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Men of Valor Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
PIV 1300, 256MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 64MB 3D card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 26, 04 (released)
|» All About Men of Valor on ActionTrip|
Since 2015 revolutionized the military-based first person shooter genre, you can't swing a dead cat in a videogame store without knocking over piles of WWII and Vietnam based shooter games. For those of you not in the know, let's hop in the ActionTrip Way Back Machine and look at the events leading up to today, shall we? In 2002, the relatively unknown development team at 2015 hooked up with EA Games to publish the original trendsetter, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Shortly thereafter, the development of the MoH: AA expansion games were outsourced to EALA, with the upper echelon of 2015 moving on to form Infinity Ward, who developed the fabulous Call of Duty. Call of Duty was published by Activision that has since acquired Infinity Ward and the rights to the Call of Duty franchise (outsourcing Call of Duty: United Offensive to Gray Matter Studios). Meanwhile, what was left of 2015 started work on a new game project initially called Men of Valor: Vietnam.
Fast forward to present day and we have a situation where Men of Valor has lost the 'Vietnam' suffix in its title and has been released by Vivendi Universal Games for the PC platform.
Is everyone paying attention? Good.
In many ways, Men of Valor plays exactly like CoD or MoH: AA in a Vietnam setting. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' seems to be the prevailing idea behind Men of Valor, as it has been the case with all the other military shooters that originated from Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Aside from the most obvious, there are certain differences that set MoV apart from the rest of the WWII shooter pack, but they're mostly subtle in their nature and I doubt you'd notice them if you weren't paying close attention.
The biggest difference is that Men of Valor is the first descendant of MoH: AA to be set in the Vietnam War. Naturally, this brings with it certain design changes, reflected mostly in the level design, story and the nature of the action itself.
The game puts the player in the role of Dean Shepard, a black Marine stationed in Vietnam in 1965. With this scenario come many references to the problems of racial segregation and of other ensuing issues that eventually culminated in huge riots that literally set the city of Detroit on fire in the 1970's. The game also doesn't shy away from tackling the subject of the treatment of the war by the press at the time, even hinting that free press was one of the culprits for the often skewed picture of the events in Vietnam that the Americans were getting back home.
Without a doubt, this was a bold move by the writers. In terms of the dialogue, Men of Valor makes an effort to tackle certain sociopolitical issues (Bet THAT'S a word you never expected to see from AT! - Ed.) from the perspective of an African American, and that in itself adds a new subtle twist to the genre. There's also plenty of swearing, but that only helps to further immerse the player in the gritty ambiance of the Vietnam War. Writing the story the way they did, the writers not only added more depth to the game, they also helped us to sympathize more with Dean and his squadmates.
The real meat of Men of Valor, however, is in its missions and many skirmishes with the Vietcong. Certainly, when looking at a game like this one, one cannot help but compare it to Call of Duty or Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. One has to be careful when doing so however, as the very nature of the Vietnam conflict doesn't allow this comparison to be taken too far. So as far as Men of Valor is concerned, the game does a good job of letting the players experience all that the Vietnam War had to offer-from the short and intense guerilla skirmishes in the jungle to a more massive operations involving APCs, choppers and F-4 Phantoms dropping napalm on enemy positions. Overall, one could say that 2015 has done a fairly good job of capturing the feel of the conflict and in that sense, Men of Valor is somewhat different from games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.
However, the fact remains that throughout my time with the game, I had never felt the type of rush I'd get from playing Call of Duty. Breaking down the game play of either title into its most basic elements reveals that both games play pretty much the same-you go on from one mission to the next, engaging the enemy in a sequence of scripted events. Somehow, however, the action in Men of Valor never really manages to be as intense as in Call of Duty. In fact, on most occasions it doesn't even come close. I have tried to decipher why this is so, as it's very hard to explain why I felt this way or that while playing it. One thing is that the AI is not nearly as good as in Call of Duty (especially of the VC soldiers), and one other major difference is the rather shoddy sound quality when compared to the glorious 24-bit sound engine from CoD. While the in game settings look nice, and the 3D engine uses advanced DirectX 9 shader effects to create realistic explosions and particle effects-complete with billows of black smoke rising up in the air and the now customary heat haze effect making the air around the fire shimmer from the heat-the character animation seems jerky and unnatural. When combined with the rather one-sided and predictable way in which the VC troops move and the muffled sounds of guns, explosions and VC cries, one can get a clearer picture as to why I couldn't immerse myself quite as much in this game. Another possible reason why this was the case is that many of the missions are unbalanced in terms of their difficulty and the flow of the action. A game like this is supposed to take you on a fun-filled, adrenaline-charged rollercoaster ride, and only a few of the mission in Men of Valor have managed to achieve that.
It could very well be that I had my standards set too high, and that I'm jaded from all the military shooters that I've played over the years, but I'm simply trying to be as honest about how I felt while playing the game as I can.
Overall, Men of Valor is not a bad military shooter-far from it in fact. It's a good military shooter with a well written single-player campaign, some catchy tunes from the era and a fully featured multiplayer mode. Those of you who are military shooter buffs should certainly want to play it, but don't expect the type of nail-biting action that we've witnessed in Call of Duty or MoH: AA. The game just never clicked in the same way for this reviewer and that had very little to do with the different nature of the conflicts that were portrayed in the abovementioned games.
Nice twist to the story, great soundtrack, special effects, decent action, replay value;
Mediocre AI, sound effects, jerky animation, graphical glitches, not as intense as the top games in the genre.
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