[[The Dirty War]]
Deafening explosions, eyes in the bushes, confusion, everyone is an enemy, it's kill or be killed in the humid sweaty jungles of Vietnam and you suffer from Shellshock. Presented in a gritty Apocalypse Now style, Shellshock Nam '67 will attempt to forget heroic feats and black and white gameplay, forcing the player to fight his own daemons as well as the evasive omnipresent enemy.
Guerilla promise that Shellshock Nam '67, their upcoming third-person shooter, will not feature a shiny hero who survives the conflict without an out-of-place hair but a human being trying to make it out alive and willing to bend the rules in order to do so. The game is destined to spark controversy since it will feature gruesome killings, civilian casualties and spine-chilling, brutal cut-scenes. There will be no fancy extras and no multiplayer, in that respect Shellshock Nam '67 will be claustrophobic, another attempt by Guerilla to capture the isolation that U.S. soldiers felt while doing their tour in Vietnam.
ShellShock: Nam '67 focuses on one man's experience of the most controversial war of modern times. You take on the role of a rookie soldier on his first tour of duty as he experiences the fear, chaos and atrocities of the Vietnam War. From the napalm bombardments of civilian villages and the gruesome VC (Viet Cong) boobytraps, to the permanent threat of invisible foes and deadly ambushes, Shellshock: Nam '67 dares to go where no other war game has gone.
You must fight your way through a variety of missions ranging from large scale battlefield encounters with the North Vietnamese Army to stealthy missions such as assassinating a VC General. As you progress from a 'grunt' to Special Forces carrying out classified missions, you will have to rely on the same skills and tactics employed in the battlefields of Vietnam in order to survive. Your tour will take you from the lush wetlands of South Vietnam to the mountain borders of the North featuring diverse locations including dense jungles, rural Vietnamese villages and claustrophobic tunnel systems.
ShellShock: Nam '67, for the PC, PS2 and XBox, is expected to be released on June 4, 2004.
Read on to find out how exactly Guerilla have managed to give Shellshock its unique look and their plans for the visual resurrection of the PS2.
Guerilla's overall approach to their current two projects marks a turn in the philosophy of game development. The emphasis shifts from graphical excellence to gameplay aspects such as realism, immersion and at times, social observations. That is not to say that the visuals of the game will not impress, Guerilla's Development Director, Arjan Brussee sums-up the company's approach, We don't want to see our products as technology focused, but the genres that we operate in do benefit from strong visuals and leading technology.
It would be hard to dismiss the technology behind Killzone, Guerilla's PS2 exclusive title, and Shellshock, when it has caused so much excitement to PS2 owners, by promising to change the visual experience on Sony's console. Sony's people were so pleased with what they saw of the engine behind the games that they rushed to lock-down Guerilla with a deal which will see the Dutch developers creating games exclusively for SCEE and Sony platforms from now on.
Arjan Brussee, describing the way the technology works commented, Our custom engine has been tailored to achieve high-end effects on PS2, not focusing on pure polygon throughput but on 'high quality polygons' with multiple textures and good lighting. The same technology now runs on Xbox and PC.
Considering the noise surrounding Guerilla we have to pay special attention to exactly what is being said about the engine the company has created. Guerilla will be the first to admit that the results are impressive on the PS2. Having had a first look at the game, we can say with certainty that the developers have managed to create the best, visually, jungle that Sony's aging console has seen. Using previous games as a benchmark, Shellshock is by far a slicker more graphically accomplished game. As far as the XBox and PC versions are concerned however, the game will not offer the same groundbreaking advances. Granted, Shellshock is a good-looking game on all platforms but the XBox and to a greater extent, the PC have seen similar or better visuals in many games.
That is why Guerilla have focused on providing a comprehensive, overall package with the game, one which includes exciting AI, intriguing gameplay and controversy.
AI and NPCs
Guerilla are happy to tell you about their efforts to breathe new life into PS2 visuals since that is what most people ask, but there is a lot more to Shellshock than just that. The team behind the game has devoted a lot of its time to creating a convincing enemy, essential in capturing the proper atmosphere of fear and uncertainty which existed in the Vietnamese jungles. VC behavior and movement has been developed in such a way as to offer consistency with reports of how the enemy fought during the actual war. Enemies will set-up ambush if given the time or will choose a more passive approach if outnumbered by finding cover. They will react to sounds and will rush to search for intruders if they hear something.
Your team-mates will also fight in the way the U.S. Army trained them to. So you will get appropriate cover fire and assistance but you will also face problems when your team panics. Accidents can also happen, as in real life situations, so you will have to be aware of your team's location at all times.
The gameplay aspect of Shellshock Nam '67 remains the vital ingredient and potentially its greatest asset, so follow the link below and to the right to find out how the Vietnam War was fought.
