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Conflict: Denied Ops

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Pivotal Games

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PS3 Review - 'Conflict: Denied Ops'

by Geoff Gibson on April 11, 2008 @ 2:55 a.m. PDT

Conflict: Denied Ops, previously called Crossfire, is a new paramilitary themed co-op FPS putting you in control of two of these merciless operatives, each of them highly specialized in both weapons and military tactics.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Pivotal Games
Release Date: February 12, 2008

It seems like each publisher feels the need to have its own iconic FPS title under its wing. Microsoft has Halo, Sony has Killzone/Resistance, and EA has Battlefield. These games usually fare quite well and garner sequels and franchises, so what's Eidos' latest answer to the FPS equation? Conflict: Denied Ops, a tactical co-op shooter that centers on two mismatched CIA agents on a mission to stop a whole bunch of bad guys through some surprisingly varied missions. Unfortunately, the game sounds a whole lot cooler than it actually is.

It's not hard to make a decent FPS game these days; they're practically formulaic, which isn't really a bad thing, as there are many good titles out there. Denied Ops, however, is an exception. It seemed as if every neat feature was bogged down by three or four others that were cringe-inducing. Sometimes, during the game's short periods of lucidity, everything comes together and clicks to create an enjoyable experience. So what went wrong with the rest of it?

For one thing, the graphics in Denied Ops are less than impressive. From bland textures to a severe lack of anti-aliasing, the game looks as if it had been directly ported from the PS2. It's not good when a new FPS looks worse than Resistance, a year-old launch title of similar pedigree. With that said, there is a silver lining in the graphics: Despite the textures and fire graphics appearing bland, the smoke effect looks mighty realistic. Aside from that, everything else pretty much looked awful. The character modeling was decidedly "last-gen," and the water looked like Jell-O. It's a pity because the PS3 is capable of doing so much more.

In addition to the graphics, the audio was less than stellar. While the guns and grenade explosions sounded mediocre at best, the music was so forgetful that it practically seemed non-existent. I would listen to the background music at times, only to forget it entirely five minutes later. In addition to the chintzy gun sounds and music, there was also the awful voice acting. While the occasional quips weren't bad, the cut scenes were chock-full of bad acting. Of particular insult was Lang's unoriginal and completely hackneyed slang. Was it really too much to ask to not have such a stereotype? Apparently so, because Pivotal decided to have him talk ... a lot.

Denied Ops attempts to introduce the player to a world not that much different than Rainbow Six or Call of Duty 4. Co-op and military-esque missions are the name of the game as you take the role of either Lang, a street-smart, wise-cracking former FBI agent, or Graves, the quieter ex-Delta Force member. It's a match made in heaven — or at least a sitcom. Unfortunately, the dialogue between the two was not as funny as I had hoped. Although their personalities clash, the characters feel a bit too scripted, to the point where I could predict when Lang was going to start ragging on Graves.

While the game promises fast and explosive action, it fails to deliver on any sort of fun factor involved. Just about every mission on which you embark is in a different location, but none of them are very inventive. It also doesn't really matter which of the characters you choose to begin the mission because you can switch between them fairly easily. This comes in handy, as both characters' arsenals differ greatly; should you require extra firepower, Lang is your man, and if you need to do any sharpshooting or sneak attacks, you'll need Graves. When you switch characters, the other guy is left to his own devices, which means he'll stand there until you issue an order. It's annoying when you switch characters and quickly run off into combat, only to realize (when you're dead) that your friend is waiting back in the other room. I'm not sure why the developers decided to default the character to the "wait" command after you switch, but it definitely wasn't the wisest of choices.

I have a love-hate relationship with the way Denied Ops handles death. When your character "dies," he's just temporarily stunned as he painfully rocks back and forth on the ground. When this happens, you have about three minutes to find and "revive" him with the other character so that he's fully functional again (he'll die if the timer runs out). It's kind of a neat system because there are a few times in the game when you'll be completely overwhelmed, and having that functionality allows you to not have to repeat the entire level. Unfortunately, it makes the game way too easy. I can't tell you how many times I neglected any cover simply because I knew that my buddy was right beside me and I could get revived at a moment's notice. Occasionally, we'd both die at the same time, so while this feature may have made things easier, I did have to restart some missions a couple of times.

There is one thing that all good FPSes need, and that is decent enemy AI to challenge you. Foes need to know how to take cover, run from explosives, and outsmart and outflank you. In Denied Ops, your opponents do none of this. There were countless times during my play sessions when the enemy would just stand in the open, hundreds of yards away, just begging for a headshot from my sniper rifle. What's worse is that they were attempting to shoot at me from the same distance — with a normal automatic rifle. Any half-decent AI should know that in order to hit a target, you need to be within a decent range. The enemies in this title weren't aware of this, so I could basically snipe everyone because they didn't take cover, they didn't know how to run, and they couldn't grasp basic physics laws. This made for some astoundingly easy, and very boring, situations.

One of the biggest features that the title touts is the destructibility of the environments, which is kind of cool. In the first level, you have the option of hopping into a tank and cruising around the Venezuelan countryside while blowing up other tanks and enemy soldiers. At one point, you have to take out an RPG sniper in a tower with your cannon, and when you do, the entire top of the building crumbles in destructive joy. It's one of the neater features in Denied Ops, but unfortunately, it's not used nearly enough. For a game with disappointing graphics, stiff voice acting and mediocre gameplay, the devs should have played up this aspect of the game. So although getting to blow up buildings is great fun, you rarely ever get to experience it.

Finally, we have the multiplayer, which, in and of itself, is about as inspiring as a lump of coal. You can play through the various missions with a buddy either on- or offline, and there are leaderboards, which let you compare your stats to everybody else's. Then we have the standard multiplayer versus modes, which let you duke it out in three very common and unimaginative gameplay modes — conquest, deathmatch and team deathmatch. I had no problem finding people against whom to play over PSN, but I still came away from the gameplay unimpressed. Just as in the main game, you get to choose either Lang or Graves as your multiplayer character, and you get the weapons that come with each. The multiplayer mode in Denied Ops seems like an afterthought, and it's not something that I ever felt the need to pick up again.

There are a lot of FPSes that I can recommend to fans of the genre (Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Metroid Prime: Corruption and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. instantly jump to mind). Conflict: Denied Ops for the PS3, however, is not one of those titles. Even those who are diehard fans of the Conflict game series will have trouble buying into the latest franchise offering.

Score: 5.2/10


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