"Shoot them in the leg and watch the blood well up in the affected joint and a supporting hand cover the wound; chuck a grenade at them and watch as they panic and flee; waste a flare gun round on one, and watch him flail about on fire before smouldering into an ashen heap at your feet. You could almost feel sorry for them."
It's Iraq! You and a team of three others have been dropped just outside a military encampment, filled to the brim with the enemies of democracy. Your mission is to covertly pick your way through this and a series of other enemy outposts attracting as little attention as possible. You all pile into your jeep, seating yourself behind the wheel and designate the respective mounted heavy machine-guns to the correct soldiers. Sneaking around the winding, cliff-bordered road, draping yourselves in the shadows, you allow yourself a slight smirk; the poor bastards won’t know what hit them.
Your jeep is rocked by a sudden, unexplained explosion, flinging you and your group from its now-burning shell. You barely survive this and drag yourself painfully to your feet, but your comrades did not fare as well; their singed bodies litter the road around you. You stumble, disorientated, as your failing eyesight registers a sudden influx of light illuminating your position, your shadowy protection banished by enemy flares. You've been spotted: alarms assault your already ringing ears, and spotlights search you out in the fading gloom. Nuzzles flash and heavy machinegun emplacements mow you down where you stand, still dazed and bewildered. As the world drops away, just above the foreign babble of your victorious foes, your radio makes one last transmission.
"Danger! Minefield ahead!"
Yeah, thanks. Found it.
The above will probably describe the first couple of minutes of Conflict: Desert Storm II if you’ve not played the original. Take note, hurried gamer, this game heavily works off the assumption that you've had experience with the prequel and grants you no time to get yourself settled.
It's because they're wickedly thrown in at the deep end, newcomers encounter such situations like the one described above while scrambling desperately to pick up the basics, whereas experienced players are pre-equipped against such traps. For returning Conflict: Desert Storm vets, it's great to forego the feeler stages and jump right in where you left off, with the first mission alone featuring armour divisions, pillbox machine gun emplacements, and more Iraqi cannon-fodder than you could shake a stick grenade at.
Straight from this hellish get-go, you find yourself part of a fully complimented squad of four, each with their own niche that you can utilize to your advantage. For example, stop the jeep in front of the cunningly laid minefield, safely bypass it on foot, and your sniper can be sent up a handily accessible mountain trail that overlooks the encampment. Now with hostile targets being sniped away at, the rest of your team can move in. With the heavy-machine-gunner providing covering fire and your combat engineer planting C4 charges on obstructive barricades, your assault rifle-wielding leader is left free to seek out the few troops that choose to hide away in simple wooden shacks and watchtowers.
Shortly, it will become evident that the fiends are no match for the conniving crossfire your troops have established, and the encampment is yours. You blow up the pesky barricades, toss in a grenade to safely detonate the dastardly minefield, and drive your jeep through the now gutted base. This time with your victorious smirk deserved.
In addition to the ease of picking up old skills again, the returning player will find what is basically an updated version of Conflict: Desert Storm boasting the same cast, same controls, and even the same standard military fare background music. It's nice to note that those new to the series still have a training mode, which again takes place in a military assault course, seeing as they have so obviously not been catered to in the meat of this game. Thankfully, it isn't all same old.
Our hapless chums and bullet magnets [you'll always know which ones to shoot -- get the shady-looking guys with the moustaches!] the Iraqis have undergone quite a transformation since the original game. They no longer wander aimlessly about attracting bullets and harsh taunts; rather, they actively seek cover and run in zigzaging patterns to lessen the chance of a lead-filled demise. They scream in agonised defeat when dispatched, yell threats in their heathen tongue while trying to mow you down, or hum innocently when unaware of your presence. They look as sharply presented as your heroic team, right down to each of their individual moustaches and tracer-effect bullets [but you'll need to ignore the fact that it's basically the same character model reused wearing a variety of headgear - cursedly lazy programmers!]. Shoot them in the leg and watch the blood well up in the affected joint and a supporting hand cover the wound; chuck a grenade at them and watch as they panic and flee; waste a flare gun round on one, and watch him flail about on fire before smouldering into an ashen heap at your feet. You could almost feel sorry for them.
The AI might be upgraded, but Conflict :Desert Storm II takes pride in keeping many of the elements of its predecessor, furthering returning players’ sense of familiarity. You still receive only two saves per mission, ensuring that your save slots must be planned strategically; you are still given a reprieve when a trooper is gunned down in the ability to patch him back up with a medi-kit -- an option your foes lack. You'll still find tanks strong against frontal attacks but easy kills once flanked and still available is the tight multiplayer version in which up to four of you can wage war, a feature that improves the game so damn much it's not even funny. And once again, mission debriefings are made all the more enjoyable with the inclusion of a RPG-esque level up system and the inclusion of stat-boosting medals awarded to those who go beyond the call of duty. Again, it all mounts up to bombarding the player with more of the same. Sure, the graphics have been turned up a notch, and the laying down of bullet-themed doom is a smoother process (as you'd expect from a sequel), but this war feels more of an add-on to the original than a brand new game.
Just ask the charred bodies of those who decided to play outside of the chronological order. They'd agree, but...
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