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Conflict: Desert Storm Review
publisher: Gotham Games
developer: Pivotal Games
genre: Action Strategy
PII 450, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 30, 02
|» All About Conflict: Desert Storm on ActionTrip|
Every now and then, a game comes along that doesn't promise much on paper but it sure as hell delivers when you put that shiny disc in the CD drive. Conflict: Desert Storm just happens to be one of those games. When I first saw this one a couple of days ago on the PS2 I thought "Ah hell, just another Ghost Recon on the PS2, with less polys and crappier textures." That just goes to prove that you can never judge a book by its cover, especially if that 'cover' is intended for a different platform.
Don't get me wrong - the PC version I played is much the same as the one for the PS2, but there are some subtle differences. You can tell right off the bat that this game was simultaneously developed for all platforms and not just ported to the PC, a year later. The controls are highly intuitive and easy to pick up. Issuing team orders is a breeze and the mouse support works great. The graphics look crisper on the PC, and not just because of the higher resolutions. The textures appear more detailed, and the PC adaptation seems to feature a more advanced particle system.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself...
For those of you who are not in the know, Conflict: Desert Storm puts you in the role of a member of one of the elite Special Forces units (US Delta Force, or the British SAS), assigned to carry out pre-emptive strikes and covert ops against the invading Iraqi army marching into Kuwait. The plot, of course, takes place back in 1991 during the time of the Allied Operation "Desert Storm," which was carried out against that internationally known butt-pirate Saddam Hussein.
The game is mission-based, and you're only allowed two saves per mission. One cool addition to this sort of gameplay is the inclusion of cinematic prologues before every mission - real-time rendered cut-scenes that give a little more meaning to the mission objectives and add to the game's cinematic value. Apart from this, Desert Storm resembles "Ghost Recon" in many ways - both games are team-based military shooters with the focus on their respective elite army units. After each successful mission, your team receives experience points - again, a pseudo RPG element also found in Ghost Recon. Finally, there is no 'jump' option in the game, which has become a sort of a trademark of all the Red Storm team-based shooters.
However, once you get into Desert Storm, you'll realize that there are noticeable differences between the two games. DS seems a lot more arcadish and action-oriented than Ghost Recon, which is understandable since this one is supposed to be played on the consoles as well. Furthermore, (if you can believe it) I found the AI in Desert Storm to be better than that of the original Ghost Recon (not the Desert Siege expansion pack) - that especially goes for the team AI. Very good job by the development team and I commend them on that.
The AI routines are far from extraordinary, but they're good enough not to hinder the gameplay in any way. Your teammates will tend to whisper when close to an unsuspecting enemy, and likewise, they will shout like mad if your team has been spotted and jumped from behind. Lots of times they'll run backwards while keeping their eye on the spot where they're expecting to see enemy soldiers pop out (just like any sane person would do - but in many cases in video games, the most obvious solutions are often overlooked). They'll auto-heal, cover your back, and they'll even throw smoke grenades when surrounded by enemy soldiers. When playing on the normal level of difficulty you're given the option to heal your KIA soldiers, which means that if one of your teammates is still standing and happens to have a medi-kit on him, there is a good chance that all of your teammates will be back in action soon. That is unless he doesn't get to the "KIA" soldier in time. In that case, the soldier will die, which means that the mission will be effectively over (and you'll have to reload). I guess the developers thought it would be appropriate to "borrow" this concept from Pyro's Commandos 2. Obviously, this option was introduced so that the game wouldn't be too difficult for the average gamer. However, the relative abundance of medi-kits, and the keen eye of your teammates, in addition to the abovementioned healing option will make it a bit too easy for an experienced player to go through the mission. Not even the limited number of save games will help to make the gameplay more challenging on the normal level. However, there is always the alternative of upping the difficulty level, so I can't consider this as a serious drawback to the game.
The level design is good and not at all claustrophobic like in Ghost Recon, although it would've been nice if you could enter more buildings during missions. The action mostly focuses on the outdoor (desert) missions, which is not surprising given the location where Desert Storm takes place. The one thing I thought was missing though was a tactical map, which would lay out the locations of all the mission objectives. Instead, I was only given a compass with an indicator on it, which points to the next waypoint. Wheee.
As for the game's arsenal, there's not much to be said here. Most rifles act the same, this is an more of an arcadish shooter, not a simulation with emphasis on proper gun recoil, muzzle velocity, etc. Nevertheless, the gun's accuracy will go down over a distance, and especially if you're trying to snipe a baddie while firing in burst mode. During the game, you'll get to use all kinds of assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and even rocket launchers - all the standard ones like the M-16 with an under-barrel grenade launcher, AK-47, MP5, sniper rifles, etc.
The graphics are surprisingly decent for a cross-platform title. Nothing out of the ordinary mind you, but they're good enough to satisfy even those gamers who consider themselves a tad too picky when it comes to their PC games visuals. The models are a bit short on polys (which was to be expected), but the overall impression is greatly improved by the rather fluid animation and some neat particle effects. The most important thing though is that the visuals in no way take your eye off the action - meaning, they're decent enough to keep you immersed in the game world and focused on your mission objectives. I ran across a few silly bugs along the way - soldier models appearing out of nowhere, and enemy soldiers 'sitting' on thin air (sitting on invisible chairs), but those were rare, and not particularly annoying.
The sound effects and voice-overs are professionally done, which is a big plus. In addition, the musical soundtrack that follows the action is brilliant! It really does wonders for the in-game atmosphere. It's just a tad too melodramatic, but it seems to be extremely complimentary with the gameplay pace.
Overall, I found Conflict: Desert Storm a very fun team shooter. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for some arcade team-based gameplay, which flows real nice and it's addictive enough to keep you going till you finish the single-player portion. Sure, there were a few annoying design solutions I omitted to mention in the review, like the fact that you can't assign a specific button to switch between different firing modes (single-shot mode comes in real handy when the enemy is far away), but those are really negligible and don't take away from the game's dynamics. Conflict: Desert Storm is by no means a trend-setter, nor it is a revolutionary game. It's just several familiar gameplay concepts nicely polished and wrapped up together into a decent bundle of arcadish virtual entertainment.
8.0 Very Good
Extremely playable, and ultimately very enjoyable arcadish team shooter.
Not particularly original, and certainly not extraordinary in any way...
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