Caught up in the Whirlwind Over Vietnam, players must take the controls of the UH-1 chopper and navigate their way through the events happening in Ia Drang Valley during 1965. Designed for both casual and dedicated digital pilots, the 'copter controls of Whirlwind Over Vietnam can be altered to reflect more realistic flight or arcade play. Gamers may also sweep the rice paddies and jungles of a cinematic Vietnam with a variety of historical military equipment from both sides of the fight including authentic American modified helicopters for the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.
Whirlwind over Vietnam is a helicopter flight simulator set in the Vietnam War era, in which you'll pilot the UH-1 Huey through 10 historical missions against the Viet Cong. The premise is somewhat different and refreshing, but the list of problems with this game goes on and on. The controls are quite complex and intricate, as would be expected from a flight simulation game, but there is no training, tutorial, or flight school missions that could ease you into the experience. It starts you off with a real mission right away and expects you to know how to fly immediately. Flight sims of this type might be a dying breed in today's age of gaming, and this title certainly does not help the situation.
The first thing on the list of problems is the controls, which are incredibly complex from the outset. The casual gamer will be turned off immediately by the complicated control scheme which attempts to simulate real helicopter flight. After about three or four minutes of checking the control scheme and experimenting, I was finally able to take off from the ground. Promptly after leaving the ground, I crashed into a building. Another thing to note is that this game is nearly impossible to play with just a keyboard and mouse. The flight controls are too sensitive to accurately control with the digital keys on a keyboard. You'll need a good joystick, preferably one with a four-directional hat, to be able to properly control your craft in flight.
The Huey is the only helicopter that you can fly in the game. A better approach would have been to let the player select from a number of different craft to fly, each with their own missions. While flying the Huey, you can freely switch control between either of the two pilots or either of the two side gunners. It comes equipped with dual mini-guns, a pair of seven-shot rocket pods, and two side machine guns. The craft has aiming reticles that are supposed to assist with firing the main weapons, but the actual trajectory of the shots doesn't line up at all with the reticules, so you just have to learn to gauge where it's going to go. The game does offer a good amount of background text for the missions, which will be a point of interest for the history buffs.
Whirlwind over Vietnam is definitely for the hardcore simulation fan because other than the historical basis, the missions are greatly lacking in content and excitement. The missions basically boil down to searching and destroying, or protecting ground troops for a set amount of time. Often it takes five to 10 minutes of flying just to get to your objective; a fast-forward option is available, but even at max speed, it takes a few minutes. You can turn on the auto pilot and have the A.I. fly for you, but that seems to take away the point of the game, since all you do at that point is just control the side guns. Targets are very difficult to see, and often you'll be shooting just in the general area of the enemy. With the sensitive controls, it will take a while before you'll be comfortable with keeping your bird lined up with a target in order to fire off your weapons.
There is no multiplayer of any kind in this title. There are also no custom, skirmish, or instant action modes to play, nor is there a level/mission editor. Many of the missions have only one or two objectives, and after you complete them, you can end the mission immediately without flying back to base. Another problem with the mission structure is the lack of briefing or clear instructions. It briefly explains some of the objectives over the radio and then lets you go so it can be difficult to find the targets that you're supposed to attack, especially with the confusing navigation system.
The graphics are one of the best things about Whirlwind over Vietnam. Even though the graphics appear to be average, they take a major toll on the system, using about 1.3 GB of memory and taking two to three minutes to load on my mid-range system. The wait really isn't worth it, either, as all you'll see throughout the 10 missions is a vast jungle made up of the same trees, with an occasional clearing or river. As historically accurate as that may be, none of it looks especially impressive. The best-looking models are those of the helicopters, but you only see the outside of your craft occasionally. The inside of the helicopter is also well detailed, with many gauges and switches that accurately reflect the state of your craft. Unfortunately, most of the playing time is spent looking out the cockpit window, and the terrain, sky, and environmental effects are far from impressive. The character models for the pilots look a bit blocky but otherwise appear fine. It seems regrettable that the graphical aspects that appear the most detailed are the ones viewed the least.
The game also has poor sound qualities. The voices come across as lifeless and contrived, with far too much clichéd military jargon being used. The music is decent and fitting of the setting, but unfortunately there are only four music tracks in the entire game. There aren't many sound effects, though the ones that exist are fairly lackluster; all that can be heard is gunfire, explosions, and the noise from your helicopter engine.
There was little polish or attention to detail put into Whirlwind over Vietnam. You can control pilots even after they've been shot, and it will still show their hands moving even though they are supposedly dead. Sometimes auto-pilot will fly you around in circles. You can blow up your own troops, and the commander doesn't even wince at you. There is virtually zero replay value with only 10 static missions, no choice in weapon load outs or helicopters, and no multiplayer. None of the missions involve rescuing or dropping off ground troops; they all just involve destroying targets. The enemy never actually attacks your helicopter, either, so you're never in danger. You can take as long as you want finding the enemy and then proceed to casually blow them up and head on back to base. The only thing I can say in its defense, although I'm no helicopter expert by any means, is that it seems to simulate helicopter flight in a fairly realistic manner, though this is diminished by the fact that you can only fly one helicopter.
Whirlwind over Vietnam offers a gameplay experience that is neither innovative nor executed well. There is really nothing positive that stands out for this title, other than the novelty of being set during the Vietnam War, and even that wears off quickly.
People who downloaded Whirlwind over Vietnam have also downloaded:
Wings over Vietnam, Wings over Europe: Cold War Gone Hot, Search & Rescue: Vietnam Med Evac, WWII Tank Commander, Strike Fighters: Project 1, Mig Alley, Pacific Fighters, U.S. Navy Fighters Gold
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