Men of Valor
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Release Date: November 2004
Is it actually possible for one console to have too many good first-person shooters? We’re starting to reach that point, here.
You might know 2015 as the developers of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and its expansion pack Spearhead, published by EA. They have taken that experience, used it to make Men of Valor, another high-intensity, ruthlessly difficult, accurate-to-a-fault first-person shooter, and switched publisher to Vivendi.
You’ll be going in-country as Dean Shepherd, a black Marine, during the early stages of the Vietnam War. To fight the Vietcong, you’ll be rescuing POWs, going on reconaissance patrols, manning the door gun on a Huey helicopter, plunging headlong into the tunnel systems of the enemy, and participating in full-on assaults against the opposition’s fortifications. If you make it to the end of the game, through several missions based upon actual events and battles, your final challenge is the battle that changed America forever: the Tet Offensive.
To imagine how Men of Valor plays, throw a recent Medal of Honor game, preferably Frontline, twenty-five years in the future. The same fanatical attention to detail shows up here; the soldiers use military slang, the weapons look real, the uniforms are accurate, and artillery bombardments shake the earth.
(If ever there was a game that demanded Dolby surround-sound – which Men of Valor has, as well as full support for high-definition television -- Men of Valor is it. You too can convince your neighbors that there actually is automatic weapons fire going off in your living room!)
Unlike Medal of Honor, you aren’t some kind of strange cross between Rambo and a secret agent; Dean’s a member of a squad, and as such, you’ll be expected to work with them.
That’s easier said than done, though, as Men of Valor doesn’t try to make the war seem precise or clean. Like in the best Vietnam movies, Dean and his fellow soldiers are confused about why they’re there, how they’re going to survive, and what they’re supposed to be doing. You always have clear goals in a given mission, but most of the attendant complications are realistic and frightening depictions of just what could go wrong on a battlefield.
In the twenty minutes of gameplay we were shown, Dean’s squad was pinned down by a friendly artillery bombardment, and despite their radio operator’s best attempts, the operators of the “artie” would not stop. Thus, the challenge was not only to fulfill your mission, but to do so while getting aggressively shelled by men who were theoretically on Dean’s side. Just to put icing on the cake, your squad’s lieutenant would appear to be going completely nuts. The profanity-laden dialogue between Dean and his squad mates, during a mission and all through out the game, is often concerned with not only how screwed they are, but how they’re going to get out of the newest mess in one piece. The fould langauge is very often used, and although it is typical for that war/tome period, you might want to think twice about letting younger kids hear the filthy conversations and racial slurs that are being used.
There’s a much greater focus on personal, character-driven storytelling in Men of Valor than in most first-person shooters. Dean himself comes across as a scared kid in the worst place on Earth, but his other squad mates are distinctive personalities too. When one of them dies, it’s hard to just brush it off; this is a guy who’s just fought with you through an entire level, after all.
Over the course of the demo, we saw Dean using his trusty M-14 rifle, one of the Vietcong’s rifles (I want to say it was an AK-47, but I might be wrong), fragmentation grenades, a break-action grenade launcher, a .45 pistol, and, for a brief period, picking up the squad’s M-60 and spraying down a distant bunker with a storm of covering fire. Of course at any given time you can pick up weapons from dead enemies (search their bodies) as well as collect any other valuables they have on them.
Graphically the game is well put together and uses the now almost typical 2015 seemsless transistion from introduction movie/cut scenes into you taking over and getting into the midst of the action. At a certain point there we called in air support on an enemy posistion hiding in a nearby tree line, the result was a massive napalm explosion, and some of the best fire effect I have EVER seen, i could have litereally started at it for minutes. Ahhh I love the smell of napalm in the morning
Since 2015 isn’t publishing Men of Valor for Electronic Arts, it’s free to add Xbox Live compatibility. In online multiplayer, you can fight as either the US or the Vietcong in squad-based deathmatch, or play through the entire single-player mode using split-screen. (There’s no word yet, however, on who the second player will be playing as.)
There’s not much else to say, really. Men of Valor, at first blush, does look like a mod for Medal of Honor, but it has more than enough of its own merits to differientiate itself from what might be perceived as its source material. It’ll ship in October 2004.