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Review of Operation Flashpoint Campaign:
"The Last Months In Vietnam"

Download here: http://operationflashpoint.filefront.com/file/The_Last_Months_In_Vietnam;47441
 
"The Last Months In Vietnam" is a Vietnam war campaign for Operation Flashpoint made by Warrior X [Zeus]. The first word that comes to mind when I think about my experience with this campaign is "atmospheric". I found it to be very atmospheric, with many lovingly created cinema scenes and level intros set to evocative music from the 1960s and 1970s, including Vietnam War era protest music. Unlike the original Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis levels which featured lots of open terrain and pitched epic battles between the Soviet Union and United States, "The Last Months In Vietnam" features maps dense with vegetation and jungle, complete with small villages, ruined French plantations, and sandbagged military fortifications. Ambush, concealment, and even insurgency and booby traps work together to beautifully realize the author's cinematic vision of the Vietnam War.
 
The second word that comes to mind is "challenging". The levels themselves are extremely challenging and are best attempted only by a seasoned player who has successfully completed the default Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis game. Since Operation Flashpoint only allows one user save per mission a newcomer could be quickly overwhelmed and discouraged by the sometimes overwhelming number of Vietcong hiding in the underbrush, the deadly booby traps, and long mission lengths; a single moment of inattention might "undo" twenty minutes or more of careful and meticulous playing. For an experienced player, though, the campaign presents a very good challenge. The missions are difficult but far from impossible, but they're taxing enough that I get a very strong feeling of accomplishment after finishing the campaign's toughest missions. In general, the missions require an even more cautious approach than many of the Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis original missions do.
 
Another less positive way in which the campaign is challenging is that it's a bit difficult to install. It uses and requires separate installation of many different user-created components such as maps of the Meekong Delta, and special Vietnam War vehicles and character models. While URLs for all the components are given on the download page for some reason many of them appear to be broken. While installing this campaign, I proceeded to email the creators of the various components and the ones who got back to me told me that the downloads worked for them, even though they mysteriously were not working for me; to this day I have no idea exactly what the technical reasons for this might be. What is more is that there isn't really a clear write-up in a single place on the internet about how to install the various user-created components and campaigns; I initially felt quite lost about what to do. Perhaps this campaign could benefit from an installer, because of all the various specific components required.
 
Ultimately, though, the author himself was very kind and very helpful when I emailed him. He replied quickly to my emails, emailed me files I couldn't download, and over an email exchange walked me through the installation process and then post-installation troubleshooting. I feel that Warrior X [Zeus] deserves a special mention as having been an extremely friendly, supportive, and helpful person.
 
Is "The Last Months In Vietnam" realistic? It's realistic insofar as it runs on the relatively realistic Operation Flashpoint engine, but the vision of the Vietnam War presented by the author is definitely more cinematic than historically realistic. Most of the missions involve a single squad of US Army Special Forces lead by the player against an overwhelming number of Vietcong and NVA who have got much more armor units (including tanks, and not just BMPs) than they ever had historically. US forces never outnumber North Vietnamese forces in any mission, even ones that are supposed to represent major US offensives. At the same time, the US forces rarely have any air or artillery support they can call on, and even in levels where support is available it tends to be very limited. I remember in one mission my squad was hunkered down in a forest next to an occupied village engaged in a firefight with North Vietnamese infantry and I called in AirCav support only to have the supporting helicopters shot down by the enemy within thirty seconds or so of arriving. Typically I was able to complete missions only after losing most or all of the squad, which historically and militarily speaking would probably be considered a disaster or Pyhrric victory for a US special forces mission. This portrayal of the war, therefore, is more in line with movies or with public perception than with historical reality, where special forces teams usually would have considerable resources to call on for support, extraction, medivac, and so on. A final detail is that most of the voice acting in this campaign is done by people who speak English with a non-American accent, which sounds a bit out of place coming from the moving mouth of, say, a US Army officer.
 
On the whole, I am a big fan of "The Last Months In Vietnam". The lack of strict historical accuracy doesn't bother me because the campaign emphasizes music, atmosphere, and visuals so much that it's almost like a Vietnam War movie. It's clear by the second or third mission that the goal of the campaign was not to be a Vietnam War documentary but rather to be an interactive pastiche, as it were, of various stereotypes concerning the Vietnam war. It's about being the desperate, hard-bitten soldier in the jungle laying down fire with a CAR 15 while hordes of Vietcong seem to be returning fire from everywhere and men are going down while music from the 60s and 70s pumps in the background. In that sense, the campaign needs to be every bit as challenging as it is, because if it were easy or if it were possible to routinely come out of the jungle unscathed that would not be consistent with the images of the Vietnam War that certain narratives and movies have ingrained in the global popular culture. In a sense, many other professionally-produced Vietnam War video games fail at this sort of cataclysmic high drama because they're designed to give the player a relatively high degree of leeway, and thus actually miss the effect that "The Last Months In Vietnam" with its unforgiving scenarios under the fairly brutal Operation Flashpoint engine conveys. The campaign chooses to represent a sort of operatic drama about the war, and in this chosen task it succeeds. "The Last Months In Vietnam" is a fun romp through the cultural drama of the Vietnam War which is well worth the time to download and play.
 
-- Wounded Ronin (5/21/2008)
 

 
 
 
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