Vietcong: Purple Haze released during a glut of games featuring the war with most being average at best. This title came with the promise of dropping players in the conflict and showing what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam. It broke that promise.
Purple Haze has the player leading a small squad of elite forces through the Vietnam jungle. Your team varies in size from mission to mission with different individuals being added depending on the expected resistance and goals. Each member of the team has their own specialty such as being a medic, radioman or guide for instance. Should any member of the team die then it is game over.
The title starts off promisingly with archive footage of the time showing the political climate surrounding the war and presentation on the whole is of a high standard. That is until you actually get into the game. Graphically, Purple Haze is average at best. The jungle environments that you move through are full of greenery and enough wild life to make things look remotely interesting but it all looks a mess. With the power of Xbox there is no reason environments should look so lack lustre. Add to this the fact that all enemy soldiers look exactly the same and move with some of the strangest animation ever seen and it is far from the experience we where promised.
Controlling your character is solid enough although there are a few situations where doing relatively simple things can become frustrating due to your squad members being in the way. Trying to disarm a trap for instance is almost impossible if a team member is near by, as instead of for example- cutting a trip wire, you will talk to your squad mate. If the Soldier happens to be the guide chances are you will tell him to continue walking and he will walk straight through the trap and blow himself up.
Furthermore, your medic can cause a lot of problems- any time you’re injured going to the medic will see your energy restored, you can do this as many times as you like during a mission meaning any challenge is more or less taken out of the game as you basically have unlimited health, but this is not the biggest problem. When you are injured your medic will come to find you- this seems like a good idea, however when the medic is treating you, you cannot move. Meaning that most of the time you will be standing in a direct line of fire being shot while the medic is healing you- thus you end up worse off than before.
Shooting also throws up its own set of problems. If firing an automatic weapon the recoil causes you to fire wildly, this is realistic and could have been a nice touch but the way it has been implemented means firing anymore than two shots at once leaves you firing in the air. Enemy soldiers also seem immune to bullets unless they re hit straight in the head or the chest, the image of spraying a full magazine at an approaching soldier, only for him to keep walking is laughable. Furthermore, hit a soldier in the chest and they pause and go through an ‘I’ve been hit’ animation before walking on again, while doing this animation they are invulnerable from fire.
Despite the niggles with the game it could have all been forgiven if the experience offered was a quality one. It all starts off ok, with you following your guide through the jungle; he stops at certain points telling you there are traps or Vietcong up ahead. It’s all done at a very slow pace implying an element of stealth is needed. However, levels are under populated with enemies and soon every single mission falls into the same formula; You get dropped at a point, follow the guide, stop two or three times to disarm a trap, engage a small squad of Vietcong then find an enemy soldier camp. There is very little variety and after a few missions and it all leads to a very dull and repetitive experience.
Overall, Vietcong Purple Haze is not a terrible game, but it is the very definition of average. There are some nice ideas in the title and if they had been implemented well then it could have been far more enjoyable. As for making the player feel like they are experiencing the Vietnam War – that is unsurprisingly a load of rubbish.