WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
The jungle sections could be viewed as rather repetitive but we like the claustrophobic edge-of-your-seat tension created while creeping through the green stuff. In fact, it's what has impressed us most so far. The tension is real if you want to succeed because we guarantee that if you just plough on ahead of your group and try to do an Arnie you'll be cut to shreds in short time.
The key to success, we discovered, is to keep your guys close, enabling them to draw fire, take out the odd enemy themselves, while you act as the business end of the squad, as it's almost solely down to you to dispatch the enemy in serious numbers. During these confrontations the game scripts in a variety of events, which mainly alternate between you either leading or following your buddies in a given direction or towards a particular goal (such as claiming a hill and calling down air fire).
This is a squad-based title in that you lead a group of men but not in the traditional sense as you don't initiate actual commands to your guys - they instead follow your example. However, the AI is good enough that they don't all get bunched up and they do provide covering fire as well as going after different targets. We're not overly convinced by the AI at this stage (especially of the enemy, seeing as some crept right past us when we were clearly on view) but in the main it was satisfactory and didn't cause major concerns during our test play.
Another vital aspect of survival that was clearly evident from early on is resource management. Pressing the Y button when over a dead body (friend or foe) effectively searches the body for health and ammo. You'll need plenty of both. Running out of ammo is a real possibility and some of the missions become farcical if you try and plough on in the vain hope of finding a big stash of goodies when you've run dry. It's not a fault with the game, it's just a lesson in resource management. That the game allows you to continue when all is really lost, is simply another challenge - on rare occasions you'll get away with it.
The weapons feel meaty and have distinct characteristics. We can't say they're accurate to the real world as we haven't had the dubious honour of shooting humans with US military issue but you'll have your favourites and note the shortcomings of less accurate guns. The sound effects are fine and the echo of short-burst fire across a clearing or paddy field is particularly satisfying.
Visually the game is pleasing without being exceptional (although the pre-alpha PC version we viewed did have particularly impressive reflective properties). A tad scruffy at times, it does the job and the somewhat messy nature of the deepest jungle vegetation is actually fitting to the gameplay and makes you feel like you're actually craning your neck above the shrubbery when trying to get a glimpse of impending sniper fire while trying to remain concealed. Watching players literally raise their heads to see ahead is always a good sign of involved gaming (much like driving games that make you list right and left) and we saw a fair few do just that.