Genre: Tactical FPS
Release Date: July 26, 2005
Working at a videogame store, you run into a lot of different opinions as to what the "right" and "wrong" games are - the games that a customer should be praised for, and conversely scoffed at, for purchasing. Tactical shooters generally fall under the latter category. Everything from the good - say, Rainbow Six 3 - to the mediocre - Conflict: Vietnam - to the downright bad - namely, any SpecOps game - are swept into the same, shameful genre: "Games Frat Dudes Love."
Oftentimes I find myself agreeing with their pretension. Most of the guys who buy these games are a bunch of drunken Kappa Kappa Gammas; I will not, under any circumstance, deny this. But there is a line I draw when it comes to certain games in the genre. A co-op run through Rainbow Six 3 is a genuinely enjoyable experience, and I fully understand why hundreds of thousands of people would choose to purchase the game. Ghost Recon, while one of the ugliest games I have ever laid eyes upon, is also a blast in co-op, even when played on Xbox Live and the usual dolts that populate that community. Perhaps it is because of my mid-to-late-'90s background in PC gaming, but sometimes it feels like I'm one of the few hardcore console gamers who can find enjoyment in the slow-paced, tense nature of these shooters.
Essentially, I have prefaced this review with the above paragraphs to show that my penchant for some of the more ... acquired tastes within the sphere of console gaming still do not affect my ability to review a game like Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. I have played and enjoyed these games, and Black Hawk Down was not one of the few that I have liked. Like Ghost Recon before it, the game is above all a terrible eyesore, but without the realistic grace of a Tom Clancy shooter, nor the gameplay prowess of a standard first-person shooter. Though loosely based on real-world events, Black Hawk Down does not play at all like a military simulator. It instead sits in an uncomfortable state of limbo, somehow sandwiched in between Rainbow Six and SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals in terms of gameplay, similar to the direction that damned the PS2 version of Ghost Recon 2.
As much as Black Hawk Down tries for realism, it is the very definition of a videogame. Its direction is purely mechanical; each enemy movement is based only upon the presence of the player (or players, as the entire campaign mode can be played through with two players, split-screen, which is a welcome feature). It is as if a very obvious wire has been tripped upon meandering into a specific area - almost to the pixel.
For most players, the second or third time through a mission begins to feel like a chore. Nothing is random, nothing changes, and nothing surprises, as a good tactical game should. Almost every single one of these games has some blatantly scripted segments, but none as shallow and easy to read as those present in Black Hawk Down. If anything, after a single playthrough of a mission the game ends up playing like a very shoddy, three (one?)-dimensional version of Metal Slug, with each segment becoming embarrassingly familiar.
To make matters worse, the game is downright easy. Gone are the one-shot kills that added a feeling of genuine dread to the gameplay experience; instead, there is a very lenient lifebar - easily the most forgiving of all the health systems in any supposedly realistic tactical shooter - that can be replenished, multiple times, at that!
On the normal difficulty setting, the action is quite literally point-and-click. Enemies from far off will fall under a single shot from a weapon that, under normal circumstances (i.e., real life, or, more poignantly, other, better tactical shooters) would not be able to hit on target without at least a handful of three-shot bursts. To make matters worse, the enemy A.I. tends to have a severe issue with standing in place and firing in the most random of directions instead of attempting any direct pursuit of the Delta Force squads. Far too easy, even for the simplest difficulty, but we aren't looking at a mode titled, "I Can Win!", are we?
Normally, to remedy such tepid gameplay, one simply ups the difficulty. Black Hawk Down does not fit the bill.
Medium difficulty is surprisingly similar to normal; the only major difference is that enemies are a bit less difficult to peg with a half-stray bullet than before. Mutiple full health replenishings and ammo reloadings are still possible.
Hard adds accuracy to the enemy fire, and they do some less standing-around-and-waiting-for-impending-doom, but still, the game can be memorized after a single playthrough of a mission and handily dispatched the second or third time through - not very "realistic," for sure.
As noted earlier in this writing, the graphics are quite an eyesore to put up with. Held up against Rainbow Six 3 and Ghost Recon 2, they look downright dated, being more along the lines of the first titles in those respective franchises.
There is little anti-aliasing to speak of, no advance texturing techniques, and most annoyingly, very little complex geometry in any of the locales. The framerate falters in all but the two-player deathmatch modes, which of course have only two active models on the playing field, giving the clearly flawed Delta Force engine little to tax itself with. On the positive side of things, the draw distance is very lengthy, with little pop-up to be found during any of the missions - very important in a game dependent on long-range sniping skills.
The special effects, such as explosions, are again nothing special, but they don't look bad by any means. The textures on the levels are mostly pretty good with some decent detail on them, but there are some that could be sharper or use more detail. The current generation of consoles is simply not powerful enough to allow developers to have both large numbers of people on the screen at the same time and large, detailed environments.
Black Hawk Down would have been a more powerful release had it not come after Rainbow Six 3 or even Conflict: Vietnam. It simply has no place in the current sea of PlayStation 2 shooters; it is far too flawed, far too easy, and lacks far too much of the intensity that gamers pick up tactical shooters for in the first place. With Battlefield 2: Modern Combat and SOCOM 3 on the horizon, it may be best to skip this latest Delta Force altogether.
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