Name: ShellShock 2: Blood Trails
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Oh Vietnam, why can’t the gaming world let you go? While there aren’t nearly as many ‘Nam games as there are WWII games, at least some developers have gotten the World War right. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game placed in Vietnam that wasn’t mediocre at best and darn near unplayable at worst. When images from ShellShock 2, Rebellion’s ShellShock: ‘Nam ‘67 sequel that nobody wanted, first started trickling out, it was apparent that my feelings on the genre weren’t going to be changed. Particularly when I found out the game was about zombies on the loose in Vietnam. Yeah, like the real conflict wasn’t horrible enough.
Before I start ripping into ShellShock 2: Blood Trails, I feel obligated to inform you that it’s a budget title. Though unless you have some sort of Monty Brewster type budget in order to inherit a shit-ton of money, to better replicate the Vietnam experience, you might want to spend $40 on some black tar heroin, and have a friend of yours hide in the bushes in front of your house, then have him try to kill you every time you try to leave the house. Well it’s certainly more feasible Vietnam experience than ShellShock 2 provides. In this game, you’ll play as the brother of a US soldier who was infected with what appears to be the rage virus from 28 Days Later (not to be confused with the rage virus you’ll be infected with from watching the Sandra Bullock’s in rehab movie, 28 Days). You’re brought in to… well, it isn’t exactly clear. I guess you’re there to try and reason with your brother, but then he escapes, and it’s up to you to track him down. Along the way you’ll fight the Viet Cong and (surprise) more zombies. Sound fun? It’s not.
To start with, ShellShock 2 looks like a really crisp original Xbox game. Character models are offensively bad, and the landscapes are generic, poorly designed, and do their best to show you just how bad linear level design used to be. At least in many of today’s good shooters, linearity is hidden by some solid level design. SS2 puts you on a path that is literally carved into the map. Each of the game’s 10 levels follows the same ol’ formula of walk somewhere, have a big shootout, walk somewhere, have another shootout, repeat. I wouldn’t have such big problem with it if the battles were the least bit interesting. Instead, the firefights are nothing more than a set number of enemies you have to kill before you’re allowed to move on. And the AI is terrible. Both your teammates and the VC are completely helpless as long as you can see them. The VC shooting you from places you can’t possibly shoot at are incredibly accurate, so that’s fun. There was one point in the game where I finished off a section of bad guys and I was supposed to make my way to the next checkpoint with an AI buddy. Only that buddy was blown to pieces, so I had to go it alone. Of course, the game wasn’t prepared for that to happen. I was supposed to make my way across a bridge, pick up an RPG, and blow the bridge up. Only no RPG spawned, and the enemies never stopped popping in from the other side of the bridge. This problem was easily rectified by killing myself so I could restart at the previous checkpoint, and do the whole thing over again. I imagine there are several levels of Hell just like this.
ShellShock 2 controls just like every other first-person shooter, and that’s about the only thing that the game does right. Triggers to the aiming and shooting, and the face buttons do all the reloading and interacting. Every so often you’ll be thrust into a quick-time close-combat event. All you have to do is push two buttons, and you win. It’s completely unsatisfying. ShellShock 2 is sort of gory, but it’s not the sort of gore where you’re like, “Ooooh, nasty,” it’s more like, “Ha, that guy’s leg just blew off horribly,” kind of gore. The game is about three hours long, and there’s absolutely zero multiplayer. Once you finish the game, unless you’re unique brand of masochism involves replaying truly awful video games, there’s no reason to put the disc back into the game tray. Technically, there was no reason to put the game in to start with, but I digress.
Aside from the ridiculously terrible story, the 6 year-old graphics, broken AI, and lack of replay value, ShellShock 2: Blood Trails doesn’t sound too bad does it? Take the horrors of Vietnam, add in some zany zombie mayhem, plop it all in a game that shouldn’t have ever been made, then take out all the horrors of Vietnam, and you’ve got yourself ShellShock 2. I wish writing this review was as cathartic as I thought it would be, but instead it just made me mad that I had to waste even more time thinking about this stupid game.