gaming, it seems as though the Vietnam conflict has become the ?new’ World War II.? While there have been countless titles based on the greatest worldwide conflict(s) of the 20th century, and many of them have been earmarks for what makes a great game, Vietnam has been no such source of gaming goodness. Worthy titles have been few and far between, Vietcong and Battlefield: Vietnam being the obvious exceptions, but the vast majority of Vietnam-based games have disappointed.?Being the latest offering from Brainbox Games, does Marine Heavy Gunner: Vietnam, accomplish anything significant to help change our minds??Well, if you enjoy repetitive, contrived gameplay with a smattering of obscenities, then it just may be the game for you.
Marine Heavy Gunner (or MHG from here on in) is a Vietnam-based title that attempts to mix traditional first-person shooter gameplay with that of a basic rail shooter and then serve it all up on a smoldering plate of mediocrity.?The portions of the game that place the player on foot require him (or her) to lead a group of computer-controlled Marines through the dense wilderness. These ?companions’ do little more than stand around and allow the player to use them for replenishing health or ammo whenever either should run low. It’s an interesting concept, though not one that hasn’t been done before, and it serves its purpose well here. However, due to the fact that your squad-mates feel somewhat sterile and lifeless, you might as well be picking up health and ammo power-ups off the ground all the same.?When you’re not refitting at your friendly neighborhood marine station, the player simply treks through the jungle (at an unbearably slow pace to boot) to get in position to setup the next rail shooting sequence.?In these instances, wave after wave of identical looking enemies throw themselves upon the merciless waves of lead surging from your machine gun. You’ll also seemingly take damage at random, never mind the fact that there’s no one on screen to hit you. If you’re lucky enough to score a headshot, the game makes sure to keep you informed by displaying, in what must be a size 4 font, the words “Head Shot!” in the top corner of your screen. It’s additions like this that seem to boggle the mind and begs the question: Why? Missions vary from providing cover fire from a chopper, manning an MG on a swift boat, to investigating enemy encampments and tunnel systems. While things can be quite frenetic at times, the graphics and atmosphere of the game do little to draw players into the action. There is just nothing extraordinary in MHG’s gameplay that stands out and screams for worthwhile recognition.
The AI also leaves much to be desired as your squad-mates often get stuck on what is supposed to be soft, luscious tropical flora and fauna, but more closely resembles stiff cardboard cut outs. Enemy characters will often stand motionless with their guns at their sides while you shoot at them wildly, completely oblivious to the fact they’re about to become a stain on the rice patty.
MHG takes pride in the fact that it uses the Unreal engine to power its graphics.?But, although it’s not specifically mentioned, it’s obvious we’re talking about the ?original’ Unreal when assessing the quality of visuals that are presented here.?Fantastic modeling, realistic water, rag doll physics, real-time lighting, bump mapping, dazzling explosions?that’s right, not a single one of these things appears in MHG.?At first glance the character models appear to be fairly detailed, but closer inspection reveals low poly counts, mouths that don’t even attempt to lip synch any of the game’s voiceovers (more on those coming up) and animations that just look fake.?Combine this with sparsely detailed terrain, enemy combatants that are all virtually identical in appearance, and MHG doesn’t stand much of a chance of landing on any serious gamer’s hard drive.?
While the sound is only slightly below average, the voice acting is hysterically dreadful.? While the main character, Grant, sounds like Max Payne reincarnated circa late 1960’s, all of the game’s voiceovers were undoubtedly performed by friends of the developers.? Couple this with the fact that they often spout out dialogue completely inapplicable to the action taking place on screen, and you’ve got yourself a fine mess. The only saving grace is the tolerable music that often manages to accurately reflect the current scenario and some appropriately throaty sound effects for the heavier caliber weapons.
On the plus side, MHG allows for some of the smoothest ?alt-tabbing’ that I’ve ever seen.?To be perfectly fair, however, MHG is quite similar to a very strong title released last year called Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. Both mix rail and FPS elements, and the action sequences in both have very similar feels.?What’s the difference between the two, you ask?? Production values.?Black Hawk Down simply looks, sounds, and feels better than anything in MHG. It is also worthy to note that MHG is actually a budget title.? Should we expect the same caliber of gameplay found in games like the aforementioned Black Hawk Down, or even Call of Duty, when we’re paying a mere fraction of the general price??Well, probably not.? It’s a sad thing that we must lower our standards because of MHG’s price tag.? If we do, however, what we’re left with is a technically functional first-person shooter that may prove to expand our expletive vocabulary and, in turn, will leave any seasoned gamer with a sour taste in their mouth. What would my advice be to those of you playing on a tight budget??Slowly step away from the bargain bin. That’s right, now put your wallet away and continue to save your cash until you can come back and purchase a full priced title that’s worthy of your hard-earned green.?