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Posted on Nov 21, 2004 in Electronic Games

Men of Valor – Game Review (PC)

Armchair General

Firing your weapon is easy, clicking on the left mouse button will do that nicely for you, or you can click on the right hand mouse button to aim down the sights of your weapon if accuracy is called for. Interestingly in a neat contextual change, whilst you are aiming your weapon, the keys that are normally assigned to moving your character left or right will actually lean you in those directions. I thought this was a great touch – for one thing, it’s two less keys to learn or assign. Again, as with the crouch and prone commands, aiming down the sights of your weapon can either be set up as a straight toggle or if you will only aim for as long as you hold that button down.

Weapon fire rates can also be selected – for those weapons capable of automatic fire, there’s a toggle key that will activate full automatic or single-shot mode. Single-shot mode can be useful if you want to conserve ammunition or if you just pride yourself on accuracy.

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Changing weapons is simple if you have a wheelmouse, all you need to do is scroll up or down to select a new weapon from your arsenal. Nice and easy, and the available weapons cycle around for you as well, so no stopping once you get to the "top" of the list – but beware, you can only carry up to four weapons at a time. Reloading your weapon requires a keypress, although if you are running low, you don’t have to wait for the magazine to be empty before reloading, you can essentially do this at any time, as long as you have some remaining ammunition with you.

Weapons available to you at the start include the M14 rifle, M79 grenade launcher and fragmentation grenades to hurl at the enemy. In addition, when and if you run out of ammo’ for your chosen weapon, you can always swap one of your weapons for another by simply grabbing one from one of your dead enemies. Due to the fact that you are limited to four weapons at any one time, you might as well ditch any weapons for which you have no ammunition and carry something useful. The Soviet-built PPSH41 is one of my favourites. Although it’s not as accurate as your standard issue rifle, it has an insane rate of fire and a large magazine capacity. Once you pick up one of these, you can almost always grab some more ammo’ from a nearby corpse to keep you going.

Later in the game, as you progress through the war, you can unlock more modern weapons such as the ubiquitous M16 Assault Rifle and/or steal more advanced weapons such as AK47s from the enemies you encounter. There are also fixed weapons emplacements that you can take control of.

HMG

You can grab control of this Heavy Machine Gun

Running out of ammunition is, of course, Very Bad. But fear not! If absolutely necessary, you can continue to use your weapon as a blunt instrument – by pressing fire with an empty weapon (or the "M" key if you still have some ammunition left), you can strike out at any nearby enemies and smash their virtual skulls in. Lovely!

Generally speaking, unless you are crouched or crawling, moving your character through the game environment is swift and smooth, although I was slightly concerned about the time it took for my character to change from crouching to standing, especially when I’d just had a grenade thrown at me – moving when crouched was too slow for my liking and I had to reload the level a few times when this happened. It seems that a good strong press of the key is needed to untoggle crouch-mode!

Since I am an impatient game player, I was pleased to see that your character’s walking speed is set to "run" as a default. In fact, if you want to walk around at a slower pace, you need to hold the shift key down whilst you move. Needless to say, this feature didn’t get used by me at all.

Like the other Vietnam FPS game Vietcong, Men of Valor sees you placed "in the field" with a squad of men. You are not alone. Although you are very much the star of the show, it’s nice to see that there is no attempt to suggest that you are some kind of one-man army, endlessly massacring your way through South-East Asia, you are part of a team, albeit a team that (in a game sense) takes its cues from you. Except in a few instances where the plot requires it, the members of your squad will generally stay where you are. They will only move forward to indicate either the general direction you are supposed to go (your "patrol route" if you like) or hang back if the game requires that you, the player, undertake a specific operation.

By way of an example, one mission sees you with the four other members of your squad advancing up a hill deep in the jungle. At all times you move together, and provide covering fire for each other, except at the end of the level when you are required to move forward and mark an enemy bunker with smoke to call in an airstrike. Your squadmates lay down covering fire for you whilst you advance, but other than this assistance, you are on your own for this portion of the level. Tricky…

Unfortunately, your squadmates can sometimes develop the annoying (and potentially fatal!) tendency to walk in front of you as you are letting rip with your machine gun. I really wish they wouldn’t, the paperwork is such a pain to deal with afterwards…

Stats

An example of the end of mission statistics

But of course, you and your squadmates are not the only people strolling around the jungles – there is also the enemy to contend with, and they can be a mixed bunch. Your basic Vietcong guerrilla appears to vary from the fast and sneaky difficult-to-kill variety (hiding and crouching low in a building to pop up and snipe at you every now and then) to the insanely bold easy-to-take-down variety (charging at you, guns blazing, only to be instantly cut down by you and your squadmates). The VC I encountered were also pretty poor shots and didn’t seem to behave as a proper guerrilla army should – they were always very keen to engage us face to face, in the open, rather than hiding or running to fight another day.

The members of the North Vietnamese Army are a different deal altogether. With proper equipment and tactics, they are often much harder to spot, and if they shoot at you, the chances are they will hit you. Beware!

Unlike many FPS games, searching bodies isn’t just a case of walking over them and automatically picking up whatever items the person was carrying – you actually have to stop over the body and press the Space bar. A little timer pops up to demonstrate the time it’s taking your character to search. It’s not long, just a few seconds, but it’s a factor you have to take into account. This is a neat touch that adds a little tension because more often than not you simply won’t have time to search anyone because his friends are busy trying to shoot your teeth out. Even so, I liked this feature.

In the same way, “health management” isn’t always just a case of walking over a Medkit and instantly becoming healthy (although don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of that going on). If you are in combat and you are shot, your health status bar dips a little (or a lot if you are subjected to the blast from a grenade). Dark red indicates permanent damage – you could be in trouble. However lighter red means you are bleeding, and you can stop this before it becomes permanent damage. You have a limited period of time to stop the bleeding by applying a bandage. The default key for this is the “F” key, and by pressing this key, you can restore any light red areas of health that you have lost. In another effort to go towards a more “realistic” situation, it works best if you stay still, so no fighting whilst you are trying to stitch yourself up. Again, this is a neat feature that I quite liked, although on the lower difficulty levels it’s easier to go searching bodies for Medkits because when you find one, you are instantly in tip-top fighting condition again.

Health

Your Health icon

Letter

When you die (and you will, several times at least) your CO sends a letter

home to your family. Which is nice.

During your tour, you will observe other activities, such as the occasional patrol of helicopters flying over your head. Although the helicopters add a sense of ambience to the proceedings, for the most part they just appear to be flying over randomly with no rhyme or reason. I certainly could have done with the assistance of a gunship on more than one occasion and I sometimes got the impression that the choppers were merely being used to reinforce the location of the game – sort of “Look! It really is Vietnam! It’s got Hueys and everything!”

Of course, one of the other defining things about the Vietnam War was the use of booby-traps to injure or kill unsuspecting American soldiers. This game is no exception. Unless you carefully watch where you are stepping at all times, you always run the risk of being taken out by an exploding grenade attached to a tripwire, or a spring-loaded trap of Punji sticks swinging out and impaling you or one of your friends.

Be careful out there.

Booby-Trap

Booby traps are a constant hazard. This guy was my best buddy.

Ooh, Charlie’s gonna pay for this!

When important events happen during the game, the screen goes into "widescreen" mode and a cinematic sequence plays out in front of you, you can continue to look around as your character, but you cannot otherwise move, walk or fire.

Burning the Village

Burning the Village

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