That Pri*ck, the Greek Geek!
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"7554" First Impressions
You know what it's been a while since I last played? A first-person-shooter. Especially a military-themed one. The genre has become so hopelessly insignificant, I had just quit altogether.
So I was pleasantly surprised to run into "7554", the first Vietnamese-made game on the international market, reportedly in development since 2008 by Vietnamese developer Emobi Games; a military first-person-shooter NOT starring Americans, for a change, instead taking place during the Franco-Vietnamese War.
They say you write about what you know and considering the game's country of origin, the setting is unsurprising. If you're not familiar with the conflict (and excuse the grossly oversimplified summation of it that follows), Vietnam found a break during World War II to free itself from the control of European and specifically French colonies. They turned to the Japanese for help, but following the Emperor's defeat and surrender at the end of the War, the French tried to bring the situation back under control.
The conflict started as simple rebellion, but soon exploded into something bigger, especially once Communist China got involved. Being still at the foothill of the Cold War, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union started supplying the warring sides with weapons, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands in a war that lasted eight years (1946-1954). It was the conflict that eventually led to the division of the country into its northern and southern counterparts that exist to this day.
The setting and historical context are the game's biggest draw. Unfortunately, as it turns out, it's the only draw. From the moment the game first loads, it's blindingly obvious that 7554 is a Modern Warfare rip-off through and through. The interface is almost the same, the controls are exactly the same, the pacing is similar, as is the presentation, the weapon physics, the on-screen indicators, even that little crosshair that pops up for half a second when you manage to hit a target.
Of course, this isn't inherently bad. Much as I dislike that series, a MW "clone" that chronicles lesser-known events and conflicts that defined a country is still a hell of a lot better than the make-believe fantasy scenarios that exist to bolster the ego of a privileged nation that seems incapable of finding pride in anything other than its military machine; that same machine that leeches billions of dollars monthly to destabilize entire regions far away from its borders.
But as lenient as I want to be toward a smaller studio that doesn't have Activision's resources, I can't in all good conscience pretend there's anything good about this game. Thing is, 7554 looks good enough (even if it's nowhere near Modern Warfare standards, visually) and it's technically sound. That's the best thing one can say about it, the game's functional.
The problems lie in basic game design, direction and structure. The game has no flow. It has the mechanics of a fast-paced shooter, but it stops dead in its tracks with each objective, all which are of the "survive, shoot, kill" variety. Weapons are fine, but few and ammo is ridiculously scarce. This type of "realism" is counter-intuitive in games, when it can cock up entire objectives and force the player to go back to the last checkpoint. Enemy soldiers have super-human aim even from a distance, but there is no lean left/right function to compensate, there is no cover system and the player can take only a handful of hits before they fall dead and must restart.
The ideas are there, but they are not well-implemented. The pacing is inconsistent and, most importantly, there is no balance. One of the earlier objectives is to shoot down five snipers on top of a rooftop you can barely see. You can run out of ammo easily, you don't have a sniper-rifle and the enemy troops are extremely capable of landing 3-4 hits before you can even see them. Later you are required to survive the influx of waves of enemies from all sides with little ammo, slow-reloading weapons (it *was* the '50s) and small time windows to pick up fallen enemy weapons to replace your own.
This is pretty much when I gave up, which is why this is a "first impressions" instead of a proper review. The game isn't difficult, but it's amateurish through and through. It doesn't play well enough to justify its shortcomings and compensate for the structural problems it's rife with. It's also nothing a very dedicated mod team couldn't have made.
I wager Emobi Games should've started with something smaller for an international release, something that wouldn't put the title in direct comparison and competition with one of the biggest game series in the world. Perhaps something that wouldn't be that big a resource hog and let the designers actually design the game instead of just putting it together.
Just a thought.