Vietcong 2 is the sequel to the Pterodon's Vietcong, a first-person shooter set in the Vietnam War. It's success lead to this sequel, and while the setting has moved (from the jungle to the urban jungle) the gameplay remains pretty similar to the original game. Sadly, games have moved on in the last few years, and Vietcong 2 feels terribly outdated.
The game actually has two campaigns: a US and Vietcong campaign. The US campaign is set in the city of Hue in the days surrounding the Tet Offensive of 1968 and starts off in a brothel, letting you talk to your comrades and soak in some 'authentic' atmosphere. As Captain Daniel Boone of the United States Army, you and your team-mates soon get caught up in the middle of a heated battle with the Vietcong. From here on the game descends into pretty standard FPS action, with a fairly large dose of realism.
If you've never played the original game you may fall victim to a few early deaths. Vietcong 2 must be played with a fair amount of caution, with running and gunning never a good idea; it's best to take cover and peak out to take down enemies. Your team-mates often do a good job at this as well, but they can also make some rather strange decisions. Mindless runs into the open and a desire to continuously stand in your line of sight don't help with the game's attempt at creating a realistic war environment.
It's all pretty dull to be honest, and the urban environments just don't excite as much as Pterodon obviously hoped they would. The game's general toughness doesn't help things, forcing you to replay certain sections over and over again because of one slight mistake. There are checkpoints and quick saves, but these are rationed according to the difficulty you chose to play the game at. The fact that your team-mates can perform life-saving dives and rolls, and you can't, just helps raise the annoyance factor. Enemy AI isn't cutting edge, but they do their best to take cover and only fire when they're not under heavy fire themselves, but they'll still show signs up stupidity often enough to ruin any illusion of real intelligence.
The Vietcong campaign is no better, and I feel bad calling it a campaign at all, given its extreme shortness. You play as a Vietcong guerrilla who survives a South Vietnamese attack on his village and then joins a group of insurgents. The campaign only lasts for your journey to the city of Hue - that's it! Anyone thinking they had a full campaign to play through after finishing the US campaign will be bitterly disappointed, particularly as that isn't too long either.
To counter the short single-player campaigns there is online multiplayer support for up to 64 players. It's pretty basic stuff, but the inclusion of unlockable characters gained by earning points for achievements online should please fans of the main campaigns. Eight character classes are available and make for some interesting class-based multiplayer action, but there's nothing here that hasn't been done better in other games. There's also the option to play cooperatively with some team-mates against AI enemies, but it has limited appeal.
Visually this is one of the poorest looking first-person shooters to be released by a major publisher in some time. The fact that the visuals look like they're from 2003 or earlier is bad enough, but the way it runs on even a high-end PC is quite ridiculous. To get anything like acceptable performance you'll need to turn down the detail and rag doll physics settings, making an already ugly game even uglier. When you consider the stunning games that have been released in the last year, it's hard not to think that Vietcong 2 fell from the ugly tree. Audio is much better, with some rousing music and perfectly adequate effects. The chatter and comments from team-mates do start to grate after a while, though, with certain sayings being repeated far too often.
Playing Vietcong 2 was like stepping into a time warp. Having been blessed with some of the best shooters ever made over the last twelve months, an outdated, dull, short Vietnam based FPS just doesn't cut it. Its sluggish performance and lack of unique features are the final nails on the coffin.