After two tours of duty in Desert Storm (2002 and 2003) and battles through the thick jungles in Vietnam (2004), Pivotal Games' Conflict series of military shooters looks to take its fight to the terrorists, with this modern warfare adventure. Veteran characters Bradley, Jones, Connors, and Foley have undergone intense counter-terrorist training for their missions in diverse, "hot spot" locations around the world, but nothing could fully prepare them for the challenges they face as the deadly organization known as March 33 begins to put its plans in motion. To prevent the terrorist plans from succeeding, single players once again take control of a small squad of soldiers, making use of each individual's skills as the situations require. Multiplayer modes are supported for online gamers.
Since its inception, the Conflict series has struggled to rise above mediocrity, yet it keeps valiantly plugging on. With the latest game, Conflict: Global Terror, that dogged determination is starting to pay off. The series isn't out of the woods yet -- old problems remain -- yet the missions are more exciting, the graphics look better, and the enemy AI is smarter than in the last game, Conflict: Vietnam. There's more to enjoy this time around, but you'll still need to live with glaring problems.
Conflict: Global Terror puts you in the boots of an elite four-man counterterrorist team. In the lengthy campaign, you'll fight drug lords in Latin America, take on terrorists in Seoul, stop Sarin gas production in the former Soviet Union, and much more. You'll race through the jungle in a jeep, assault gun emplacements, raid sprawling bases, blast bad guys in a movie theater, gun down foes in a subway, fight through gloomy caves, and crawl through rubble-strewn streets.
More often than not, the missions are tense and action packed, filled with varied objectives. Missions tend to switch gears at just the right moment instead of letting ideas wear out their welcome, though a few missions do beat the same ideas into the ground with grueling repetition.
The developers also broke one of the cardinal rules of PC game design by limiting how many times you can save per mission. (The exact number depends on the difficulty setting.) Missions are uncommonly long and at times brutally difficult, throwing vast numbers of enemies at you, which makes limited saves doubly unacceptable.
To beat the missions, you'll need to master team management, which is part of the problem. You can directly control any of your soldiers at any time. Switching among your troops to take advantage of their weapon loadouts or tactical positions is a breeze. As you control one man, you can easily give simple group or individual orders, such as "follow me" or "embark" in a vehicle.
Serious problems start to arise, though, because of the A.I. Your men will occasionally get lost or ignore orders. They suffer from mediocre aim, slow reaction times, and a tendency to waste ammo. (How did they ever become elite counter-terrorists?) The game can descend into micromanagement hell when you have to shepherd your men around, heal them, give them items, order them in and out of vehicles, switch positions in vehicles, and so on ad nauseam. Any fun you were having is quickly wiped away. Enemy A.I. tends to be better. At times, bad guys will stupidly idle around or charge into your gunfire, but just as often they'll move from cover to cover and try to surround you.
Assuming you can keep your men alive long enough, you'll get to fight with a wide range of weapons: machineguns, RPG's, sniper rifles, shotguns, knives, mines, and more. You can -- and will need to -- scrounge weapons and ammo from dead enemies, which becomes another bit of busy work as you play vulture instead of soldier. Once in a while, you also get to control an armed jeep or APC, though it's usually more of a big target than a help.
Conflict: Global Terror offers cooperative multiplayer. We were looking forward to this as a way around some of the A.I. woes. Unfortunately, it was little fun. We found very few servers, and the server browser gave us grief by listing expired sessions. The "Quick Match" feature would try to connect us to password-protected matches. If and when you do connect, make sure you have the full complement of four players or you'll stand little chance against the game's vicious odds.
Visually, Conflict: Global Terror has taken the series well beyond where Conflict: Vietnam left it. Character faces and animations still look hokey, but the scenery looks more detailed and dramatic. The developers borrowed a chapter from the Splinter Cell design handbook and have relied on stark, moody lighting to create atmosphere and add tactical challenges. The audio boasts solid weapon effects, but the voiceovers, with occasional dubious accents and acting, leave something to be desired. The game's bleep-bloop techno theme song seems more jaunty than dramatic.
Inconsistencies and unevenness lie at the heart of Conflict: Global Storm, just like the series as a whole. The game is moving the Conflict series in the right direction with better level design and graphics. But at the same time, some of those levels can be a nightmare of retries and micromanagement because of the outrageous odds, limited saves, and weak teammate A.I. Hopefully, next time will be the charm for the Conflict series.
People who downloaded Conflict: Global Terror have also downloaded:
Conflict: Vietnam, Cold War, Conflict: Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad, Conflict: Desert Storm, Da Vinci Code, The, Frank Herbert's Dune, Farscape: The Game, Chronicles of Riddick, The: Escape from Butcher Bay
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