Developer: City Interactive
Release Date: November 11, 2004
I'm not sure what I can honestly say here. I've played many a rail-shooter, and many a war game, and I've never seen one quite like this. To drag out an overused internet meme, if this is the future of budget games and rail shooters, then the terrorists have already won.
Terrorist Takedown is another game set in the ever-popular Middle East, where generic "terrorists" with guns, rockets, jeeps, and sheer numbers assault American forces. If that sounds bland and uninspired, then you're right along with me – there's not exactly a surplus of creativity here. You're an unnamed soldier with an unnamed unit in an unidentified location somewhere in the Eurasian continent. It's obvious that you're an American male, but beyond that, there's no backstory whatsoever. There's not even a clue who you're shooting at – just some generic terrorists who never do anything more but run up, stand there, and shoot whatever they're carrying. Even the box can't decide where it wants to put you, featuring blurbs about "the scorching sands of terrorist-riddled lands." While this is probably to avoid singling out any one location or nationality and offending someone, I find it increasingly hard to be inspired by this violent trip to Terroristania.
The game itself won't exactly make you get out of your seat and enlist either. The engine here is serviceable and nothing more, with sparse detail and nearly no animation to speak of. It doesn't help that the only "enemy" you see tends to be out at some enormously long range, giving you nothing to look at but generic brown terrain or generic grey buildings while trying to shoot ants in the face. Don't expect any spectacular special effects or heavy explosions – this is 1999 all over again. The sound is far from astounding, too, with weak gunfire and ... well, that's about it. You'll hear some engine noise, the occasional rocket fire (oddly enough, anti-aircraft rounds, helicopter rockets, and RPGs all sound exactly the same), and a lot of odd grunting from people you're mauling. Oh, and the chatter, but we'll get to that later on. Oh, boy will we ever.
I can't even comment on the controls without saying something on the overall gameplay, since they're so massively tied together. Terrorist Takedown is what I call a "fixed point shooter," despite any advertising claims to the contrary. What does this mean to you, the gamer? It means that most of your gameplay will be from a fixed point – a turret, a mounted gun, so on – and the world will move around you. In most cases, we'd call that a "rail shooter" (the game is "on rails"), but that's not true all the time – in some missions, you don't even get the dignity of moving. Instead, you sit in place and man your weapon until some arbitrary number of whatevers have been shot and killed, and then you move on.
For something so simple, the controls are a serious failing point – the mouse is sluggish and jittery, and the zoom mode you desperately need in order to see smaller targets is practically useless because of instability. Pouring on the firepower generally doesn't work either because of restrictions placed on you to avoid just that: the mounted guns overheat and need a three-second cooldown, while anti-air rockets must be "sighted properly," which translates to "hold the jerky crosshair in a tiny box for a few seconds or else you can't even try to fire while six other targets zoom by you." A mission or two offers you a chance to shoot at things from a combat helicopter complete with a heavy cannon and unlimited rockets, but the controls again fail miserably, allowing you to adjust your height for no specific reason while the mouse tries to direct which way you're traveling but tends to just induce motion sickness. I've been on roller coasters that have less spins.
For something that advertises "heart pounding scenarios in 16 gritty missions," there doesn't seem to be so much adrenaline as aggravation here. Many of the scenarios involve that old standard, the "defend the defenseless" objective. Here in Evil Guy Country, that means convoys of large, slow, unarmed and mostly unarmored trucks. More often than you'll be comfortable with, one or two enemies will sneak past you thanks to a quirky indicator system (more on that below) and will happily plug your convoy with enough rounds to turn metal to cheesecloth.
Often there's little you can do once the shooting starts; in the helicopter missions, your movement is far too slow to catch up, while in the "rail" missions, once you've missed a target, you can't go back and get him, and if that someone has an RPG, you've lost. Losing any one truck results in your immediate failure, making it a frustrating all-or-nothing situation, particularly since you can't simply tell the convoy to stop and wait for you to clear things out. I understand making things simple, but suicidal is another ball of wax entirely.
That's what finally floors Terrorist Takedown – the little things, like the jumpy controls and imprecise guns, or the unreasonable "cooldown" period on your machineguns. (Did they not learn anything from games of yesteryear? You never take the shooter's gun away entirely!) There's the bizarre dialog, full of swearing and random "hoo-hahs" but never entirely related to the situation at hand; the aforementioned control irregularities; options that simply don't work; a "threat indicator" that shows every threat in the vicinity, whether you can actually hit it or not, teamed with an "off-screen threat pointer" that is so inaccurate it's useless; and most of all, difficulty imbalance.
The first two missions are hard enough to put most gamers off immediately, but pushing through them results in four extremely easy missions in a row, followed again by a painfully hard mission. The developers couldn't decide on a good mission length (mission three barely lasts a full minute, while mission two is well over five), and seem to have an odd fixation with giant firefights that are often too much to handle. I don't understand how coming around a corner and finding three machinegun nests and about a dozen gunners, all waiting for me with loaded clips and itchy fingers, could possibly be considered "fun." Often, you'll miss a target and either get a penalty against you for letting someone into the base or – more commonly – you'll get plugged in the back repeatedly by someone you can no longer hit.
War-themed games are on the rise in the U.S., given our current political and foreign situation. I can understand trying to make a simpler game for the less strategic or violence inclined, but boiling down the idea until there's nothing left but this weak stock isn't going to win anyone any prizes. <I>Terrorist Takedown is not worth anyone's time, and certainly not worth anyone's money, unless someone is utterly enamored of shooting anonymous terrorists in foreign lands with no names. If you're this desperate to fight the "Axis of Evil," I might suggest enlisting. (Side note: a percentage of sales of this game go to the "Special Operations Warrior Foundation." I've no idea who that is, exactly, but it seems to be a common idea – make a low-quality budget game then tie it to a charity to try and guilt people in to buying it. I say "boo" to that.)
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