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DS  header logo

Operation: Vietnam

For: DS

War may be hell, but this certainly isn't

Product: Operation: Vietnam | Developer: Coyote Developments Ltd | Publisher: Eidos plc | Format: DS | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Operation: Vietnam DS, thumbnail 1
We've never been in battle, thankfully. And because of the critical role game journalists play in the smooth running of the country, we'll hopefully never have to, either. Not that we'd be much use on the frontline because, after playing Operation: Vietnam, we'd just want to spend our time on the battlefield stealing dogtags and looking for switches to open gates.

Operation: Vietnam is an out-and-out shooter, set as you'd expect in one of the many political minefields of the 20th century: the Vietnam war. A squad of four God-fearing, liberty-loving and most importantly gun-toting marines are shot down in the jungle, and it's up to you to help them make it home. Brace yourself for some military stereotypes, then: Sarge, the bandana-clad sergeant, Doc the doctor, Scopes the sniper and Hopper the, er, heavy weapons specialist.

Stereotypes can be fun, though, and that's exactly why they're employed here. Operation: Vietnam isn't about serious war stories or big political messages. It's about shooting explosive barrels, avoiding napalm and saying things like, "I ain't got time to bleed". Hardly original, as fans of Predator will point out, but certainly one of the most perfectly suited pieces of scripting we've come across in a while.

Obviously, you're not just looking to buy this for the one-liners, and it's in the game's ten missions where the real entertainment lies. You control the team of four with a handul of limited commands – they can individually be told to hold ground, explore on their own, or follow whoever you're controlling – and move with them through the maps, blasting anything that shoots at you and completing the extra objectives that crop up.

These objectives often split up the team. Take the mission that sees Scopes escort Doc into the jungle to heal civilians. Apart from being fairly atypical as far as history goes, it changes the challenge a little, leaving you only armed with the sniper's slow rate of fire and Doc's peashooter.

These diversions verge on the surreal at times, such as when you're tasked with recovering a stolen religious icon, and even the characters themselves quip that the environments seem designed "like a maze". But it never becomes boring, despite the core idea of shooting the Vietnamese remaining entirely consistent.

It's probably because of the simplicity of game mechanic. The top-down, cartoon-style with put-putting weapons and exploding barrels is reminiscent of old-skool classics such as Cannon Fodder or Contra – far older shooters, but ones with a similar dedication to very simple yet effective gameplay.

Of course, this leaning towards all things arcade-like means the DS isn't used to its full potential. The touchscreen enables quick selection of team members and the map, but using it rather than the top display to move and attack with your squad would have been a better idea, especially given the slightly awkward way the aiming now works with the D-pad.

Again, the simplicity is a strength, though. Even the health system, where it's only possible to revive a team member by being next to him with a healthpack, doesn't overcomplicate things.

It is short – we finished off the main ten missions in four hours – but the polish stays on thick throughout. This extends to the technicalities, too. For instance, the enemy has a tendency to lay mines and booby traps, something which has the potential to frustrate when combined with AI teammates following the player. But here it's all handled very well, even if you ask a squad member to rejoin the group from a few screens away.

If the polish isn't enough for you, there are an additional ten bonus sorties to unlock by getting a high enough rating on the main missions – based on how many enemies you killed and how many dogtags you found (often in the breakable crates where you locate other goodies, such as grenades of health packs).

Where Operation: Vietnam does suffer is in missed opportunities. No multiplayer mode or even co-operative missions, which it seems well-suited for, means that war is quite lonely. Then there's the missions themselves, which though largely quite short, are extremely difficult in places and made worse by the fact the game never saves mid-mission except for the very occasional boss fight. So if your team drops dead, it's back to square one.

But even with these flesh wounds, Operation: Vietnam remains fighting fit. Provided you're not looking for serious tactics, and don't mind a bit of over-the-top machismo, you'll get a lot out of its mixture of shooting and silliness.
Operation: Vietnam
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 23 October 2007
Operation: Vietnam doesn't win any bravery medals for its concept, but it's a well-trained, impressively executed idea that hits all the necessary targets
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