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Operation Darkness (Xbox 360) artwork

Operation Darkness (Xbox 360) review

"Iíve always wondered the historical accuracy of the many assassination attempts on Adolf Hitlerís life and his uncanny ability to dodge them. I mean, honestly, how could he survive so many virtually unscathed? How could he survive a point-blank rocket to the face from a werewolf? "

Iíve always wondered the historical accuracy of the many assassination attempts on Adolf Hitlerís life and his uncanny ability to dodge them. I mean, honestly, how could he survive so many virtually unscathed? How could he survive a point-blank rocket to the face from a werewolf?

Hungry for answers, I went to the office of Professional Historian P.J. Pennypacker to get some answers.

After being laughed out of his office, I went home and popped in Operation Darkness for the X360 to get some answers.

The first thing I noticed is that Iíd mistakenly put a PS2 game into my 360 by mistake. Whoops, I chided myself but then noted it was indeed the correct game. After all, a PS2 game wouldnít start in a competitorís current-gen system, right? And yet the game looked to be a bit on the archaic side. It was nothing terribly off-putting, but certainly noticeable all the same. Undaunted, I pressed on.

After being prompted to name my in-game avatar (I left this alone; never understood this feature to be honest, and it makes even less sense nowadays with voice-acted scenes. I knew then I would never hear his name spoken throughout the entire campaign) I was immediately thrust into the Second World War! A battle in northern Africa. Just me and my mates (I was disappointed to find I was playing a limey. Where are my Americans?!) against a gang of ruthless, pure evil Nazis. Unfortunately, save for one ally, my squad consisted of nothing but generics. Not a good sign.

Luckily for me, the generics are just there for that one basically-tutorial battle, and then the game proper begins as young _____ is thrown into more dangerous missions with the wacky Wolf Pack, a ragtag (RPG requirement) group of international soldiers all banded together to stop Das Fuhrer. I could tell the internationality thanks to zany accents, some forced, some more natural. We had ourselves some Brits, a Scotsman, an Irish lass, and even an American! Hooray! And yet, something was up about that AmericanÖ His name was familiarÖ

Indeed, he was the first in a fairly meaty line of figures of both historical and literary renown that populated by group. As the campaign continued I learned more were there, hiding, and more joined.

I was also pleased to see this game remained fairly true to the real events of WWII. You take part in many historical battles, and destroy a good deal of zombies, skeletons, and Nazi vampires. Just like the real WWII. Sound too scary?

Fear not! For in your corner, as stated, is the Wolf Pack! No, itís not just a colorful nickname, itís proof positive that your pack contains wolves! Of the Ďwereí variety! Yep, a couple of your squadmates have the ability to transform at will (providing you have enough MS--military spirit, the gameís term for magic--to do so) into slobbering, flea-bitten, mangy howling dog men. You might wonder how exactly does turning into a werewolf make the guns youíre firing do twice as much damage. I say this: they pull the triggers really really hard.

Speaking of guns, Op. Dark has a surprisingly trim number of them, but all are accurate WWII weapons with varying and yet fitting sounds. Listening to all the explosions and gunfire is a joy. Using them, sometimes not so much.

What you have to get you through battle after battle is a goofy camera, jerkass cursor (why do I have to move the cursor around buildings instead of just over them? I realize I canít get my guy up there, game) and the Cover system.

The Cover system basically boils down to letting you do three things: moving much farther than normal (very handy and should always be used in lieu of a normal move unless an enemyís turn is next), attack multiple times to gang up on a single target, and ambush enemies who get a little too close for comfort. The last is exceedingly handy for any snipers you have, and can thin the herd long before they stampede you.

Sound good? Well, Cover isnít all peaches and cream; it can be a bit wonky, too. The attack gang-up is rarely useful, as youíre able to kill most enemies within two or three attacks to begin with, and it wastes your move for that turn entirely. Cover move must be used carefully, because if youíre trying to move your whole squad all at once and the enemy manages to hit someone first, his Cover is cancelled, and any characters primed to move when he does more or less lose their turns and wonít move until that guy does, which might make them waste another turn.

Speaking of which, you donít get any kind of benefit from not using your full movement or an attack at all. Your turn doesnít come around any faster from not using either, so best make use if you can.

A major deterrent in the war between the Wolf Packís cast of healthy, hearty heroes and the same half-dozen kinds of German troops. Yeah, sad to say enemy variety and characterization arenít the gameís strong points. One such enemy type makes an appearance in an early mission and disappears until nearly the end of the game. Iíd entirely forgotten it existed by that point. The few cool bad guys are exceedingly rare, and expect to run into the same couple bosses overÖand overÖand OVER again.

Itís a similar problem on the Alliesí end. 95% of your crew are basically generic troops with cooler looks and better abilities; most get little real backstory or characterization, and donít end up feeling like an actual person in their own right. You can also pick up some generics of your own, and a few missions have you working alongside computer-controlled allies (even tanks!), which was incredibly cool and an excellent change of pace from the gameís normal fare, but these are all too fleeting and all too sporadic.

Also rare is the variety in mission types themselves. Itís pretty much Ďkill all the bad guysí city, and while that does make the ones with a genuine mission objective stand out, it only shows that they should have implemented them more often. One mission promised the possibility of stealth, but Iíve found no way of actually accomplishing this. The enemy noticed me within my first move/attack each time I played through it, which was a considerable letdown.

Operation Darkness is definitely rough around the edges, but itís a pretty fun game for a strategy enthusiast, and youíre not going to find much else on the 360 to sate that thirst. Besides, any game that lets you punch Hitler in the face or shows Americans saving a mostly-British unit from doooom is okay in my book.


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Community review by turducken (January 30, 2009)

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