Wars have broken out over lesser atrocities than Air Conflicts: Vietnam Ultimate Edition. This PlayStation 4 exclusive re-release of last year’s PlayStation 3 flight simulation is a smouldering wreck of a piece of software, serving up an abhorrent experience only marginally more entertaining than a real-life plane crash. It’s a shame, because you do get the feeling that developer bitComposer Games did at least attempt to create something decent on its threadbare budget – but this lopsided light aircraft should have never left the runway.
For a title taking flight on the same system as Killzone: Shadow Fall and inFAMOUS: Second Son, this frankly looks like a bit of a joke. The visuals are unnecessarily grainy – fitting for a release set during the mid sixties, but we don’t think that the effect is the creator’s artistic intent on display. Indeed, the whole affair is embarrassingly lo-fi; from the textures which look like they’ve been produced in Microsoft Paint to the boxy aircraft models, it genuinely wouldn’t look out of place on the PlayStation 2 – and that’s not an over exaggeration.
Despite these presentational compromises, the title’s performance is abysmal, with the framerate sinking to single digits during dog fighting sequences. This has a particularly negative impact on the gameplay, as the fighter crafts tend to be loose and squirrely, meaning that you’ll often find yourself misjudging loops and sharp turns as the game struggles to keep up with your actions. Such an oversight is beyond irritating as the air combat actually represents the best part of the game – sadly, the experience nosedives elsewhere.
The primary problem is that outside of the abovementioned sky high skirmishes, the game is downright dull. Missions are incredibly inconsistent – some lasting several minutes, while others can be completed in seconds. Worse still, they all adopt the exact same format: fly to a destination, bomb the anti-air artillery, and repeat. There are minor twists where you’ll need to drop off troops and shoot from the side of an armed chopper, but the awful artificial intelligence – which, by and large, invites your attacks – and shoddy sound effects don’t exactly elevate matters.
The title deserves credit for attempting to depict the controversial aspects of the Vietnamese war, with many of the American troops at the fore of the historically accurate fiction questioning their motives. Unfortunately, while the developer’s intentions are commendable, the delivery across the board is far too poor to do it justice, with the monotone voice acting amongst some of the worst that we’ve ever heard. An additional campaign allows you to experience proceedings from the Vietnamese side, which is a novel and much needed twist – but again, the delivery is dreadful.
At least the soft rock soundtrack, which is evocative of the era, lends a little presentational flourish to proceedings. While there are only a handful of songs on offer, we found ourselves plodding through the drab missions just to enjoy some of these easygoing accompaniments – only to curse the game each time that it ruined a chorus with an unnecessary piece of narrative exposition. You can setup your own dogfight scenarios outside of the campaign if you want to just experience the thrills of flying without the story, which at least offers a way to digest the audio without disruption.
There’s also an online multiplayer component for up to eight players, but we’re afraid to say that we weren’t able to test it out due to a virtually non-existent playerbase. Indeed, at the time of typing there are just 20 unique players ranked on the title’s leaderboards, meaning that the chances of finding an opponent are slim to none. Should you be lucky enough to encounter an adversary, dogfights can be tackled in solo or team-based variants, with a variety of low resolution maps and weather conditions for you to decorate the multiplayer mayhem with.
Air Conflicts: Vietnam Ultimate Edition crashes and burns due to its embarrassing visuals, subpar performance, and repetitive mission objectives. The developer clearly intended to create a game with real moral impact, but its efforts have been undone by a clear lack of budget – and the fiction fails to ever really take off as a result. We suppose that the studio should be commended for its efforts, but when the results are this laughably bad, maybe it should consider walking before trying to fly.