Call of Duty Vietnam: Rewriting the history books

Call of Duty Vietnam: Rewriting the history books

Written by 

Jack Marsh


19th May 2020 19:00

Cast your minds back to 9th November 2010. In fact, don’t, all of your days were the same. You were in high school. The tables are set out in rows and you’re sat side-by-side with a person you have never met, but who has an alphabetically similar name to you. You’re more interested in scanning the room at the grubby books, adolescent projects disguised as decorations, and the globe that every history teacher seemed to have, counting down the minutes to 3pm as you know that’s the time you can jump on the bus home and be the first to dive into the world of Call of Duty Black Ops as it was released. Strikes home right? We were all there once.

But whilst your minds strayed to Firing Range and Nuketown, the languid fossil, Mrs Jones, had made three other students nod off and sent one to the hall for texting their playground love. Her lesson on the Vietnam War was borderline lifeless.

As the bell rang and books were crammed inside your Adidas backpack, all her mundane facts about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu flew straight out of your mind, never to be revisited. Me too, it was until research for this article had begun that I only briefly remembered Mrs Jones’ glasses falling off her nose as she said something that sounded like ‘the French lost’.

I was too focused on hearing the Black Ops loading screen, and diving into the campaign.

Mason and his F******* numbers.

It had me gripped from the first cutscene, an interrogation starting in the same chair you sit in for the loading screen; ingenious. I apologise if you have just fallen down a wormhole of nostalgia, it’s a long climb out of here.

I spent the whole night trying to grind out the campaign so I could go to school the next day and accidentally spoil it for everyone. Whoops.

Walking into school the next day I had a swagger nearly as big as the bags under my eyes, and I was about to unleash a whirlwind of spoilers.

I must confess, although Mrs Jones was a bore, I loved history and knew more about the Vietnam War than she did, or so I thought on the basis of my night of gaming. Rife with memories of me tearing through the Jungles of Vietnam with my French-made Famas that I’d looted from the Viet Cong enemies, I was in shock when she corrected my know-it-all-ness when I explained why I thought the French and Russians were working together.

This was the first time I noticed the power of Call of Duty, in that it could teach millions of children across the globe a completely different story to the real version, and taint history.

Black Ops 1 History
Click to enlarge

In recent Call of Duty news, the next instalment of CoD is set to be based in Vietnam, heavily focused on the previous Black Ops Campaign, and possibly feature Alex Mason and Frank Woods. But with the Black Ops campaign bending the truths of the Cold War to benefit their storytelling, is Treyarch about to teach children around the World the Vietnam War that they want, or the real version?

Take Black Ops, for example, it was the first instance in Which Call of Duty broke from their historical meticulousness. Having previously been a franchise that highlighted major historical wartime landmarks and retold the history books as accurately as possible, Treyarch had a history of working with Hollywood, and this was no different. Having actors such as Kiefer Sutherland (executive producer of counter-terrorist series ‘24’) voicing characters, it was clear that Treyarch had been influenced by cinema rather than sticking to facts.

Obviously there have to be aspects of truth-bending incorporated withing Call of Duty, especially Black Ops, as they brought us Zombies. It was hardly truthful that after meetings between JFK and Fidel Castro that a zombie outbreak occurred within the Pentagon. However, when looking at the campaign, you would assume it was based completely on wartime history, and for that, it should be 100% accurate.

This goes without saying, most of the Black Ops campaign is truthful, and you’re lured into the campaign with a brilliantly captivating rendition of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Not long after you are sent to the Arctic in a mission called ‘Project Nova’, which shows a humongous arctic base under German influence. Whilst these did exist in reality, it was near impossible for German resources to make a base that big in the arctic, due to limitations of shipping, and their resources post-WWII. These bases were in fact much smaller and would normally be derelict. It is inaccurate to believe that there was a huge Nazi presence in the arctic, especially as Russia and the USA would have larger bases there too.

But in the most comparable mission to what we may see in Call of Duty 2020, Mason and Woods are sent to Vietnam, on a mission named after the country it’s set in.

You are flooded with an array of historical facts which almost pulls the wool over your eyes for the actual gameplay. Whilst Treyarch seemingly did their research on Wikipedia, their facts are accurate, but many aspects of the mission are not. The Viet-Cong army was known for their guerrilla warfare tactics and would rarely be caught out in the open like in the first combat instance you come across. They were known for using the land that they knew so well to their advantage, often using underground tunnels to ambush troops or booby-trapping routes. Finding the Viet Cong army out in the open like that would scarcely happen. It goes without saying that this mission wasn’t based on a true event like alike some on this storyline, however, their display of the Viet Cong army was all wrong.

Within the mission, you can also pick up weapons with a Flamethrower Underbarrel. This would not have been possible at the time and was seemingly added to the game as they were renowned for using actual Flamethrowers. Treyarch took a huge shortcut here combining a Gun and a Flamethrower when in actual fact, the flame would have melted the Gun.

In the next mission within Vietnam, you are actually presented with a Flamethrower, which seems rather counter-intuitive. In the most recent Modern Warfare, Underbarrel attachments are still present, however, a Flamethrower isn’t, which hints that it won’t be introduced in CoD 2020, although they’re set in different times.

This mission, which is the forefront of the map ‘Jungle’ is a much better reflection of Vietnam, although it is dumbed down for gameplay spectacles. After infiltrating a Viet Cong base, Woods and Mason sweep through the base without having to avoid a single booby-trap, which would not have been the case during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong would even booby trap their own bases in events like this, although they knew exactly where they were meaning that they wouldn’t trigger them themselves.

Further inaccuracies come with the weapons. The Vietnam War ran from 1955-1975, although most of the fighting ended in 1973. Throughout the campaign, most missions are set in 1968, which is peculiar considering the weapons that they were using were first developed in the early 1970s. Weapons such as the G11, Famas, and the AUG weren’t invented until the very end of the Vietnam War, and wouldn’t have been used there anyway due to the high demand that would be needed. The Famas was also a French weapon, which would never have made its way to the hands of the Russians and the Viet Cong armies that both sport them during points of the campaign.

With the next instalment of Call of Duty, it is likely that we will see many aspects of the Vietnam War return, with weapons such as the AK-47 being popular, and missions based around events such as the Geneva Convention, meaning historical accuracy will need to be maintained. The Vietnam War was one of the most famous battles in history, and any inaccuracies during the campaign could cause millions of players to be told a story which isn’t true and rewriting history books for the current generation.

Images via Activision

Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.

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