"Looking at Conflict: Desert Storm for the first time, it is entirely forgivable to automatically label it as the poor man’s multi-platform Ghost Recon. That's certainly what I did; I just consider myself fortunate that I bypassed my preliminary misgivings long enough to actually try the game."
Looking at Conflict: Desert Storm for the first time, it is entirely forgivable to automatically label it as the poor man’s multi-platform Ghost Recon. That's certainly what I did; I just consider myself fortunate that I bypassed my preliminary misgivings long enough to actually try the game.
Conflict: Desert Storm places you in the battle of the same name, back in 1991. Through the medium of your console, you get to see the sights of the Iraq deserts via your selected squad of Allied troops, be they the US Delta Forces or the British SAS, as they are assigned to various mission-based levels historically placed throughout the campaign. All the while, you’re being mercilessly hunted down by the troops of the well-known international bad egg, Saddam Hussein and his army of nameless henchmen.
From the get-go, the game does what it can to ease you in. It offers you a training mode, in which it runs through the gameplay mechanics and controls, cleverly disguised as a boot camp training regime. This gives you a grasp of the controls as you run through an obligatory assault course, shoot chunks out of a firing range, learn how to use your heavy equipment, and summon ballistic support, all while being yelled at by an angry, red-faced man in a wide brimmed hat. How very militant.
But such actions are a breeze. Things seem a little complicated and confusing at first, but this boot camp endeavours to make the whole experience of controlling a four-man team all the easier. The analogue sticks control your chosen combatants’ movements, while the D-Pad is used for selecting other troops, swapping controls, or highlighting soldiers to give orders, which are issued by pressing various keys while the left shoulder button is held down. These orders include following your selected soldier, holding his position, or sending a computer-controlled trooper to a designated position. Once you have gotten the grip of this, you'll find commanding your team to be child's play. Once learnt, things are simple: you can change your equipped weaponry with a drop-down menu, which scrolls up and down until you find your equipment of choice; you can get your solider to kneel or lie down flat on his belly; and you can execute actions, such as picking up spare weaponry, reloading your gun, or switching out of third person view to a more aim-friendly first person mode (and a consequent zoom-in, if needed) at the simple press of a button. Firing your selected weapon is just a simple press of a shoulder button.
Once you feel you have the controls down, it's time to turn to hit the desert. If you have the resources and the friends, you do not have to undertake them alone. C:DS gives you the option of having up to four people simultaneously waging war against your Iraq foes. Things really comes into their own when you have a human cast to yell orders and directions to, even if you must lose complete control of all of your team’s actions to accommodate them.
When you finally launch into your missions, you are treated to a cinematic intro and briefing, where your objectives are illustrated through both vision and word. You are also treated to plot-driven cut scenes that outline the ongoing story throughout the game, which only adds to the feeling of something greater happening outside of your small group of four while building the importance of the impending tasks ahead.
The action within, while staying true to a tactical squad-based shooter, does contain a certain arcade feel to it not present in titles like Ghost Recon. It also bases itself more around the action aspect than other games in the genre, which like to concentrate on stealth. Although C:DS does reward you for taking out the enemy unnoticed with stealth bonus kills, it also likes to throw Iraqi troops at you thick and fast at regular intervals; this requires clever positioning of your squad to successfully quell. The AI of the enemy isn't always top-notch, as it more often than not will race happily into your hail on gunfire rather than provide a supporting onslaught as your troops will do.
Indeed, your troops’ AI is excellent, and they will easily rival you in scoring kills as they take up cover, throw explosives and smoke grenades when needed, and even heal themselves or the wounded around them. There are lots of clever little touches that only add to the feeling that you have a competent team behind you. Raid an enemy encampment and your team will urgently whisper their messages. Get ambushed and they'll yell in defiance, keeping a constant chatter of target confirmations going until all the hostile interlopers are several shades of dead. It's rather satisfying to hear someone let loose a burst of gunfire and yell "Man down!" before you even know there’s a target. Even when the circumstances are reversed and it's one of you that has fallen, the situation can be remedied with a medi-kit, and your trooper will be back up on his feet in no time - as long as he’s revived within a given time limit. Completing the missions also yields a debriefing screen in which your team has the chance to earn medals, which boost your characters’ individualistic skills. They can even level up their stats, making them all the more competent.
And when they get the chance to kill, they do so in a suitably open environment, giving you plenty of room to explore and wander from the beaten track. Although a lot of situations rely on traveling through deserts a good deal (understandably perhaps, but still a little looped), each stage pans out differently, keeping the scenarios fresh and never suffering from a great deal of repetitiveness. The missions themselves take over the environment, each with a distinctly different set-up and feel. Don't think you'll be spending all your time combating soldiers in the desert, either - there will be plenty of urbanised action awaiting you, too. A handy compass on the in-game screen points out the direction of your targets so you don’t get lost among the different environments, and a tactical map is just a button-press away.
When you acquire targets, you'll find the various weapons you can grab during gameplay each have a distinct name and a specialised niche that make them all the more effective when placed in the hands of the right trooper. You have a sniper, so giving him an assault rifle is often a waste; likewise, give a sniper rifle to the heavy weapons expert and watch him miss even the easiest of shots. Not only do you need the right tools in the right hands, but you need the right places and times as well. Sniper rifles can cause one-hit kills, but they aren’t great at close range; the heavy machine-guns have a huge amount of firepower, but a soldier using one can't move while firing; the assault rifle is mobile, effective, and has a grenade launcher, but it doesn’t have as great a range as the rifles; and so on. Add to the fray RPG launchers, C4 explosives, antitank mines, and air strike designators, and you have yourself a slice of an authentic tactical simulation. Take the various Iraqi tanks, for instance. If you want a guaranteed one-hit kill, shoot a rocket at it from behind where the armour is weaker, but only attempt so once the gunner sitting in the turret’s machinegun emplacement is no longer a threat.
And while you'll see your path of mayhem clearly enough, C:DS is certainly nothing jaw-dropping to look at, but more than sufficient. The bullets you let loose in all directions have tracers, so they’re visible as they race towards your target (or en course to you), the desert sands are often whipped up to surround the area in a sand mist, and wounds well up with blood on both sides where bullets have found their mark while convincing explosions and gun chatter echo around you. The voice-acting is also impressive, going so far as to give the correct regional accents to the US and British troops. A subtle touch that many games don't bother with.
One that helped me like Conflict: Desert Storm, but although it has much to be praised, it has its flaws. The game is pretty short, only featuring a total of fifteen missions, and you don't get the full enjoyment unless you play the excellent co-op version. It’s a little on the easy side, too; for instance, it's hard to run out of medi-kits to patch your hurt troops up with, and the enemy goes down a good deal quicker than you do, even lacking the ability to heal their own wounds. Still, although it fails to be anything revolutionary, it definitely ranks above your standard team shooter. Maybe it's nothing new, but it’s overlooked at a violence-loving gamer’s loss.
And if I got through this entire review without spelling “deserts” as “desserts” once, I'll die happy.
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