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Spec Ops: Stealth Patrol (PlayStation) artwork

Spec Ops: Stealth Patrol (PlayStation) review


"The Army Men series has, over the years, accumulated a degree of infamy; no matter how asinine and critically incinerated the previous title had been, the developer used it all over again, maybe adding in a toy helicopter gimmick, for the next game. And so it went on. "



The Army Men series has, over the years, accumulated a degree of infamy; no matter how asinine and critically incinerated the previous title had been, the developer used it all over again, maybe adding in a toy helicopter gimmick, for the next game. And so it went on.

Another string of PlayStation military titles, the Spec Ops games, are largely overshadowed by Army Men! Yet those of us who are cursed and hated by God tried Stealth Patrol once or twice, and are unlikely to ever forget how acutely awful it is.

Specs Ops is a stone-faced and extremely tough alternative to Army Men, with a “Ranger Creed” base theme to your missions that describes how the elite soldiers should act in the field (taking the game’s lack of quality into account, it simply becomes something to make fun of). This entire Ranger Creed is self-indulgently puzzled over in, of all things, the manual supplied:

Paragraph 5, line 3: “…under no circumstances shall I ever embarrass my country.”

Unskilled developer Runecraft just BROKE the code of conduct! Oh, the hypocrisy!

In order to defend the pride and dignity of the United States, your superiors require you to bumble through a collection of infuriating campaigns with dull objectives and plastic parameters. And no matter what Runecraft claim, Stealth Patrol’s attempts to create a covert atmosphere simply don’t work, so a messy, haphazard approach is the only way to stand a chance.

For each level, you pick two Rangers from the five “radically different” available: a Machine Gunner, a Grenadier, a Sniper, a Shotgunner and a Rifleman. In practice, they’re basically identical to each other. A man trained to accurately pierce defences with high explosive projectiles, and a long range firearm expert...

Identical.

You then move onto the armoury, which is admittedly large at first glance, but once you start using the weapons it becomes apparent that, in practice, they’re basically identical to each other. The M60 was a cumbersome heavy machine gun used in Vietnam; the AK74 is a modification of the classic Soviet AK47 assault rifle...

Identical.

The Rangers are either you and the computer, or you and a friend (if you have any). Between you and me, your friend might be advised to stay away, as he/she will be having second thoughts about being your friend if you involve him/her in such a crap activity.

As if controlling your own Ranger wasn’t enough of a pain, and your friend might attest to this too, it’s when you have an AI Ranger “Buddy” that the fun really begins. You have to enter button combinations to initiate an unintentionally hilarious battle cry and possible action concerning the Ranger Buddy, whether that be squeeze the trigger, stay still or waddle after me (after all, everyone in Stealth Patrol moves like a gangrenous penguin). Once you’ve learnt the button combinations, it’s merely a matter of praying that the AI responds, which nine times out of ten, it does not.

The very first objective of the game is a nuisance in itself, as you have to stop a munitions truck from getting to the enemy camp. Your useless map doesn’t mark it, and if you don’t waste half your bullets taking out the driver within the first 20 seconds, it’ll be out of range and you’ll have to abort the whole mission. Anything that does enter the Rangers’ line of sight is pop-up landscape; nothing at all in Stealth Patrol, animate or inanimate, gradually appears on the horizon or legitimately sharpens in focus as you grow nearer to it. This wasn’t an impossible thing to achieve for a PlayStation game made at the turn of the millennium either.

As the environments erratically appear around you, assuming the ludicrous guerrilla enemies haven’t blown you away by then, you may decide to take cover behind a remote outcrop of rock, or a mound of snow, to gradually “fire ‘em up with” a generic gun. When the racket has died down, you decide to emerge. But you’re stuck. You’re STUCK! All you can do is run on the spot; there is no way out now. You call for the Ranger Buddy to help you out, but he’s got his head wedged in the floor. And while you wait, stationary, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered, a couple of baddies lob a flickering black square (or, if you must, smoke bomb), killing both Rangers. In Stealth Patrol, you’d be forgiven for a sense of paranoia as they’re genuinely all out to get you. Even the graphics.

The music is ghastly, featuring a mixture of boringly cold drones that fail at their proposed task of actually involving the player, and patriotic, ear-splitting drum beats that mark the completion of a level, which you receive a randomised grade for. Don’t say it’s possible to win the Medal of Honour for demolishing wooden bridges with fake C4, Runecraft? Sir yes sir!

Spec Ops: Stealth Patrol is a truly appalling game, free of redeeming features and entirely laughable in every way. Games of this value fall into two categories: so bad they’re good, and just plain bad.

Welcome to the latter category.

Rating: 1/10

eddy555's avatar
Community review by eddy555 (October 22, 2004)

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