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Shadow Ops: Red Mercury

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action

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Xbox Review - 'Shadow Ops: Red Mercury'

by Corey Owen on July 18, 2004 @ 1:35 a.m. PDT

Genre: Action
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Zombie Studios
Release Date: June 15, 2004

My mom used to tell me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!” Sorry Mom, that doesn’t work very well in game reviews. Shadow Ops Red Mercury tries to cash in on the popularity of the omnipresent FPS genre without offering anything new or remotely intriguing to warrant plopping down 50 bucks. Shadow Ops does what every other FPS before it has already done, only worse. The single player is unremarkable in every way, and the multiplayer is worse. The graphics are sub-par for a PC game from 2000. The audio is the only area that is really done well. There Mom, I said something nice for you. As much as it pains me, let’s take a closer look at Shadow Ops so you’ll know where I’m coming from.

The most basic element that any game must nail in order to be successful are the controls. If a game doesn’t control well, it will never be successful. Well there’s strike one from Shadow Ops. Aiming is very stiff and doesn’t flow well at all. It is damn near impossible to make minor aiming corrections. The slightest touch sends the reticule flying. When I saw this, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. Not long after noticing that aiming at enemies was difficult, I discovered that my teammates have some horrible A.I. and even worse aim. They will find cover and stay there firing at enemies until one of them is dead. The bad thing is your teammates are damn near invincible so you have little hope of ever having them die. A grenade can explode directly in their faces, and they won’t even flinch. So immediately the “realism” that they were going for is also shot.

Then I noticed that if I stopped firing at the terrorists, they would never die. I don’t think I ever saw a teammate actually kill anyone. Now this game isn’t billed as a squad-based shooter, but if you are going to have teammates with you, they could at least periodically do something other than get in the way. Enemy A.I. is practically non-existent, and the game relies heavily on the sheer number of enemies to keep the action intense. The only hint of any intelligence I saw were terrorist throwing your grenades back at you, and even that didn’t always work. Many times, they would try to throw or return a grenade at me only to hit the ceiling or some part of a building that was jutting out, sending the grenade right back at their feet and killing them instantly.

Almost every event consists of enemies spotting you, running into position, and staying there until either you or they are killed. This is made worse by the fact that the game is entirely linear; there are never any branching paths or alternate routes to take to complete an objective. Since some missions can be quite long and the enemies are numerous, the worst feature of the game is the lack of midlevel save points because it forces you to restart often and waste more time waiting through the long load times. If the developers had wanted you to beat a whole level at once, they could have at least shortened the load times to under 45 seconds.

My final gripe about Shadow Ops is the choice of weapons, or lack thereof, to be more precise. You have your standard weapon classes, namely pistol, rifle, machine gun, bazooka, shotgun, and sniper rifle. The problem is that all weapons of a given class are identical in every aspect other than look and clip size. Why even bother with all of the different models if they will be identical in function?
Another problem with the weapons is their accuracy. The reticule turns red whenever an enemy is targeted, which should be a good thing. The problem is that you can be 80 yards from a terrorist, simply pass the reticle over him and snipe him with damn near every weapon. That’s right, you can snipe an enemy with a pistol, rifle, or even a machine gun simply by shooting when your reticule is red. How’s that for government dollars well spent?

The multiplayer is barely worth mentioning. If you thought the single player sounded bad, you ain’t heard nothing yet. They offer you the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, as well as the fairly common VIP. These modes add absolutely nothing new to the genre and seem as though they were thrown in just so they could have “Online Enabled” printed on the box.

I guess I’ll begin with the lack of blood. This is true in the single player mode as well, but it is magnified in the multiplayer because of the lack of any damage animation. When you are shooting at an enemy, you have no way of knowing if you are actually hitting them until they actually keel over and die. Blood would have helped here, but there aren’t even animations to support the fact that you are hitting the enemy; they don’t even flinch when you hit them with a shotgun blast to the face.

That brings up another point. FPS 101 clearly states that head shots deal more damage than body shots, and most every FPS since circa 1995 has had the feature … but not Shadow Ops. That’s right, a bullet to the head will do no more damage than one to the leg, which is just wrong. If co-op play is more to your multiplayer liking, they have included that as well, but don’t get your hopes up. The levels are all designed in such a way that one person will do the majority of the work and take the majority of the damage throughout the game. The only teamwork involved is deciding who will be the cannon fodder going into the next room. Rainbow Six 3, this game is not.

The graphics, much like the gameplay, are bland and uninspired. The character models are decent enough, but the levels and textures are mundane and unoriginal. There are several environments in the game so it doesn’t become too boring to look at, but in a given area, the characters all look pretty similar. The jungle areas are probably the best visually, and the terrorists blend in well with the environment. It’s surprising how well they pulled off this aspect, given the rest of the game’s unremarkable visuals. The animations are also stiff, as though motion capturing was used, but no animators polished it off. One glaring problem is the fact that the enemies vanish almost immediately after shooting them. If you look away for even a second, their bodies will have disappeared. The cutscenes fare better, but are often grainy and shot in a shaky can fashion that is flooding today’s war movies.

The sound is truly the high point in Shadow Ops. I don’t have any idea how such a mediocre game could have such a great score and tight sound effects. It’s one of only a few games that is THX certified, and it shows. The sound engineering helps immerse you in the Shadow Ops world like no other aspect can. The soundtrack is better than some motion pictures and gets better throughout. Gunfire crackles all around you in battle, and the 5.1 sound can often give you clues as to where your foes are hiding. The enemies will talk at you in their native languages, which is also a nice touch. You will notice them repeating dialogue, but it’s not too terribly often. The voice acting is decent overall, but some characters do have crappy accents. It would be nice if more games featured THX certification. If Shadow Ops can do it, so can you!

If not for the impressive sound and the sheer intensity of fighting a seemingly endless supply of terrorists, this game would have no redeeming qualities. If you are going to try and enter the already-saturated FPS market, at least look at what others have done and try to improve upon it. The single player is uninspired, and the multiplayer is downright boring. If you are looking for a FPS to fill the void until Doom 3 or Halo 2, go back and pick up one that you’ve missed. It’s hard to even recommend this game for rental, much less purchase.

Score : 4.5/10



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