Version tested: Xbox 360
Back in 2004, when everyone was already complaining about a surplus of World War II games, Vietnam was the next big thing, and Shellshock: Nam '67 was Eidos' answer to Battlefield Vietnam, Vietcong, Line of Sight and others. Nowadays, World War II is still big business, Vietnam has been abandoned once again, and Shellshock 2: Blood Trails is the answer to a question no one asked. It's not a very good answer.
You play as a grunt inserted suspiciously into a unit deep in Vietnam, only to discover that you're not only in the s***, you're on the hunt for your brother, who has been infected with some sort of zombifying virus that turns him - and a lot of his fellow GIs - into something out of 28 Days Later. Mist-soaked hills and raw jungle oppression were enough for Vietnam games five years ago, but apparently not now.
Which is a shame, because the Xbox 360 and PS3 would certainly do a good job of rendering Vietnam in smoldering, oppressive detail given half the chance. Whether for budget reasons or not though, Rebellion barely gives them a tenth of a chance. Textures are bland, geometry uncomplicated, lighting sharp and unrealistic; the jungle is jagged, clip-happy and static. Character models on both sides are dull, sparsely detailed and clunkily animated, and the frame-rate lurches into the teens with alarming regularity. Load times are also surprisingly long, although, as you'll see, I'm not going to complain about the time I got to spend not playing it.
The first-person shooter combat itself, which progresses from towns and ruins into jungle and cave systems, is frustrating and inexact. It's difficult to aim despite a range of sensitivity sliders, reloading takes ages, and every gun, grenade and ammo pack has to be manually collected by hitting a button when you run over it. There's an iron sights option, but it's no help in getting a bead on the mini-waves of troops and zombies being thrown at you. Throwing grenades is a complete lottery, and the explosive effect is roughly akin to a firework you'd take back to the shop for a refund.
And that's just on your end. The enemies themselves are shockingly basic. Soldiers shamble from blatant spawn points over walls and rock clusters and trip merrily into your crosshairs (assuming you can drag them round in time) without the wit for self-preservation or tactics, until such time as the game decides you've killed enough of them or you pass a secret line in the ground that stops them respawning. Despite their stupidity, they're also difficult to spot, spawning on balconies and buried amidst the trees, taking dead aim and hitting you with every bullet whatever the range, so you often have to retreat and use the damage indicator to judge where they are before clumsily engaging.