Continuing my pursuit of punishing myself for trying to have fun I recently went back to Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. I’ve been a long-time admirer of the punishment this series delves out to its player base and with the latest patch adding new maps, weapons and the ability to play as the Australians I figured why not suffer a bit more.
The duplicitous expectation to be able to pick the game back up after a few weeks hiatus and expecting to conquer my foes was an exceptional miscalculation on my behalf. While I could never state I was great at the game I could at least hold my own. Since playing for several hours I feel confident in saying I can hold my own again. But, what a journey of self-discipline you have to go under in order to achieve some sense of self-worth or accomplishment.
The Anti-Power Fantasy
The game has never seeped properly into the mainstream, to people’s misfortune. However, the Rising Storm series has seen itself beholden to a cult following. These diehard fans like to witness themselves being murdered in any number of ways. Whether you want to self-immolate, crash your own helicopter or accidentally call an artillery strike on yourself this game lets you do it all. It will sometimes allow enemy players to kill you in creative, yet, frustrating ways as well.
As the American and Australian forces players are graced with what you’d expect. You get to pilot the helicopters, though nine times out of ten you have some idiot who acts more like a Private Pyle if he became a jihadi, managing to blow you up before you can utter the words 7.62 millimetre. You also have access to a more violent arsenal of command support. You’ve got your plane which shoots down on an area from afar with incredible accuracy. You have your napalm strike for when you want to give yourself PTSD. Both teams also have bombardment, usually turning the map into a pissing contest of who can get the least amount of team kills caused by one person.
The Vietnamese radio support consists predominantly of the more defensive strikes. Besides the bombardment the only useful radio support comes in the form of AA guns. How they have this support I don’t know. This does serve to balance the gameplay and I’d be remised if I didn’t say that it is totally fucking sweet to see an enemy chopper shot out of the sky, hurtling down onto more soldiers, devastating everyone’s day besides the commander who gets to cowardly sit in a hole away from the other troglodytes. If the commander is at all competent they save the AA’s for when the Americans etc. call in the airship. It also serves as a counter to the napalm strike and helicopter support, alleviating the pressure from above significantly for a short period of time.
Watch Your Step
Where the Vietnamese lack in air support they make up for with their snake like personal defences. True to history, laying these traps certainly makes the invaders feel infuriated for having the audacity to move. There are two predominant traps which can be planted. This consists of the punji trap and the tripwire explosive.
Now while these are very useful and help keep the enemy at bay, I swear whenever I try to lay one it does not bloody work. The amount of times I’ve thought ‘oh this will be a good place to kill one of those GI’s’, I get greeted with a red outline. An obnoxious message saying you can’t plant it here due to one reason or another then pops up. No, no, no. I don’t care. It’s going in mud, there is no way you can say that one bit of mud is better than another. If there is room for a spawn tunnel on the same looking material you can place a stupid trap with the desire to drive some wooden spikes into some poor bastard’s cock.
The maps and game modes have been designed for teams to attack or defend the objectives in enough ways to make each play of the map a unique story of overcoming certain odds. By allowing the player to choose their method of attack it keeps the game fresh enough to not notice the lack of official maps thus far. It also prevents the battle from turning into a stale mate. Helicopter maps allow the invaders to swoop around behind enemy lines and deploy team members to try and wreak havoc. However, there’s never a guarantee this bold strategy will work. Through extreme trial and error you’ll come to understand what entries of attack or defense accommodates your chosen class best. Having this knowledge in mind adds to the anxiety of being in certain locations you’re ill-equipped to deal with.
One of the most noticeable tells of a player who is painfully ill-equipped and hasn’t truly discovered how to survive in the game are through their use of spraying. Assault rifles in particular as they’re the most common weapon. With the assault rifles you get to choose between firing modes, why you’d have anything on besides single fire is beyond me. Players have more accuracy and, unless your finger is broken, we all have the ability to click more than once in fairly quick succession. But no, there’s always one twat who will spray everywhere, killing your teammates or running out of ammo.
This inevitably leads them to harass you to give them your ammo. Excuse me sir, I worked very hard at not shitting myself and shooting every bullet I have at a vague outline of what could be a person so you, Mr. Warmonger, can piss it all away in another 6 second dream of being Rambo.
Tomfoolery like this isn’t helped by the lack of a reticule on the HUD. Not having it is part of the point in this type of game. Players meant to use their best judgement and, more importantly, they’re meant to feel the uneasiness of being unsure of anything. Something as a new player you’ll become abundantly aware of when you inevitably notice some sneaky bastard laying in a bush while you’re desperately trying to bring up the iron sights in some helpless attempt at survival.
The series allows the player to do something which is becoming increasingly absent in modern shooters; work as a team. It doesn’t take long into the experience to come to the conclusion that this is not a very nice place and that the mainstream dogma of running and gunning isn’t going to work here. By not working as a team you’ll accomplish very little besides meeting the Reaper.
Each class and each piece of equipment can help the team as a whole. If players don’t use these wisely or at all then the game quickly turns into a slaughter. All of these factors are designed to make players feel one thing, insignificance. You’re good at shooters? You’re good at being the super soldier? You can take on leagues of players on your own in Call of Duty? Not here. Here, you are pathetic; you are just another sack of meat waiting to be returned to the earth from whence you came. And boy does the game make the experience of dying and killing as harrowing as possible.
In other games you are rewarded for the killstreak or for piloting a multi-seated vehicle by yourself. Here, players are rewarded for simply not being the poor guy at the end of another person’s sight. That reward that you’re so accustomed to? Too bad, there’s not one. You get to advance upon the objective like you’re meant to. You get a sweet kill, great, now get to cover before you end up being another screaming mess clutching in the air for life. It is precisely this mentality which I praise the game for. No gamification, no over-glorification for killing your fellow man and more importantly; players are forced to co-operate with your team-mates or perish.
The game is by no means perfect. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam has a lot of faults which are being ironed out slowly. If you have the patience for the occasional wank-stain of a team and seeing a death screen more times than someone claims to have fucked your mother then you’ll find that this game becomes incredibly immersive. Games like these know their audience and allow that audience to expand on what is already there, through mods. It is these things putting AAA games to shame, and that is something to admire.
Not every game should make you a super soldier and not every game should make you glorify war. This experience excels in doing both. The game offers a glimpse of the terror that could have been felt during such conflicts. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam accomplishes it’s terror over you, the player, by making you fear every step you take, every breath you make because there is always, always, someone watching you.