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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: June 7, 1998
It was inevitable, really. Now that the immediate pain of the United States’ failure in Vietnam has subsided, and the taboo surrounding the war has largely been lifted, it was just a matter of time before a computer game company attempted to cash in on the conflict by reducing it to a 3D shooter. GT Interactive’s Nam does just that, by thrusting the player into the bloodied combat boots of Sergeant Alan “the Bear” Westmoreland, a Captain America-like super soldier who, thanks to an experimental serum, has been granted enhanced combat abilities. It’s a good thing, too, because you’ll be dropped right in the middle of Vietnam, circa 1966, and charged with single-handedly taking on the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong armies. Call me crazy, but I think at that point I’d tell the boys in research to screw their serum and start working on a BattleMech.
In order to understand the reasoning behind Nam, you’ve got to look at its origins. About a year ago, an independent development company called the TNT Team released Platoon, a free, professional-quality total conversion for Duke Nukem 3D that essentially turned your existing copy of the game into a sort of military simulator, complete with with Vietnam War-era equipment, enemies, and situations. The TC was an overwhelming success, and gamers praised its uniqueness and exciting military-based gameplay; I was certainly a part of that group, as indicated in my rather praising review. When the smoke from your M-60 finally cleared, and Platoon had been declared a success, the TNT Team website began to indicate what gamers had been hoping for: There would be a sequel. Platoon 2 was officially announced, and worked seemed to progress at a steady rate. Yet throughout the game’s development, two things became increasingly unsure: when Platoon 2 would be released; and whether or not it would be offered as a free add-on to Duke Nukem 3D (like its predecessor), or as a stand-alone commercial product. That question was answered when GT Interactive announced Nam; it was in fact the sequel to Platoon, and sure enough it would have a commercial release.
If you’ve played the Platoon TC (or even just the original Duke Nukem 3D, for that matter), Nam will immediately seem familiar. After choosing a difficulty level — Boot, Grunt, Salty, or Locked On — the player then selects a “Tour of Duty” (episode), and the action begins. There are no radical differences between each episode, as each takes place in the same location: the jungles and villages of Vietnam and Cambodia. The game’s small jewel case manual gives a brief description of each mission, so that’s generally the only information you have to go on, although occasionally you will get a “briefing” from a commanding officer. But it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure what you must do in most of the missions, because Nam follows that standard 3D shooter formula of “start at one end, get to the other.” You may not have to punch a giant nuclear symbol, but the effect is the same: Get to the end of the level, killing your enemies along the way, and make your escape (only to pick up the action in the next level).
While the “genetically altered super being” storyline might lead you to believe otherwise, Nam is actually rooted in history, and the equipment and weapons available to your character reflect this. Depending on the mission, you’ll be able to kill your enemies with your handy-dandy combat knife, standard-issue M-16, shotgun, M-60, rocket launcher, grenades, grenade launcher, sniper rifle, clamore mines, or flamethrower (perfect for torching hooches). There are even a few stationary weapons you may find along the way: the Browning heavy machine gun, helicopter-mounted M-60 machine gun, and a mortar launcher. Of course you’ll also have access to the standard inventory items like the medkit and night vision goggles.
Something rather unique to Nam is the game’s inclusion of NPC-type characters you encounter in certain locations, soldiers who can be ordered to perform certain duties. There are four units, and each has two different modes of operation: follow and stay. The Medic will heal you automatically when in close proximity, the Demoman can place an APERS mine or drop a powerful C-4 explosive charge, the Radioman can be used to call in fire missions (smoke or explosives), and the Grunt can enter one of two “ambush” modes in which to attack enemy soldiers. If you find these secondary characters get in the way, there is one more option: Nam also includes a couple of player-controlled vehicles for your killing pleasure. The UH-1 “Huey” helicopter allows you to fly around the map, dropping flares and firing an unlimited supply of rockets, while the tank (available only in the multiplayer GruntMatch mode of play) can be used to squash other players or deliver a high-powered shot from the main gun.
All of Nam’s firepower is of course necessary, as you’ll face off against the worst Vietnam has to offer. There’s the standard AK-47 soldier, RPD light machine gun soldier, satchel bomber (who will detonate his case of explosives when he gets close enough), stationary B-10 82mm recoiless rifle, VC sniper, stationary DShK heavy machinegun, and even a couple of deadly vehicles, the MiG-21 fighter plane and huge Russian-made T-34 tank.
As previously mentioned, Nam also comes with complete multiplayer options, for play over a LAN, via modem, or null model cable (TCP/IP is not supported, as the game is DOS-based). There are four different game types available, and each offers a unique gameplay experience. Capture the Flag is just as the name implies, and takes place between two teams; Co-op is the standard cooperative game, in which more than one player can go through the single-player missions together; Fireteam is a more advanced form of cooperative game, and each player can choose a specific type of soldier; and GruntMatch is a typical deathmatch game, where the object is simply to kill everone else who stands in your way.
While it may seemed packed with options, and the subject matter is rather intriguing, I must firmly establish the horrible truth about Nam: It is not a good game. Actually, “awful” is the best word I can think of to describe what this title offers: 3D action based on the antiquated Build engine, abysmal graphics, and gameplay that can’t even compare to that offered in the free Platoon TC, released a year ago. Still not convinced? Just check out the criteria section on the next page….
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