A War of Attrition
Something that most video games fail to get across is that war is never fun. While I do believe that games should be entertaining, of course, and that there is nothing wrong with enjoying games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, the act of war shouldn’t be fetishized or made to seem enjoyable. Even though these games are more than willing to admit that the events taking place are atrocities, it’s hard to feel like that is the message when they desensitize the shooting of hundreds of nameless brown people. Video games for the most part are power fantasies, which usually means that the fear and hopelessness that comes into play when in real combat are usually nonexistent. There is no sense of fear or cautiousness when you can gun down waves of enemies or regenerate health after a certain amount of time. Most of the time you play the “good guy” in these conflicts. There are truly few examples where a game about war actually shows how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam not only succeeds in being a very fun and fulfilling multiplayer experience, but also a masterclass look at emergent storytelling.
It’s Hard To Shoot?
A lot of multiplayer only FPSs come out every year, with varying levels of success and different design goals. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam falls in line with other more realistic shooters, whose goal is more to be a combat simulator than a run-and-gun experience. And whether or not you will gravitate towards and enjoy this title will depend on whether you like this harsh, tactics-based gameplay. Rising Storm 2 is challenging from the get-go, with even just the basics of shooting being a mechanically-challenging feat at the start. The game has a very hard recoil system, meaning you can’t just spray and hit something all the time. Your character will heavily breathe as well. Regardless of whether you are hip-firing or using your sights, you will need to press the F button to lessen your breath and aim more precisely. The level of mechanical skill and complexity here shows how demanding the game can be.
I don’t believe this is bad, however. The game’s goals are to encourage team play and mindful positioning, rather than arcade shooter heroics. In a weird way similar to Rainbow Six or CS:GO, crosshair positioning is a more effective way to rack up kills than finesse. Not that there isn’t room for finesse here, but being more patient and finding a good amount of cover while still maintaining a solid amount of vision was the difference between a night of just three kills a match to 10+ kills a match.
When you enter a match, you are given a list of classes you can play. Keep in mind, though, that there can be only a certain number of these characters in any given game. The only class that can have an unlimited amount of player is your basic infantry. The player limitation for each role is to provide balance to any team’s composition. Since combat is very unforgiving, it would me no sense if there could be more than a few Snipers or Commanders. The classes all have unique function as well, with each role demanding a different gameplay mindset to help your team win. For example, a Radioman isn’t a combat-focused class, but rather a class that is responsible for helping give callouts and support to the Commander. This is awesome, and I love how non-combat classes still feel important even though they are not taking part in the conflict directly. Most of my time with the game I played the 64-player game mode. It was really easy to tell the difference between a well-coordinated squad over one that just messed around. The way each class plays, along with their respective gameplay mindset, makes every game a true test of teamwork. Teamwork does indeed make the dream work here.
The Sounds Of War
While the act of shooting is mechanically more difficult than other games, at least it sounds fantastic. The sound effects for all the guns sound great, allowing you differentiate what’s trying to kill you, but also giving you delightful sounds when you are doing the killing. This isn’t limited to the guns, either. All the weapons of destruction sound intense and, at times chilling. All of this is great, especially when listening to the game with headphones, which I highly recommend because being able to hear footsteps and gunfire can help you avoid an untimely demise. This is complimented with great visuals that never (at least in my case) dropped below 60 fps. While yes, the color palette is drab and depressing, it is the Vietnam war, and it never devolves into “edgy” for me. For a game that’s priced so low, it does succeed for the most part in what it does in terms of presentation.
Let’s Talk About War
If you can’t tell by now, the game demands a lot out of you, not just in mechanics, but also in communication. This is a far cry from other shooters, where you can pretty much solo carry your way out of a bad scenario. However, this adds to the game’s experiential goals quite well. You are not supposed to be Rambo. You play more of the role of that nameless guy from Full Metal Jacket who dies horribly in the background. While you are important, and part of the success of your team, in the grand scheme of things you really are just a small player in a very big conflict, and that is awesome.
Whether intentional or not, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam captures what it is like to be in a conflict that was as attrition-based as the Vietnam war. This is emergent storytelling, and each match does this really well. Many times matches were just squads capturing and retaking objectives with no clear end in sight, until one side just pushed in slightly harder. The matches were long, and often times I died without knowing what killed me because it happened so fast. The helplessness and reliance on others is often lost on most games about war, because in the most cases the game wants you to feel important. However, with that importance and power comes the loss of some of the feeling when one enters combat with the risk of losing their life. This game, through large scale combat, mechanically challenging gameplay, and focus on communication, shows that war is never a fun endeavor.
They say war is hell, but Rising Storm 2: Vietnam manages to make it something you’ll want to experience again and again. And most importantly, the game features some solid exposition that manages to capture the essence of the conflict it’s portraying. This game is a good time if you can get through the extremely high learning curve, which I feel is the only real issue for if you are looking to try it. It will take time to get good at, and it is a time commitment given how long a match is. What is there however, is a look at war that doesn’t fetishize, but brings it out in a way that others can enjoy, but ponder about as well. War never changes and it is never fun, but damn this game sure is.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC-Steam (reviewed) ; Publisher: Tripwire Interactive, Iceberg Interactive ; Developer: Tripwire Interactive, Antimatter Games; Players: 1 ; Released: May 30, 2017 ; MSRP: $24.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Rising Storm 2: Vietnam given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.