Shellshock: 'Nam '67 Xbox
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Released on 03/09/2004
Goooood moooorning shooter fans.
"No event in American History is more misunderstood than the Vietnam war. It was misreported then and is misremembered now." said Richard Nixon in 1985. Eidos is hoping that its shocking new title doesn't misremember the Vietnam conflict.
Many gamers have spent the last few years fighting their way up beaches, through French barns and across arid and dusty deserts, but this year it seems like World War 2 and The Gulf are to take a backseat to games based on the Vietnam War, with Battlefield: Vietnam in the shops already, Conflict: Vietnam and Men of Valor are on the way, and Shellshock: Nam '67 preparing to revile you in its own way.
The reason for this sudden influx of Vietnam games is simple - you can't have a Vietnam war game without thick vegetation to fight your way through, and it's only recently that games technology has reached the point where 3D jungle environments can be crafted with any degree of realism.
Developed by Guerilla - the team that is also working on Sony's great white hope Killzone, Shellshock: Nam '67 follows a year in the life of a rookie GI doing a tour of duty in Vietnam. As the game progresses you will get to see all different aspects of the horrific war, and your character will grow in ability, responsibility and rank as the game progresses.
There seems to be a wide range of mission styles, ranging from stealth, to locating and disarming traps, to full-on jungle skirmishes. Each of the game styles seems to have been well-implemented and there's a strong leaning towards realism. For example it's possible to carry only one main weapon, one sidearm and a few grenades at any one time - though you do have access to a large range of both US and Vietcong weapons from the era as you progress through the game.
Levels are connected by spending time at your base camp, where you can get up to numerous activities, such as acquiring contraband or just relaxing with your fellow soldiers.
Shellshock has an interesting look to it, a kind of grainy film-stock effect which lends it an almost documentary-like look and certainly adds to the realism. Considering this, certain sights in particular are very shocking - you will see the heads of fellow GIs on spikes, GIs that have been crucified, and worse. It's certainly not a game that glorifies war by airbrushing over some of the nastier aspects.
You're being shot at, people you know are relying on you, and you want to get home in one piece.
I was a little concerned at first that the game may be unfairly politically skewed - that maybe it was happy to depict the horrors it has been talking up from just the one side. Yes, American GIs were tortured and killed in horrific ways by the Vietnamese, but just as many inhuman travesties were committed at the hands of the US war machine. To say the whole subject is morally thorny is an understatement.
Thankfully the game avoids such issues expertly by making it a purely personal experience. It's about you. You're a kid, a rookie who no doubt would prefer to be at home listening to The Grateful Dead and Buffalo Springfield. A nameless, faceless GI (in a nod to Oliver Stone's Platoon). You don't want to be there, you probably don't understand why you're there, and whether you think your government is the good or the bad guy in this situation is irrelevant. The facts are that you're there, you're being shot at, people you know are relying on you, and you want to get home in one piece, and that's all there is to it. It was a horrible war to live through, and that is exactly what the game is trying to get at.
Guerilla is also promising that the war crimes of the US will be depicted, which is nice to see, and it sounds like some of the open-ended gameplay could lead to certain moral conflicts arising on the way. It even seems like civilian casualties can happen, or not, depending on decisions you make as you decide how to complete some of the more open-ended missions. If this is carried out in a clever enough way (imagine a situation where the men you are responsible for are at less risk if you carry out a mission a certain way - but you know that at the same time you're putting the lives of many innocent women and children in a local village at risk) then it could add a whole new dimension of moral responsibility and guilt to the already not-fun of war.
At this stage, my main worry is that players could become frustrated by being unable to see their enemy properly (as our boss, a huge fan of Battlefield: 1942, recently discovered with the new game in that series). However, the inability of the US troops to see the invisible enemy that was picking them off is the very reason this war was so terrifying, and why playing Shellshock will be too. Vietnam is a war that should be remembered for one reason - so we don't forget how awful human beings can be to each other when pushed. As long as Shellshock keeps this in mind then it should be an entertaining, enlightening and healthily uncomfortable experience.
Preview by: Jonny Austin
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