Over the past several years, the Air Conflicts series has been a mixed bag of tricks. Some years you get a decent game like Air Conflicts: Secret Wars, but then there are some years where everything seems to fall apart. Unfortunately, this year’s addition to the franchise seems to fall into the latter category. While it is easy to see that the Vietnam Era flight simulators genre could use some love in today’s marketplace, this game just fails to hit the mark over and over again. Marred by graphical imperfections, lazy AI design, and an infinitesimally small map layout, if would be a far shorter review to tell you what they did right than to point out what was a disaster.
Air Conflicts: Vietnam was designed to be a pick-up-and-play, arcade-style flight simulator set during in the Vietnam War. While this may appeal to those that are into the history of the war or the region, the game itself never really establishes itself in any meaningful way. The missions all take place in a very small map taking any sense of realism or history out of the game. You can never really fly more than a few seconds without having to change course. If you fail to move, you’ll slam into the invisible wall keeping you in the same area until the mission is finished. Needless to say, this was extremely frustrating and though the game wants to be more of an arcade game, this wasn’t the best way to execute that plan.
Another single player feature that was highlighted in the game was the ability to switch between different members of your squadron on the fly. While this seems like a great idea, there are very few places in the game where this feature becomes useful. Most missions are some variant of a simple bombing run, a dogfight or a waypoint-to-waypoint mission. This limited mission structure encourages the player to just stay in the same plane rather than get a feel of a different type of aircraft. This was a shame because with a little more variety in the mission design, this feature could have made this a better game.
Finally, the helicopter missions were a complete disaster. These single player sections devolved into an on-rails shooter with you taking the perspective of the door gunner. The result was gameplay that closer resembled a bad light-gun game from the 90’s than a game that was just released. The AI in these sections were particular hard on the player and it made you rely more on memorization rather than just being good at the game. After these sections were over, you’ll look forward to getting back behind the flight stick for another generic bombing run.
From a graphical standpoint, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is very hit-or-miss. The planes and helicopters themselves look fairly decent. They provide a fair amount of detail, even when looking up close. However, the environments themselves look terrible. In addition to the graphics, there are several bad graphical glitches that are apparent in the version of the game we played. Graphics tend to appear out of no where and when it finally does make an appearance, the graphics are terribly disappointing. Screen tearing, frame rate issues and game-crashing bugs are also common occurrences so be prepared for a sub-par performance all the way around.
Unfortunately, the game has a multiplayer mode. We say it is unfortunate because if you wanted to play the game online, you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to play with. If, by some chance, you find people willing to play, the experience is similar to single player campaign. The online arena is impossibly small and distracts from what actually might be one of the better features of this game. Bumping into walls is common and it always seems to happen when you are trying to avoid a missile lock. The choices available in multiplayer are limited and it really isn’t even worth trying out. You probably have better things to do than sit in an empty lobby.
All in all, Air Conflicts: Vietnam is a woefully under developed game. The plane and helicopter models look nice, but virtually everything this game has to offer is flawed. The graphics look like it was made for an early PlayStation 2 game, the mission types are repetitive and boring and the levels themselves are so small, you’ll spend just as much time avoiding the invisible wall as you do completing objectives. While we normally encourage games that may not be able to compete with AAA titles to launch at a lower price to make it more accessible and get the largest audience possible, in this specific case, even a low price can’t make this game worth buying. Take it from us and spend your hard-earned money somewhere else.
This review is based on a review copy of the Xbox 360 version of Air Conflicts Vietnam developed by bitComposer Games, published by Kalypso
- Vietnam Era Setting
- Everything Else