Until the troubles trouble you

Khao Lan, South Vietnam: A Vietcong base of operations has been attacked by the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and completely overrun. During this attack, the convoy you were traveling in was also slaughtered along the road outside of the base leaving you with a team of only four survivors (two Vietcong, two Soviet advisors).

Such is the opening of the first mission of the North Vietnamese Campaign from Men of War: Vietnam. This four man group must harvest ammunition from the dead and captured supply caches, fight their way through hordes of American infantry, take down three helicopters and make their way out in a freaking sampan.

There are several walkthroughs available on the internet that cover this game even though it is still relatively new (released Sep11), and oddly enough a video tutorial for this mission on the 1C website that was made during the game development stage is flat out misleading. In that video the instructor only destroyed two helicopters and had to avoid the one that got away for the rest of his mission; in the released version of the game, in this mission if even one helicopter takes off you fail the secondary objective.

The key to winning this mission is to have at least one person alive once the sampan is full of fuel and actually on the craft, which will trigger the cut scene to end the scenario. With careful gameplay and tactics, you can have all four men alive up until the very end, when you are swarmed at the boat dock from two different directions. It is a cheap and sad ending to an otherwise well-developed map and objective set (albeit highly implausible).

The way I played it was to move around and verify various line-of-site areas of enemy contacts and engage them with the most silent force possible. To this end the silenced AK-47 was invaluable, as were the knives. Those were actually really cool to employ by sneaking up behind an enemy and throwing a knife 10 feet into their head.

The map is gorgeous and is easily one of the best I have ever seen in a real time strategy game, the game play mechanics are sound (once you remove the camera controls from the number pad and reassign them to W-A-S-D like most other Men of War games) and the challenge is visceral, again even though it is basically Mission Impossible: Crack Pipe Protocol.

Other thoughts: The programmer who moved the W-A-S-D to the number pad 8-4-5-6 should be shot with non-lethal munitions in the stomach until he or she vomits, then forced to sign an agreement that they would never mess up a game like that again.

The flow of enemy was a challenge but manageable up until the very end. As soon as your men secure the fuel can, it triggers the response from two directions, converging not on the church where the fuel can and you are at, but at the boat dock you have to make your way to.

You have just enough time to race there ahead of these troops (have the dude with the fuel can store it in inventory by selecting his primary weapon), start filling the boat up and die while fighting off the overwhelming and scripted response.

As soon as you have the fuel in the boat take whoever is left and have them board, which will end the mission and trigger a cut scene where everyone is alive and on the boat as it makes its way towards the next mission.

There are tons more screen shots than I had intended to post, but this game is freaking gorgeous. The jungle actually hides the players and you can easily walk right up on a guard unknowingly because you couldn’t see them in the shadows or foliage without using some of the game aids. I will most likely prune this down to my self-imposed limit of 5MB later on (currently 31.5 MB for 50 screen shots).

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