Line of Sight: Vietnam

17Building off the graphics engine from Deadly Dozen: The Pacific Theater, Line of Sight: Vietnam convincingly recreates the dense jungle carnage of its setting. Mission maps are replete with massive trees, boulders, ravines, and concealing underbrush. Trails crisscross the jungle floor, fog enshrouds the horizon, choppers fly overhead, and somewhere Robert Duvall is probably complaining that, “Charley don’t surf.†The result is a stealth shooter where the enemy could be anywhere, at any time, and a game as intense as the subject matter and setting it depicts. It’s as frightening too.

The plot concerns a young specialist who gets dumped into the jungle sans equipment by his falling Huey helicopter. Armed only with a pistol you’ve got to get yourself to the fallen chopper, and then to the new Landing Zone. What follows are eight intense missions with only slight variations. You’re always in the jungle, and always practicing the art of not being seen, while simultaneously finding your enemy before he finds you. Each level is a deadly game of hide and seek, with the loser being tagged by a bullet. There’s a sense of sameness in the game; you never see anything other than dense foliage, rocks, hills, and the occasional wet, wood-rotten building.

This is just the game being true to its setting. It’s more real than Rambo. At least the level design is clever. Hills, rocks, and acres of trees form a playing field that constantly keeps you off balance. You never feel safe because Charlie could be hiding anywhere. Cliffs, trees, and dense foliage carefully hide the walls that make the levels smaller than they look. Despite the constraints, there are countless routes you can take, and each lets you choose the terrain to travel through. Bluffs and hills leave you exposed, but you can make sure no enemies are behind you, while crawling on the jungle floor leaves you less exposed, but there’s a greater chance of stumbling on the enemy unexpectedly.

The mission design is such that they’ve effectively hidden the fact that you’re being shuttled in one direction or another, so you never feel the game is a series of checkpoints. This results in an exhilarating, frustrating, intense, and at times, tedious game. The slightest error can spell disaster, and at times you’ll have to reload the game, safer in the foreknowledge that there’s a couple VC around the next bend.

3_1It keeps you on your toes by presenting you with all kinds of choices and good AI. Nearby VC will hear you crunching through the brush if you’re moving too fast, they’ll see you if you pop up from a prone position to take a look, and they’ll always investigate gunfire. Often this means firing, moving quickly to a new position, and lying low and hoping they move in around, rather than on top of, you. You can use machine guns like the M-16 and AK-47, rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, both smoke and frag grenades, and all are modeled realistically (sniper bullets even fall over long distances). You can take weapons from fallen enemies.

The game sometimes gives you a second soldier as backup; you can switch back and forth between them at will and fortunately, the much-improved AI makes that kind of switching unnecessary. (But missions end even if you survive and he gets killed.) There’s even a surprisingly robust range of multiplayer options, including co-op multiplayer for each mission. Good stuff, especially if a community forms around the game.

Line of Sight is an intense and unrelenting stealth shooter, and it treats its subject matter with respect. That, and its budget price, makes it a game worth stalking.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 650 MB HDD, WinXP

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