Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam Review (PC)
With the recent resurgence in historical strategy games, it was no great surprise to see one turn up with the Vietnam War as a setting. Platoon differs in as much as it is squad based - no major battle featuring 100s of units here - but then, the Vietnam war was, in the main, exactly the same - small engagements, ambushes, traps, bad visibility etc. and Platoon manages to capture this efficiently.
Game performance is perfectly acceptable - My PC is well below the min specs but, with the graphics level set at the highest, I had no problems at all - everything flowed smoothly with no sign of stuttering or camera wobble.
The game controls unfortunately, is where the whole thing falls to pieces. A squad is typically, the Sgt., a squad of riflemen, a machine gunner &, if you are lucky, a medic. You cannot select a single rifleman, a click selects the whole group of them (normally 5) and they move & are controlled as a single unit (although you do have a good formation option that is an absolute necessity). Characters move at 3 speeds; crawl, walk or run and swapping between each mode is easy. Crawling & running will tire the characters out until they get to the point where they must rest, whilst walking does not tire them at all. Tactical usage of each movement mode is essential if you want any of your squad to survive (running between cover, crawling over open areas & when caught in an ‘open’ firefight etc.) Riflemen & heroes walk at one speed, whilst characters like medics & machine gunners just seem to dawdle along (heavy equipment?), although you can have them running while the rest of the squad walks.
The whole game is ‘on rails’, meaning that when you restart a level (and believe me you will), everything is in the same place. So, on the 2nd or 3rd attempt, you know where the mines that have to be cleared are, you know where the ambush is set etc. and completing the level can become very tedious. It is also ridiculously hard, even on the easy or medium levels and, as there are no ‘in mission’ saves, you will be restarting each mission quite often just to complete it and getting to the point of dreading the next mission because of the probable multiple restarts. Having completed a mission, you will find it ‘unlocked’ and replayable as a solo game, enabling you to hone your tactics and develop different strategies.
Taking all into account, Platoon is a good game - you certainly get a feel of what the fighting must have been like with the continual hit & run tactics needed - but it could so easily have been a ‘great’ game. A little bit of ‘common sense’ imparted to the characters would have lifted this game no end and completely removed the frustration element.