Eidos Conflict: Denied Ops review
Buddy movies are the template of choice for the current crop of action games. Double-teams of gruff, aggressive men are popping up all over the place. This latest instalment in the popular Conflict series takes the idea one step further.
Eschewing the four-man tactical squad in favour of just two - a veteran sniper and a greenhorn assault guy - it's a lot closer to a traditional shooter than previous Conflicts. You can switch between your two characters at will and give basic orders (such as go there or kill that), but there isn't much tactical thinking called for. It's easy to arrange invigorating firefights, and more intense than the action norm because you're controlling two guys.
Any sense of reality that earlier Conflict games had is ditched for unabashed Schwarzenegger-style heroics. It's more about the single-handed downing of jet planes than meticulous stealth and flanking manoeuvres. Whoever you're not currently controlling is able to take care of himself, so there's mercifully little rushing around and putting yourself in danger to help your partner out. This isn't so true in the occasional stealth missions, where you need to switch arduously between both characters - otherwise, the other guy will calmly stride into plain sight.
Far more amusing are the gradual weapon upgrades. Each completed mission doles out new toys, such as an underslung grenade launcher for the machine gun or a remote camera for the sniper rifle. It's a neat way of becoming more powerful without awkwardly picking up a giant rocket launcher off someone's corpse. Also smart is the optional mission order. You can tackle most levels in an order of your choosing, although you'll find some are tricky if you've skipped over certain others.
Unfortunately, the buddy movie element doesn't work. Dialogue and voice acting seem woefully cheap. Gags clunk, and presumably tongue-in-cheek moments of male bonding are substandard. For a game that's based so heavily on character, this is a serious failing.
The roughness extends to the game's design. The levels are oppressively linear and often distractingly sparse. Similarly, the plot is a vague anti-terrorist thing that's little more than a politically insensitive excuse to tour every insurgent hotspot on the globe.
None of Denied Ops' problems is insurmountable to your enjoyment, but to be released so soon after Call of Duty 4 and Crysis is unfortunate timing. It feels dated, and its production values pale against its big-budget rivals. Still, it's a quiet time for shooters right now and this may scratch a trigger-happy itch or two.