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Platoon is one of those games I use to love on the good old Commodore 64 and that’s why I was scared to give the PC version a go (in those days PC games had worse sounds and graphics then C64). Well there were things I hated about this game, but nothing I couldn’t get over.
First I need to tell you that unless you have a joystick you’ll be cursing the keyboard commands. It really took me a whole evening just to get comfortable with the keys (Z = move left, X = move right, . = move up, / = move down and space = fire). Also I was surprised by the lack of sound (C64 had a relatively good soundtrack), which is PC speaker only. But the sound does the job and the graphics are OK. You’ll only hear the guerillas jumping off trees and shooting (and your own rifle).
Now with all the weaknesses of the game out of the way I can begin telling you why I love this game so much!
You find yourself in a hostile jungle. Enemy soldiers are coming out of the woodwork: they can jump down from tree tops, they can be under the trap doors in the ground, or they can come after you on the path (either from the back or from the front). You need to shoot them or evade them (yes you can dodge bullets). Also you need to watch out for the mines. All these dangers damage you in different ways. Your platoon is made up of 5 soldiers and each of them can get hit three times (fourth shot kills them). Getting shot or touching an enemy soldier counts as a hit. Whenever a member of your platoon is hit you get to choose the next one (you can chose to play on with the same on or chose another one, who hasn’t been hit yet). If you step on mine however, your man gets killed immediately. There are some medicine packs along the way which can delete one hit (or boost your morale if your soldier hasn’t been hit). Morale will come into play later on. If your platoon has no more morale your mission will fail (you can easily loose morale in the latter part of the game by shooting the villagers).
So in the first (the jungle) part of the game you need to find the explosives, get to the bridge and blow it up. The real challenge here is to find your way around the jungle (you’ll need quite some time to do that). Unfortunately once you do exit the jungle there is no way of saving the game, so if you die you’ll need to replay the whole jungle sequence over and over again (fortunately it gets easier once you get familiar with the jungle).
Next you find yourself in a village (do not shoot innocent villagers). Here you’ll need to explore the huts in order to find a map, a torch and a trap door to the tunnel system. There will still be some enemy soldiers here and the mines, but there will be civilians present, so don’t go trigger happy.
And once you’re in the tunnels the real fun begins! This has got to be one of the first games that included a sort of 3D first person shooting sequence (it’s not really 3D, but it looked damn good back in the eighties). You’ll be running around the tunnels (there’s a map on the right side to know where you’re going to) and you’ll be running into enemy soldiers (you can’t see them at first). Enemies will be either coming towards you with a rifle in the hand, or will literally come out of the floor with a knife in the hand ready to stab you! That looked so cool – you have to see it. There are some rooms in the tunnels you need to explore and once you exit the tunnels the toughest part of the game begins.
If you remember the movie (or even better the book the movie was based on) then you’ll undoubtedly remember the night of the big fight when the hero goes berserk and starts running around shooting everything in his path. Well that’s exactly what awaits you. Numerous enemies and poor vision - Good luck on surviving that one!
All in all this is an extremely challenging game with graphics being top of the notch at the time it came out. The shortcomings of the game are mostly of the technical nature, but the things that made this game a legend outweigh the down sides by far. That’s why I can easily give this game a 5 and strongly recommend it to you!
I need to warn you to slow your computer down (in DOSBox you should set it to around 500 cycles).