Air Conflicts: Vietnam – PC Game Preview
I was recently drafted to field test the upcoming Air Conflicts: Vietnam arcade flight fighter, the third game in the Air Conflicts series, following Secret Wars and Pacific Carriers. As the name says, ACV took me into air combat in the skies over Vietnam during the long, terrible years of that war, with the main campaign starting with Operation Sunrise in 1962 and lasting until the fall of Saigon in 1975. I was able to pilot a variety of fighter jets, bombers, and—or the first time in the series—attack helicopters. Sadly, even such a variety did nothing to boost my skill or confidence with flight games.
Filling the pilot’s seat through the main campaign was Ensign Joe Thompson, a young U.S. Air Force pilot who helped keep me on a stable platform of reality while I experienced the arcade (and sometimes silly) flight controls and combat. Thompson narrated the main campaign, and helped me see the war through his eyes, while I heard his changing and evolving thoughts about the war as the main campaign progressed. A nice touch, that, even if a bit contrasting with the game’s overall arcade style.
Though my lack of skill allowed me to “fly” only a couple of aircraft, ACV will have over twenty fixed-wing aircraft available to pilot at launch. Iconic birds such as the F-4 Phantom, F-104 Starfighter, A-7 Corsair, B-52 Stratofortress, MiG-21 Fishbed, and others will be available through the main campaign, CTF, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch modes. ACV is introducing helicopters into the ranks, with focus on the attack helicopter, and including such notable rotary-wing aircraft as the UH-1 Iroquois, aka “Huey,” the AH-1 Cobra, CH-47 Chinook, CH-53 Sea Stallion, Mi-8 Hip, and many more.
I found a couple of enticing items that drew my interest and could keep me dabbling in the game despite not being good at flight games. One item I liked is the Squadron aspect, with its RPG-like factors of allowing me (Thompson) to gain experience during missions and being able to level up my (his) flight and combat skills. As squadron leader, I could command a team of four aircraft, each with its own pilot, whom I recruit from a pool. Pilots may gain experience during missions and become better pilots in their own right. In a neat twist, if one of my squadmates goes down during a mission, I may make the next mission a rescue mission to go and find him and bring him back alive—provided he survived.
Another item I liked when leading a squadron into combat was the ability to quickly switch to another of its planes when mine was shot down, which happened a lot. I could also swap pilot seats to another plane when all the ordnance on mine was used up and I had still not hit the mission target. That also happened a lot. This allowed me to stay in the air much longer, thereby extending my chances at successfully completing missions and not getting too frustrated at being a poor pilot.
I also encountered and witnessed a few gremlins in the ACV machinery that, unfortunately, may reduce the time spent in the pilot’s seat, for myself and possibly other gamers. For one, the mission boxes are way too small. Each mission has a visible boxed “wall” around it, and while that did help me stay focused on the immediate mission area, it felt cramped and restrictive during dogfights.
I was also expecting to hear a classic rocking soundtrack while flying combat mission over Vietnam, filled with Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many other Woodstock greats. Alas, the music here can best be described as “Vietnam-era vintage-styled’ tunes—and disappointing.
I know it’s an arcade game and not an authentic flight simulation, but still, I’m not supposed to be able to land my wheeled aircraft on water. Well, I wasn’t able to do that, as my landing attempts all ended as crashes, but I did witness it being done by skilled gamers. These skilled gamers then proceeded to drive their planes around on the ground and water surfaces while shooting at enemy aircraft flying around at ground level. Umm, no. Arcade game or not, that’s just silly.
Air Conflicts: Vietnam seems to be respectful of being a game set in such a sore spot in American history as the Vietnam War is, and that’s commendable. But I’m hoping the game gets a vital and thorough military-grade inspection and correction before its release later this year. Otherwise, a crash and burn situation may be on the horizon.
About the Author
Jim H. Moreno dropped his first quarter into a video game back in 1977, and has been avidly gaming ever since. He joined the Armchair General squad in 2003 and helped launch the website and magazine, and remains a regular contributor of war, combat, and strategy articles. When he’s not working on an ACG piece, he’s writing other PC gaming articles for GameFront.com and for other sites and game companies, catching sci fi shows, enjoying a quality cigar or whiskey, or just being zen with his cat, Spritzer.