previews\ Oct 23, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Platoon - PC - Preview

February 19, 1968: "… It is wet and dark, and it takes all my strength to get through each day alive. My fellow soldiers are losing control, losing perspective, losing strength … I wonder how much longer this can last."

Sgt. Martin Lionsdale is a newlywed, but this isn’t his honeymoon. These are the steamy, wet, and deadly jungles of Vietnam. Lionsdale must guide a group of soldiers through campaign-driven scenarios based on historical events in Platoon, a game developed for the PC by Monte Cristo and Digital Reality, and published by Strategy First.

The game traces the time frame of 1965 to 1968 and includes 15 missions. While it covers tactical campaigns such at Operation "Shiny Bayonet" and the Pleiku Campaign, it also is based on the movie of the same name.

GameZone had the opportunity to play a beta of the game.

In many regards Platoon is similar to other real-time strategy games. You can group and control the units, move them through a variety of terrain elements obscured by the fog of war, and engage the enemy either in a straight-ahead fire fight or in tactical combat. Keeping your unit to the bushes doesn’t always seem to work. Twice in the game, soldiers moving through the trees, with terrain bumps between them and the road were fired upon by enemy soldiers standing on the other side of the road.

Oh wait, the area we were walking through had a low rating for concealment, meaning it was nearly like taking a stroll down the road. Platoon is a game that requires players to be aware of what is happening around them.

As mentioned, this is a personal story. While Washington and the Hanoi governments had political agendas during the war, the battle fought by the soldiers was a little more personal and direct. You are given a mission and you try to accomplish while trying to stay alive. That is what this game is ­ trying to stay alive while taking on the missions given to you and your platoon.

Another tremendous ally is the camera controls, which enable players to rotate, as well as zoom in and out, to see what lies around your unit.

The graphical elements of the game run the gamut from mundane to marvelous. Some of the tree elements are harshly rendered (like the clump of leaves overhead) while detailed soldier movement, dynamic shadows and lighting, and a particle system for special effects are extremely well done.

Not all the sound was in place on the copy received, but what was there was solid.

The nice thing about this game is the evolving nature of the characters. You start out at a basic level, but as you progress through the game, the veterans in the unit you command improve, or get a little seasoned. Lionsdale will gain new abilities, such as being able to call for artillery support. Other specialized units can join your outfit and give you improved chances at surviving.

The enemy AI seems very good as well, and this game does present a solid challenge.

The controls are much like you would expect. Group, or ungroup, point and click and your unit goes there. A firefight on your hands? Just point and click on the target to fire.

Platoon takes the proposal of environment warfare seriously. The terrain can either be your friend or enemy. That is what really allows this game to stand apart from others. This is a game that shows great potential to be a hit among war gamers. It is smart, looks good and is relatively easy to jump into and play. Winning is something else altogether.

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