Reviewed: March 8, 2008
Released: February 12, 2008
Well, if you’ve played one first person shooter, you’ve played them all. Right? Well, for the most part, yes. Conflict: Denied Ops brings you all the things you’d expect from an entertaining FPS, so there’s no real surprise there. Obviously, however, when they decided they were going to pop out another modern combat FPS, they said “we need to have something that uniquifies this game a little bit”…okay, maybe they didn’t make up a word like “uniquifies”…but you get my drift. The “gimmick” in this game is that you are in fact playing two separate main characters. Each has his own strengths and weaknesses and they work together as a team (as well as their hot and cold personalities can handle).
The entire game is built around this concept of them being polar opposites, but coming together to work against a common enemy. One is black, the other white. One is old, the other young. One is from Alaska, the other from Miami. One’s a thug, the other’s a redneck. One uses a sniper rifle, the other a heavy machine gun. You get the idea. In case you don’t, look up “Yin and Yang” on Wikipedia, then you might understand.
As I said, this game is just like any other FPS you have ever played in its approach to the genre. There are a few things that set this one apart, though, that I was interested in. One of these such things was the addition of operational vehicles. And, since you have two characters, one is always driving while the other is operating the main guns. Most of the time, however, you are able to control both aspects very easily. This added a small level of newness into the game that I was happy with.
Another thing that was new was the ability to “hotswap” between the two main characters at will. It wasn’t like you had to play as either character for a certain part of the game. This made each little conflict a little more interesting because you could really approach each individual fight in many different ways. Try it one way, with one character and fail, then come back and switch up the tactics and the approach.
The orders system in the game is very simple and after only a few minutes, you really get the hang of using simple yet effective military tactics like bounding overwatch to get your characters working together to cover each other and help each other out.
Sometimes, the AI was slightly frustrating when you would order your teammate to take a position of cover because you knew where the enemy was, but he would only go to the general vicinity where you had told him to go and then get himself whacked because he was standing out in the open. Most of the time, however, the AI was able to figure out how not to die and was pretty smart in taking out the bad-guys. They didn’t seem to decrease the other guy’s accuracy or effectiveness when you weren’t using him and the computer was, which was kind of what I expected, like I would be playing a single player game and having to hold the other guy’s hand like a constant escort mission.
The death system is kind of interesting also. Like many newer FPS games, you don’t have a health meter or anything, but if you get hit enough times in a row, your screen gets all weird and hazy and then you fall down. You can then swap to the other character and you have 3 minutes to come and revive your friend before he dies. So, as long as you keep one player alive, you never fail. Once both players die, however, it’s game over.
One thing that really peeved me about the game that I felt was really stupid, especially after their seemingly amazing attention to detail (which I will hit on more in the Graphics section), was that there were some really stupid clipping problems and hit-detection problems. There were times when I would be behind cover with the sniper and have a clean shot at an enemy, but when I would shoot, I would be hitting the cover I was hiding behind. Also, I found in frustrating that the only way to kill an opponent with a single shot with the sniper rifle was with a head-shot. Shoot someone square in the chest and they just bend over like they’ve got heart-burn for about five seconds, then stand back up again. This frustration is exacerbated because it seemed that when they were in this angina-like condition, it was almost more difficult to finish them off. Like being wounded made them temporarily invulnerable to death. Maybe it was just me, but it felt clunky and poorly executed.
Otherwise, the battles are highly enjoyable, especially when using the two characters to their utmost potential. One character sniping from long-range and taking out baddies left and right, the other firing tons of hot lead into the encroaching hordes of enemies. It helps that they give you infinite ammo on your main weapons so you don’t have to worry about running out.
Another thing that was pretty cool about the gameplay was the branching story line. After the first mission, which acts as a tutorial, you get the choice of three different missions in different locations around the globe. Each one has its own story arc. After each completed mission, you also get upgrades to your arsenal that make subsequent missions much easier. The missions themselves are pretty long and involved. And even on medium difficulty, I found myself having to retry several missions over and over until I found the right strategy. But, there are enough explosions and blood to make it fun even after multiple tries.
The graphics in this game are where it really shined. There was an incredible amount of detail, small things that would have been overlooked by many other developers, but that really made the environment seem that much more realistic. Perhaps the best example I have is the lighting. The lighting is extremely adaptive and dynamic. Say you’re standing outside and look towards a darkened room. From outside, you will hardly be able to see inside. But, when you walk in, your eyes adjust and the inside looks much brighter, but then when you look out the door you just came in, the outside looks really bright and washed-out. Also, when looking directly at light sources, the surroundings dim subtly almost like you’re squinting or something. It is a really cool effect that is subtle, but very, very well done.
Other cool effects include: blurring of distance objects when you are reloading and looking at your weapon, an actual image of what the scope of the sniper rifle is seeing when you are not looking through it, not just a pre-rendered image or reflection, and a slight zooming effect when you are looking at something important like an enemy or an explosive barrel, or something like that.
Perhaps another of my favorite graphical effects that they put into the game was the effect when switching between characters. It’s a fast-forward camera that swipes quickly like an out-of-body experience from one character over to the other, then zooming into the head of the other. It was a very neat effect that seamlessly transitions you between the two characters.
Overall, the graphics were very well done creating a great environment. Definitely one of the best-looking FPS’s I’ve played in quite a while.
Some of the cool things that they put into the game as far as sound was concerned was the constant bickering of the two agents and their event-sensitive comments. Communication was a key element in the design of this game, since there are two characters that are helping each other out and they built that concept into the automatic statements made by both players. Conversations will be different if you are playing as the sniper character or as the machine-gunner. If you do something out-of-the-ordinary, like shoot when there is nobody around, the other guy will tell you to quit screwing around.
Overall, though, I can’t say that I was overly impressed by any of the sound in the game. There are your expected sound effects for explosions and gun-fire, but none of it really blew me away. The voice acting, though it was well-incorporated, wasn’t very good.
The sound wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either, so it is only getting an average score.
I would have to say that the value of the game is decent. You definitely will be able to play through each level multiple times, taking different routes and using different tactics. This is something that comes from having the two different playable characters available. If this were the same game with only one player, I think it would have gotten boring very quickly.
Also, there are the multiplayer aspects of the game. Play co-op with a friend where each of you is one of the player through the whole story-mode of the game. I would imagine that this is highly enjoyable, though I didn’t try it. Also, you can play typical deathmatches or team-deathmathes over GameSpy. I didn’t try this either, but as I said, these options definitely add to the overall value of the game. It’s not like you’re going to play through the single player missions and then be done with the game.
When trying to tackle the FPS genre now, you either have to do the standard really well and blow us out of the water as far as gameplay, which this game did not do. Or, you have to add something new to the genre, which I felt like this game did. The gameplay was pretty average, sometimes giving me something I’d never seen before, but other times failing in things that I thought would have been simple to fix. What made this game stand out was the uniquifications (joke) of the co-op single player and decent execution of an obviously difficult use of AI.
I think that people who love the FPS genre will like this game. I don’t see it being on the top of anybody’s list as the best for any one reason, since most of the “cool” features are things that you can find in many of the recent titles, but it is an enjoyable game. So, if you’re sick of the ones you’ve got and you’ve got ‘em all, this is another that you can get and feel like you didn’t waste your money.