The focus of Guerilla's gaming philosophy, throughout the development process, has remained on the gameplay aspects which will best immerse the player in the atmosphere of the Vietnam War. As Martin De Ronde, Guerilla's commercial director, has repeatedly said, The horror of war is the central theme we are trying to get across in the game... To that end, Guerilla has decided to offer a completely uncensored gaming experience where profanity is abundant and where every wall is colored blood-red. The goal of the game will be to complete your Tour of Duty.
The research behind the game has been extensive and has produced some of the trademark effects that appear in it. While browsing through photographs of the era, developers noticed that the image quality always seemed to be grainy, it was decided that a filter should be applied to the game in order to recreate that effect. The sounds are also impressive and their use brings to mind movies such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. One moment you are walking in a very peaceful field and the next a very loud thud shocks you as your team is ambushed, be prepared for profanity from your own troops as they are shocked too and taunts from your enemy as they catch you off-guard.
Shellshock Nam '67 will feature 12 missions, symbolizing the 12 months of your Tour of Duty. Although 12 missions isn't much, the developer has made each a satisfying experience and promise that every one will require 45 to 60 minutes to complete while replayability will be high since various extra objectives will not always be obvious with the first go. Guerilla assures us that each mission is based on true events of the Vietnam War, in an effort to add further authenticity to the game. So expect your duties to include clearing-out the VC tunnel system and taking on well-hidden enemy units by requesting air support or napalm strikes.
So gameplay will differ in each mission as some will involve fighting large-scale battles while others will be stealth-based assassination or rescue missions where you will rely only on your compass and trusty knife.
The missions will have a natural progress to them, so once you have succeeded in the first few you will be noticed by your superiors and will be offered Special Forces training. Once you complete the training the nature of your missions will change and you will even get the opportunity to command your own team.
There will also be a role playing element to gameplay as you will get full access to the base camp between missions. You will be able to chat to officers and civilians, trade goods for useful items and even acquire the services of the local professionals practicing the world's most ancient trade. What you get up to in base camp will be important in the way the game plays since you will be able to obtain useful items for your upcoming missions and you will also gain valuable information on what goods you may find on your next mission. An example is that you find out that one of your targets the next day will have a hidden stash of drugs. Finding them during the mission will give you an important trading advantage on your next visit to base camp.
The authenticity of Shellshock is also obvious in the weapons used. As a U.S. soldier you will have access to the M-16, grenades and anti-armor rocket launchers. You will also be able to pick-up weapons from your dead enemies while in some missions you will start off armed only with a knife and will have to slit a few throats in order to collect firearms. Sniper rifles will also be available in some missions.
As mentioned earlier there will be no multiplayer support for Shellshock, with developers claiming they chose to do so in order to further enhance the authenticity of the game. What Guerilla claim is that a Death-Match style multiplayer game would completely defeat the point of the game which is to offer a deeper insight into the terrible conditions of the Vietnam conflict.
The excitement surrounding Killzone and the announcement that Shellshock will utilize the same technology has created a vast amount of excitement among PS2 owners. The generated buzz could prove difficult to live up to for Guerilla since they are attempting to promote titles which rely on atmosphere and gameplay and not just on visual effects.
The company itself has a very down-to-earth approach about what it is they are creating. They are quick to claim that the game will not offer a revolutionary new form of gameplay, they are also eager to point out that while they are attempting an immersive, atmospheric game, ...games have not yet reached the same level of emotional pull that can be experienced through movies or books. Arjan Brussee goes on to claim that This level probably won't be reached with the next generation of machines, but the games industry is certainly making advances and tackling increasingly sensitive issues.
So the company themselves are, in a way, playing down the hype and claiming that what they are doing may not bring along a gaming revolution but will definitely produce a damn good game.
The interesting fact about Guerilla is that they have not yet published a game under that name. No one can accuse the team of lacking in experience but the choice to tackle such controversial material in such an up-front way may challenge their publishers marketing resolve. Gamers will be asked to tackle scenes of severed heads stuck on poles, guts strewn on the jungle foliage, drug-peddling U.S. soldiers and cut scenes of executions and atrocities. Although no one can deny that a polished war game is hypocritical in disguising the blood and gore involved in conflict, we are not yet convinced that such a recent and still sore conflict as Vietnam is the appropriate one for such realism. On the other hand movies have tackled the subject, with success and the game's target audience will be the 18-35 age range which has no personal Vietnam War experience.
Overall Shellshock Nam '67 remains a big bet for Guerilla. It will be the first game they release, this June, and has the potential to cause extreme controversy and to achieve great sales. All will rely on how the elements of realism, authenticity and action combine in the actual gameplay. The visuals are impressive, even by PC standards but the lack of multiplayer is another challenge which the company will have to face.
Whether Shellshock succeeds or flops, Guerilla are gradually proving themselves to be a company that has something to offer and the experience they gain from this project will, no doubt, have an extremely positive effect on their future projects. A fact which almost makes us regret the fact that from now on Guerilla games belong to Sony and its consoles.