What the Viet Cong lack in smarts, they make up for in numbers. Most of the time, they're either standing in place or running straight for you, usually while screaming one of their three or four annoying catchphrases. They'll occasionally utilize cover or toss a grenade, and the sheer number of them sometimes makes for an enjoyably chaotic, if not overly difficult, battle. Most of the missions require nothing more than moving through the level and killing whatever gets in your way. A couple of mission briefings suggest that you employ stealth, but the game has no real stealth mechanic other than walking very slowly and hoping nobody sees you. And even that's completely unnecessary. You'll sometimes have to destroy some specific piece of equipment or hold an area through a few waves of Viet Cong, and there's one brief on-rails section during which you'll man a gun mounted on a chopper. For the most part, however, ShellShock is a meat-and-potatoes shooter.
Between virtually every level, you're taken back to base camp. Here, you can wander around, conduct short, meaningless conversations with fellow grunts, listen to some licensed period music, and engage in various other useless activities. Eventually, you can even trade items you've taken from dead enemies for "boom boom" with local prostitutes. There's no practical benefit to this, and the sex isn't actually shown--evidently some of the realities of Nam are too controversial even for the envelope-pushers who made ShellShock. The camp provides some nice atmosphere the first time through, but by the second time, not to mention the 11th, it's nothing more than an aggravating extra load screen. The game also features a series of six seminude photos of the camp's prostitutes to unlock, but no multiplayer modes. After you've finished the single-player missions, which requires roughly six hours of play, there's virtually no reason to replay the game.
You can unlock seminude photos of the game's prostitutes.
All three versions look pretty much the same. The outdoor environments are nicely detailed and have a soft-focus haziness that complements the jungle setting. The interiors, however, generally feature simple textures and geometry. The character animation is lackluster as well, and the death animations are especially stiff and unbelievable. Heads pop with a festive burst of what honestly seems to be confetti, and, in what may have been an effort to depict the true horror of Nam, gunfire will occasionally remove an extremity. But this animation is so bad and so frequently employed that the effect ends up being more laughable than horrifying--arms abruptly drop off less like they've been severed by the incredible force of an explosion and more like they've simply given in after a protracted bout with leprosy.
At one point, a member of your squad ties a prostitute to an upright mattress, beats her mercilessly with his fists, and then takes a giant Rambo knife to her breasts before finally slitting her throat. This is the one way that ShellShock lives up to its hype--it certainly raises the bar on vile, pointless cutscenes. However, anyone interested in more than stubbornly average gameplay should look elsewhere.