“Oh, dear”. Probably not a the most obvious way to start a review, but while playing, Air Conflicts: Vietnam, I found myself inadvertently speaking those very words aloud. Rather than screaming and shouting in frustration at all that is wrong with this rather disastrous attempt at a video game, I instead found myself sitting back, caught in a strange emotional quagmire of disappointment, shock and pity. It’s not bad enough to be funny and nowhere near good enough to be enjoyable, it just exists as a game in which its few competencies are completely overshadowed by its technical limitations and array of poor design choices.
Strangely enough, it all starts rather positively – the fighter jets and helicopters all look rather nice with handling finding that sweet spot between simulation and arcade controls. Some of the helicopter controls can be a little tricky, but for the most part, each of the aircraft feel decidedly unique with a host of capabilities and attributes that make the games’ most basic actions really quite enjoyable.
The problem comes from the game built around these aircraft. They might be fun to control and they might even look rather nice (especially on PC), but my God, is the rest of the game pants. From the shoddy visuals to the piss poor audio, the terribly told story to the mostly boring missions and, worst of all, the game breaking invisible walls, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a game that, simply put, isn’t worth your attention.
Of all of the games’ faults, the most unforgiving has to be the invisible walls. I accept that all games of this ilk require an invisible barrier at some point in the game world, but here, the game area is so enclosed and the limitations so clearly sign posted that it completely robs the game of any sense of scale. It’s so bad and so obvious (a giant red wall in case you were wondering), that you can actually use these limitations to force enemy aircraft back towards your position for an easy kill…….not in any way fun. It’s bad enough when traveling in one of the relatively pedestrian helicopters, but when in the cockpit of a high speed fighter jet, it is simply unforgiveable.
It might (might) have made more sense if the game world was highly detailed, but man, this is one ass ugly game. As good as the aircraft might look, just about everything else looks like utter ass. I don’t want to sound overly harsh, but there are now two ways about it – Air Conflicts: Vietnam is butt ugly. The terrain, the enemies, the explosions, heck, even the sky, it’s all horrible to look at. It’s also a bit of a technical disaster to boot with the constant pop-up in the scenery proving especially jarring.
It’s a shame too as Vietnam is so iconic that a game in this setting has so much to pool from, so many fantastic reference points that it comes across as an especially wasted opportunity when everything falls so disappointingly flat. If nothing else, the developers at Games Farm should have been able to create a mood associated with the setting and the war. Instead, you’re stuck with an array of locations that could be from just about anywhere in South East Asia and a story that absolutely fails to capture the imagination with poor writing and delivery combining to create a complete mess of a tale. Still, at least they got the music right, I mean come on, there is no way they could make a mess of that is there. Oh, wait a tick; they could and they have. Despite the myriad of music and sounds associated with the conflict, developer, Games Farm have somehow made even this aspect of the experience both boring and mostly forgettable.
The lengthy single player campaign, despite the solid handling of the aircraft is nothing short of a slog. The uninspired mission design and the limited airspace essentially ruin any chance of this game ever being close to what anyone could consider enjoyable. The story is mince and the setting absolutely wasted. There are a collection of online multiplayer modes with capture the flag providing a potentially interesting twist on the standard dogfight set-up, but again, limited airspace severely limits the tactical possibilities, and besides, you would do extremely well to find another human being playing this game. That’s not me being unnecessarily mean, it’s a simple fact.
With its wasted setting, array of technical limitations and horribly told story, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a game absolutely impossible to recommend……to anyone. Even if you’re a fan of arcade-style air combat (which I am), there is simply noting here that hasn’t been done so much better elsewhere. The fighter jets and helicopters look quite nice and they do handle well, but when the rest of the game is as poor as it is here, these positives only serve as a further disappointment to what is, I’m sad to say, one of 2013’s very worst games.
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