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ShellShock: Nam '67 Review

publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Guerrilla
genre: Action

PIV 2400, 512MB RAM, 3GB HDD, 32MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Sep 14, 04
» All About ShellShock: Nam '67 on ActionTrip

September 15, 2004

War is hell, but you know, staying afloat in the videogame business is no picnic either. Of course no one will chop your head off and nail it on a pike for failing, or torture you by strapping you to an electro shock device for several days, cutting off your balls, and finally execute you by cutting you a thousand times until you bleed out, but to make money in this industry you have to know how to play the game, you have to be ruthless; but most importantly you have to have good execution.

Now let's look at the facts about the game in hand - Guerrilla's ShellShock Nam '67. For this game, everything was an uphill battle from day one. ShellShock arrives at a time when the market is literally oversaturated with games depicting either the Vietnam War or the Second World War. To make matters worse, the market is also oversaturated with military shooters. The game has no multiplayer and after finishing the single-player campaign in literally one day of active gaming, I'm left to wonder if the developers understand the concept of replay value.

From the get-go, I believe that EIDOS made a mistake by promoting this one as the title that will finally show the grittiness and the harsh reality of the Vietnam War. I'm sure they never phrased it quite like that, but if you've read any of the previews, that is the kind of vibe you would be getting. Fair enough, when you consider the above-stated fact that ShellShock lands in a time when only the biggest of enthusiasts are excited about another 'Nam shooter, it's somewhat understandable that the publisher had to come up with some kind of sales pitch. ShellShock is a mature rated title about Vietnam War that exposes the Vietnam campaign in all its gory detail - or something like that. A title that doesn't take sides, and instead tries to show the conflict for what it really was... only, it's a little hard to believe that it was normal for the infirmary at your base camp to be brimming with big-busted, hot looking nurses. I mean all of them are hot! And all of them have huge, firm chests! Moreover, all you ever do in your spare time, while you're catching some R&R at the base camp, is try desperately to get STD's from the local ladies for hire. Who exactly are they trying to sell this game to? Horny teenagers? That can't be it; I mean this is a mature rated game, right?

Granted, I'm sure there was such a base camp in Vietnam, but that was probably the Mickey Mouse division. If you want to present a gritty side of the conflict - any conflict - you need to have the players sympathize with the characters. You need to make the anguish and the mental torture of the characters tangible for the player. Now this is only my personal view on the matter, but after finishing this game, I almost felt like I was fighting occult hell spawns and not the VC. Military conflicts are tragic, but they are usually not about right or wrong and good or bad. While there are attempts to mask this at certain points of the game (where you'd see a US soldier execute a VC prisoner in the cut-scenes), the prevailing sentiment you get after playing ShellShock is that you're fighting on the side of the good guys against an inherently evil army of the VC. So much for the realistic portrayal of the Vietnam conflict... or any conflict in the human history for that matter.

Now, as for the game play itself, there's nothing realistic about it, but this was never meant to be a military shooter sim in the first place. No, ShellShock is a very acradish title, with very straightforward and simple action. In its essence, this is a console game. The interface has been made in such a way that it's handy for console play - you disarm booby traps by completing a simple mini-game, the game is saved through checkpoints, etc.

Players are cast in the role of an American GI whose bravery and efficiency in combat lands him a job in the Special Forces. Aside from a few solo missions, the game play revolves around team-based action. You don't lead your team per se; they simply follow you around and eliminate any hostiles they see along the way. Completing objectives like going into VC tunnels and setting C4 explosives - that will mostly be your job and not your squad mates'.

Most of the action comes down to a lot of running and gunning, although there are some attempts to introduce diversity with a number of more or less stealth-based missions. The only problem with the stealth missions is that you can easily complete them by killing everyone on the map. The designers should've realized that in terms of enemy and player hit points, the same rules apply to action-oriented missions as they do to stealth missions. In other words, you can kill VC troopers just as easily in stealth missions as you can in action-oriented ones (where you're expected to kill 'em by the dozens), so this gives very little incentive for the player to even try the stealthy approach.

Everything about the game play is mediocre really. The AI works fine, but there's nothing spectacular about it. The battles can get intense at certain times, but they never leave you with the feeling that you absolutely need to have more of it. Mission design is fairly standard and full of scripted events, and level design is railed and linear.

The most glaring drawback about the arcade-style game play is the mouse look and how it handles during combat. No matter how many different sensitivity settings I tried, none of them felt right. For an arcade shooter that's supposed to be all about the fluidity of the action and seamless controls, aiming the gun certainly didn't feel as natural as it should. In game's defense, as I stuck with it, I rather got used to the flawed mouse sensitivity and it eventually stopped being an issue for me.

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5.6   Okay

Firefights can get intense at times, soundtrack, a couple of moody-looking levels;

Game play is generic and mediocre, very short single-player, no multiplayer.


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