“Oh, dear”. Probably not a the most obvious way to start a review, but while playing, Air Conflicts: Vietnam last year on PS3, I found myself inadvertently speaking those very words aloud. Returning a year later on PS4 for the ‘Ultimate Edition’, I sadly find myself repeating those very same words. 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 decent enough 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 new simulation mode added for this, ‘Ultimate Edition’, also offers up a more traditionally hardcore control scheme for those looking for a little more challenge. It’s not nearly as fun as the standard arcade control set-up and doesn’t particularly suit the game built around it, but as far as simulation style controls go, they certainly to do the trick.
The aircrafts might be fun to control (in both arcade and simulation modes) and they might even look rather nice (well, in comparison to your surroundings anyway), but my God, the rest of the game truly is utter 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 wasn’t worth your attention last year, and certainly one that fails to justify its, ‘Ultimate Edition’ tag a year later.
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 unforgivable.
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 no two ways about it – Air Conflicts: Vietnam Ultimate Edition 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. The poor visuals and technical problems were hard to take on PS3, but with very little in the way of tangible improvements, are even harder to take on the exponentially more powerful PS4.
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. The inclusion of the new ‘Lost Letters’ mode which has you playing as Vietnamese ace, Nguyen An Toon is a nice touch and provides an interesting secondary viewpoint to the conflict, but even this is dragged down by the fundamental issues that drag the entirety of the experience down.
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 Ultimate Edition 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 amounts to an utterly pointless re-release. It was bad on last-gen consoles, but on the PlayStation 4, it’s array of faults are all but unforgivable.
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