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Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger (PC) artwork

Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger (PC) review

"I feel a bit guilty for panning anybody’s first effort, and my hope that a decent game can be made from this premise is genuine. But the only thing you’ll find here is mounting disappointment and enough dropped balls to start a play pit with."

You always have to feel a bit guilty when a developer’s first game arrives on your desk.

My elevated sense of self-esteem always leads me to believe that they wait on baited breath for me to pass judgment, all cramming around the laptop, freezing because the money they would have spent on heating got flittered away on those lighting effects pre-beta. Their puppy-dog’s eyes loom huge, fixed on the screen, as they hope they’ve not damned their children to a life working in the mines thanks to the failures of their game.

Still, Atomic Motion had a good idea. A good enough one to make their debut title stand out. Raven Squad was to be a brave concoction of RTS values and FPS combat. A game where you could strategise your movement like the former genre, but damn the static fire-fights and jump into the heads of your soldiers to actively gun down your targets. It’s quite the shame, then, that all this brilliant premise does for the game is give it two distinct fronts to be awful on.

Perhaps Raven Squad should be viewed as an unfortunate case of a developer trying to run before it’s learned to walk. Either way, every aspect of the game contains a distinct lack of care and attention. The RTS scheme is far too basic, giving you little more option than “move here” and letting the static fire-fights drag on endlessly, with huge gaps of time between either side scoring casualties. It’s obvious that war is meant to be waged in the first-person shooter front, but here, we’ve an over-sensitive engine that makes me feel like the firearm I’m trying to aim is coated in high performance oil and handled with gloves constructed from pure butter.

Eventually, you’re offered two teams of three to slog though the game with. Each member of the first team – led by a Vin Diesel wannabe with even less acting ability than the big guy himself – has a set of abrasive and annoying characteristics that fail to make them interesting and instead insist they drip with cliché.

In a rare moment of clarity, each of the three has a unique skill that sets them apart from each other and makes them useful. Vin Jr. can produce a hulking machinegun that can provide strong suppressive fire, while his team-mates carry the explosive additions of a rocket launcher and a bag of grenades. Between them, they can pin down squadrons of troops, take on armoured vehicles and blow up ammo dumps and headquarters with ease.

The second team is led by a capable and sarcastic Aussie whose unique ability is to wield a sniper rifle. But his team-mates carry a flash grenade and a smoke grenade, ensuring they’re completely counter-productive to his long-range skills. One squad member’s personality trait is that he gets shot a lot. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be the comedy relief or not, but he does fulfil his role of being entirely useless thanks to his special ability of producing a wall of smoke neither you nor your foe can see past.

Every voice provided is phoned in, bouncing every spoken line between cringeworthy and laughable. The graphics are shoddy, foliage looking worryingly plastic even after it’s popped up randomly in front of you. And the mission objectives more often than not have you backtracking over the same small stages over and over. While it’s clear Atomic Motion had a good idea, it’s also clear they didn’t have the means to execute it, and what we’re left with is a game that falls short in every category.

I feel a bit guilty for panning anybody’s first effort, and my hope that a decent game can be made from this premise is genuine. But the only thing you’ll find here is mounting disappointment and enough dropped balls to start a play pit with.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 02, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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