Given the dubious results of the Vietnam War, it was a bit surprising when publishers, after having exhausted World War II for stories, started to turn out Vietnam War games a few years ago. This resulted in a wave of Vietnam games, with the majority of them being utterly forgettable. A few did make distinct impressions, including Vietcong, an immersive first-person shooter developed by Pterodon, a Czech Republic studio (of all places). Well, it's time to get back to the jungle with Vietcong 2, the follow-up to 2003's original, which picks up almost exactly where its predecessor left off. That's because Vietcong 2, like its predecessor, exhibits some great qualities but still suffers from technical issues that affect its performance. Furthermore, it's a game that hasn't aged as well as you might hope.
You can play as a captain in the US Army battling to take back the city of Hue...
Vietcong 2 shifts gears from the actual jungle to the urban jungle, as the story this time centers around the brutal fighting in and around the city of Hue in the days leading up to and after the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968. The sequel actually boasts two campaigns, and this time you can play from either the perspective of a US officer or a Vietcong guerilla. Though in truth, the VC campaign is all but a vignette, as it's a fraction of the length of the US campaign. In addition to the campaigns, you still retain the ability to play any completed single-player mission in quick play against a host of enemies, and there's also a full-fledged, if rudimentary, multiplayer suite at your disposal.
The meat of the game is in the single-player campaign. And in the US storyline, you are Captain Daniel Boone of the United States Army, who's assigned to MACV (aka the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam). Like in a gritty Vietnam War movie, Vietcong 2 tries to immerse you in the atmosphere of the war, so you actually start the game in a brothel before you travel to headquarters to get your first assignment. Nothing unseemly is seen or happens, as this sequence is mainly for you to chat with your fellow officers and to get the sense that this isn't your typical first-person action game. Unfortunately, once the action starts, Vietcong 2 eschews the talking and exploring part of the storyline to transition in to a fairly straightforward shooter where you and your squad must battle the Vietcong level after level. The US campaign actually has a nice twist about midway through that serves as the introduction to the VC campaign. Though in the end, it's something of a disappointment. The VC campaign lets you play as a Vietcong guerilla that joins up with the insurgents after your village is destroyed by South Vietnamese soldiers. However, it's so short it can't really be considered a campaign. All it covers is your journey from your village to the city of Hue. And once you arrive, the VC campaign is over.
It takes a while to get used to Vietcong 2's gameplay, especially if you didn't play the original game. If you're a first-person shooter veteran, then you're used to running around in the open, blasting guys and then picking up health packs before repeating the process again. That's something you can't do in Vietcong 2. While there are health packs to be found, Vietcong 2 is also a game where you must use cover at all times if you want to survive, because the combat can be downright brutal. In many ways, Vietcong 2 is sort of a cross between a Call of Duty-style run-and-gun shooter and a more realistic tactical shooter. Thankfully, the game gives you the ability to "peek" over or around whatever cover you're huddling behind when you fire your rifle to get a good sense of what real combat is like. The enemy soldiers aren't too smart about shifting around, but they do take advantage of cover themselves, and they'll peek out to fire potshots at you--unless they're being suppressed. Your own teammates are a mixed bag in terms of intelligence, as they're sometimes good about getting behind cover and laying down covering fire, but they also do crazy things, like rushing forward into the open or constantly getting in your line of fire. They can also perform some cool moves that really make you feel like you're in a battle, such as roll for cover or leap over obstacles. Unfortunately, you can't execute these moves yourself.