Fans of the Search & Rescue series from InterActive Vision A/S can now fly more than a hundred missions in the UH1 "Huey" helicopter, through the unfriendly skies of war-torn Vietnam. As a medical evacuation pilot supporting U.S. troops in Search & Rescue: Vietnam MedEvac, players experience realistic weather (clear, cloudy, fog, rain, or storms), authentic environments, graphics featuring dynamic lighting, vertex shading and high-res textures, and layered sound effects. Mission options include factors such as time of day (morning, midday, evening, or night), starting position (base, hovering, or mission site), and crash realism (indestructible or damage).
Players begin as an Ensign, but can achieve up to five promotions in rank based on number of flight hours invested and points earned: Able Ensign (20 hours/400 points), Sub-lieutenant (40/1200), Lieutenant (80/3000), Lieutenant Commander (120/4500), and Aircraft Commander (200/6000). Points are earned based on successful completion of missions and optional settings selected (physics, immortality, crashes, and replays). Rescued victims' conditions change, and can range from "stable" to "dead" as players strive to get in, get out, and get home to the hospital in one piece.
While the search aspect requires learning to fly the Huey by mastering flight instruments such as attitude director and airspeed indicators, radar and barometric altimeters, vertical speed indicators, and the horizontal situation video display (among others), the rescue phase involves an entirely different set of tasks. Selecting the correct tools for the job at hand, such as the sling, litter, hoist, or basket, plays an important role, as does manning the helicopter's machinegun, spotlights, flares, and lights. In addition to the pilot, flight crews include a flight mechanic, rescue swimmer, and gunner.
Game options include an easy mode for rookie pilots or players not interested in learning to realistically fly the helicopter, as well as a challenging option for expert pilots to fly without the Automatic Flight Control System (requires a joystick or similar control of the cyclic, collective, and rudder). Both single mission and campaign modes are available. Vietnam MED+EVAC does not support multiplayer games.
Have you ever played Gunship or Apache and wished that you could do away with all those nasty guns and just concentrate on flying a chopper in a combat zone without having to bother yourself with actually shooting at anything? Have you ever watched the end of Platoon and thought that you'd like to be the pilot that lifts Charlie Sheen away from the horror of that jungle conflict? Or have you ever wondered how on earth flight-sims continue to be classified as computer games? If the last applies to you then you hold at least one opinion that is the same as mine. On the other hand, if the first two possibilities fondle your collective then you might be the kind of person to get some enjoyment from Medevac.
This is the third title in the Search and Rescue series and it's a big departure from the previous incarnations of the rescue-em-up. As opposed to ferrying around fire and car crash victims this time you are entrusted with the theoretically more exciting duty of airlifting the wounded from fields of battle and spiriting them away to hospital. You and your UH-1 will travel all around the battlefields of the Vietnam war, taking in all the differing scenery of Southern Vietnam while you try not to get shot down by small arms or rocket fire and get the wounded G.I.s to safety before they bleed so much over your chopper that you'll miss happy hour at the bar as you hose clean your 'copter. You can order your crew around via the command console and every once in a while you'll even be given the option of manning the door gun to keep the press of VC back at a reasonable distance. But in no way is this a combat simulator. It's all about the flying.
There are two different difficulty settings. Easy is fine if you have nothing but a keyboard whereas those of you who are into this kind of stuff (or if you are into simulations of flying vehicles that kill) and have a joystick lying around there's the realistic option. Neither method will ever give convincing control of a helicopter, the most fiendishly awkward machine to control in the air. However, both methods allow budding angles to get to grips with the flight model easily enough. Flying with the keyboard brought back fond memories of playing Gunship on the C64 (without the fun shooty bits mind) whereas the joystick offered a more tactile control method, something that made smooth maneuvering considerably easier. In fact although the keyboard is adequate, if you are going to purchase this game after reading the rest of the review in all probability have at least a stick, and maybe some pedals too.
The game's graphics are actually quite good, with the rolling terrain of the area finely recreated in bold green colors. Obviously each tree isn't modeled but I did get a good feeling of flying around Vietnam. There's a good smattering of ground objects, from villages to firebases to tiny little soldiers running around like disturbed ants. The graphics are a lot better looking than those of the previous games. The sound too does its minimal job well enough not to be noticeably deficient. No, the area where this game falls down for anyone not interested in counter-rotation and cyclic control is the utter lack of gameplay. There are plenty of challenges to be had here, 100 missions to complete and a free-fly mode for those wishing to just chop about the countryside of river, mountain, urban areas, coast and paddy fields. The problem is if you are a gamer because this isn't a game in any sense that you would be familiar with. This title feels like it should be an expansion pack for MS Flight-Sim rather then a standalone package which might fool people into thinking there was some action-packed fun to be had. It's better made than the last two attempts from the same developers and will no doubt offer enjoyment to people who like flying for the sake of it.
People who downloaded Search & Rescue: Vietnam Med Evac have also downloaded:
Whirlwind over Vietnam, Search and Rescue, Sabre Ace: Conflict Over Korea, Wings over Vietnam, Rowan's Battle of Britain, Pacific Fighters, Mig Alley, Wings over Europe: Cold War Gone Hot
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