Air Conflicts: Vietnam

The Vietnam War isn’t exactly a popular destination for video games. We have seen a few, but none have met with particularly great responses. However, setting a combat flight simulator in the Vietnam War era is actually something of a nifty idea. This war saw the first major implementation of helicopters as combat vehicles. So producing a game that takes the full spectrum of the war for the skies over that beleaguered country is, on paper at least, a really good idea.

That’s what Air Conflicts: Vietnam tries to do. Initial missions are an interesting mix of jet-based dog-fights and bombing runs, with the player laying down groundwork for later offensives. It is at this point – right in the beginning of the game, really, that the arcade nature of the title comes to the fore. Another thing that strikes as being a little odd is that the operation area for missions is pretty small. That means the player doesn’t have a hell of a lot of manoeuvring room, particularly when it comes to dog fights. Still, the jet combat missions are fairly fun. And then the choppers come into the mix. Their controls are a little twitchy, to say the least, and these engagements can get extremely frustrating. A particular mission in which the player takes over as the door gunner in a chopper was particularly frustrating, because the game leaves very little room to breathe in some of the more tense situations.

There are other missions, too, which touch on some of the more controversial practices that the US undertook during this long and difficult (and quite possibly pointless) war. Flying a large prop plane low over forested areas while dispensing a substance that the game has renamed Agent Purple (seriously?) leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, but not because these missions can be brutally difficult.

The whole package manages to produce a lot of frustration. Many of the missions – particularly when the player is not granted the break-neck freedom of a jet – simply get too difficult. This is made even worse by the fact that the controls can get extremely finicky at times. Replaying missions is something you’ll do a lot of with Air Conflicts: Vietnam. One area in which this game manages to truly shine are the recreations of the aircraft. These are painstakingly detailed renderings of a large number of military aircraft that took to the skies over Vietnam. Enthusiasts may find a lot of appeal in that, but they will likely shy away from the small mission areas, controls that just don’t quite feel right, and the huge amount of frustration that certain missions (which end up feeling like mini-game puzzles because of the accuracy they demand) result in.

When all is said and done, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a valiant attempt to take on a subject matter that not many people like thinking too much about. While many atrocities happened on the ground in this brutal conflict, exfoliation agents and napalm strikes – two of the most controversial tactics used by the US – came from the air. But the title doesn’t manage to rise above mediocrity in terms of game dynamics or plot. Sadly, this is an opportunity that has been wasted, as Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a game that would have benefitted from a little more polish. If you can look past its weaker elements, it can be fairly enjoyable, but it won’t be breaking any records.



Verdict:

A game that potentially could have been great, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is dragged down by numerous design elements that could have used more polish.

Developer: bitComposer
Publisher: Kalypso
Distributer: Silver Screen

Platforms:
PC
XBOX 360
PS3

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