LithTech engine, budget publisher, and a $20 price tag.
Not exactly what you're looking for when you're searching for a
great game. Vietnam Black Ops fits right in this bracket, so you'll
find it shouldering up on the shelves with previous "top sellers"
like Deer Hunter and Hard Truck at your local Walmart. You don't
usually find too many first person shooters sitting in the bargain
bin when they first come out, so what there to expect from VBO?
Well, surprisingly, there's actually more than expected.
ValuSoft hasn't exactly come out with a classic game
yet; Desperados, War in Heaven, and their Whitetail Hunting series
aren't likely to win any awards for innovation. Like their name
implies, they're up there with WizardWorks as a budget games
publisher. VBO shows signs of this right from the get-go.
The storyline is somewhat of a Vietnam era Soldier of
Fortune. You're on a mission to assassinate some Viet Cong
general and your helicopter gets shot down and you're taken as a
POW. An in-game sequence begins with your POW camp being
bombed and an explosion opening your cell. Another bomb kills a
bunker allowing you to go grab their weapons and start your
mission, to find the General and make your way back home. While
it's not full of a lot of in game cutscenes, it does have a few that do
add to the game experience.
The LithTech engine powered Blood 2 and Shogo, both
games that came out in 1998, so the engine behind the game is
rather dated. Even when it was new, it didn't stack up well against
the competition, the Quake2 and Unreal engines. It did have some
nice features so seeing it back in action isn't too terrible.
Graphically, VBO is behind the times, but it does do a relatively
decent job with the LithTech engine. Level designs are somewhat
large, but they sometimes look rather clumsy. Many of the levels
are dark, very dark, so dark that it really doesn't matter how good
the quality of the graphics are because it's too dark to tell anyway.
The outdoor levels have a sort of clunky feel to them, decent sized
but the budget unpolished textures really stand out. The gun
models are at least semi-accurate and the enemy unit models (all
one of them) are okay as well.
Speaking of guns, I might as well note what you'll be
getting. Nothing real interesting here, but since it's supposed to be
relatively realistic the guns are fitting. You will have in your
arsenal a knife, an AK-47, a M-16, M-60, grenade launcher, rocket
laucher, and a sniper rifle. I do have to say that the machine guns
are somewhat hard to tell the difference in action, though the M-60
does cut down enemies a tad bit faster. I didn't really see a big
difference between weapons except in a big fight. One on one, no
gun is really any better than another.
The LithTech engine wasn't exactly an efficient engine
and it shows here as well. Somewhat long load times and a very
touchy input system make the game semi-irritating. The keyboard
controls are just too sensitive for the number of tomb raider-esque
jumping/climbing elements. I'd also like to say that I hate jumping
sequences and having to walk balance beams. Real life doesn't
exactly consist of this, and if it did it'd be much easier to do.
The game design in VBO is what really is the most
impressive feature of the game. Combine some of the elements of
VBO with Soldier of Fortune and you could have had one badass
game. VBO is full of plenty of ambush types of situations. If there's
a dark corner anywhere on a map, there's almost always going to
be Charlie sitting waiting for you to come around. There are also a
fair number of tripwires and pit traps, though they probably could
have gotten away with more. Some of the traps are pretty well
hidden, so saving is somewhat of a necessity. The game only is
composed of nine levels, but it's chock full of baddies, traps,
jumping over gorges, and etc to make the game pretty difficult.
While I was disappointed to the lack of multiplayer, I will
say that; 1. This is $20 budget game and 2. The LithTech engine
was horribly inefficient at multiplayer.
Really, VBO is not a bad game. There's some good ideas
here, some crappy implementation, but for a cheapo shooter, it's
quite good. There's a good level of difficulty and it has enough of
an interest level to be playable for at least a little while. It suffers
from subpar graphics, overly sensitive controls, and an unpolished
budget look. If you're a gamer who likes to roam the budget rack,
it might be worth your time. If you'd just like another FPS to play
and Daikatana's just not doing it for you, it might also be worth a
Highs: good use of traps, enemy placement - requires a
little more strategy than run and gun
Lows: no gamma control makes for VERY dark levels,
overly sensitive keyboard controls, too much balance beam
walking, only one enemy model, no multiplayer