Designed by Zombie Studios utilizing NovaLogic's Delta Force: Land Warrior engine, Delta Force: Task Force Dagger is a stand-alone, 25-mission tour-de-force based on military action of Operation: Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. For the first time in the series, you can play as one of ten Special Forces teams from four countries and all four US armed forces divisions, each with attributes, skills and abilities commensurate with the elite force.
Forces from the United States include the Army's Special Forces Operational Detachment (SFOD), Green Berets, and 75th Ranger Regiment, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, the Marine's Reconnaissance Force, the Air Force's Combat Search and Rescue, and the CIA's Special Operation Group. Allied teams feature the British Special Air Service, Australian Special Air Service Regiment, and Canada's Joint Task Force 2. Each team features specific capabilities and roles such as close-quarters battle, heavy gunner, medic, sniper, or grenadier.
More than 30 primary and secondary weapons are available, ranging in power and effectiveness from sniper and assault rifles, pistols, and grenades to machine guns, explosives, and unmanned aerial strikes. Additional features include a Global Positioning System, mission briefings, weather changes, and a myriad of mission types focusing on infiltration, search and destroy, rescue, reconnaissance, and more.
Multiplayer action for up to 16 players via LAN or Internet includes King of the Hill, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Search and Destroy, Attack and Defend, and Flagball, with customization options for friendly fire, tags, GPS visibility, team lives, passwords, time limits, and scoring. Delta Force: Task Force Dagger supports Voice-Over-Net and connectivity with the NovaWorld site, as well as Internet and LAN support.
NovaLogic has churned out another game in the Delta Force series, with the help of developer Zombie. In Delta Force: Task Force Dagger, the Special Forces gang heads to Afghanistan to leave calling cards for terrorists, inspired by real American military pursuits of the past year. It doesn't stray far from its predecessors, and under the camouflage paint Task Force Dagger is true to the NovaLogic formula of being more action game than simulation.
An International Force
Task Force Dagger puts most of its realism in the setup. Although the game flies the banner of the American Delta Force group, Task Force Dagger lets players choose from several counterterrorist and unconventional warfare teams from around the world. These teams include the U.S. Navy Seals, the U.S. Army 75th Rangers, Britain's Special Air Service, Canada's Joint Task Force 2, and the U.S. Marines' Force Recon.
The descriptions for the various military services are accurate. They do, for example, correctly identify that Force Recon isn't officially under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Special Operations Command, but included because the team performs comparable duties. It's likely, however, that, in their pursuit of instant gratification, most players will click past these text passages faster than a speeding sniper bullet.
Such gratification is not far away . . . but it comes at the expense of some realism. Players can switch to any affiliation during the single-player game, each with different benefits. The Army Rangers, for example, are granted better accuracy with indirect weapons, while the British SAS troop's sniper proficiency grants a more stable scope when shooting. The player's self-appointed nickname in the game doesn't change, and tallied kills stay with the moniker, but the swapping of special skills sometimes makes Task Force Dagger feel like it takes place in the "Matrix."
Miles from Home
Still fresh in the memory of Americans, the single-player missions in Task Force Dagger loosely resemble the types of operations American troops performed in late 2001 and early 2002 in Afghanistan. Although several years old, the NovaLogic "Delta Force" engine is enough to create a believable Afghanistan. The blocky voxels occasionally show, but they provide functional and convincing mountain ranges. The buildings in the flat areas of the terrain also have a mix of domed buildings to give the towns a generic Middle Eastern flair that fits. The color is, as you might expect, endless dusty beige.
The single-player standalone missions, campaign, and multiplayer missions all take place in this rugged land. Sometimes it works well, and the outdoor missions are particularly pleasing with their sizable arenas. It's not a reach to believe Special Forces troops did some of the things the players do here, skulking about in the darkness, lying prone in mountain crevasses, and watching the enemy through night vision optics.
Yet, there are some strange omissions. The enemies in Task Force Dagger don't have caves, but they have plenty of underground bunkers. The bunkers aren't terribly huge, but they are boring, repetitive to clear, and a requirement in most missions. They're awfully drab for a first-person shooter in 2002, and at times running through them reminds one of playing DOOM. The repetition is probably Task Force Dagger's worst shortcoming. Each mission is nearly identical: clear the enemies, blow up a few structures, and run to an extraction point.
There are some rare and welcome breaks, including a base-defense mission and another where players snipe enemies from a helicopter and assault some city buildings. Even this mission has problems, however -- there's an odd bug where the player will fall out of the helicopter in certain parts of the mission. It turns out that getting out of the helicopter makes it easier to complete the mission, but there's no way to tell the pilots, "Hold position while I shoot," or "Okay, drop altitude so I can get out without breaking my neck. This ain't Mogadishu!"
Army of One
Although real Special Forces teams can deploy in small numbers, you'll work alone in most missions, which doesn't feel particularly satisfying. One of Zombie's earlier games, SpecOps, gave players a buddy to watch their back, but Task Force Dagger seems tied to the "army of one" concept -- every mission is about the player single-handedly defeating thirty terrorists. Five years ago this might have been acceptable in a computer game, but recent military quasi-simulations like Operation Flashpoint and Ghost Recon have made this approach obsolete.
There are some things Task Force Dagger does right. The weapons selection is sizable and some of the firearms are great to use. The OICW rifle, with its sniper scope and grenade launcher, is murder in both single-player and multiplayer modes, and the grenade launcher emits a resounding and satisfying report. The selection may be overkill, as a select few weapons prove the most popular, but the wavering of the crosshairs when players snipe, or when using a weapon on automatic fire is a nice touch. Although the opponent artificial intelligence starts out dumber than dirt, it gets a little better as the game progresses and does respond to noise, rewarding stealthy players.
If the mission goals are repetitive, at least the players have some latitude in completing them, whether by brute force, stealth, or by calling in air support (you can illuminate targets with a laser). The game treats bullets as lethal, and in doing so at least is closer to the Operation Flashpoint and Rogue Spear camps than the Unreal or Quake circles.
Task Force Dagger's multiplayer is a much more dynamic experience than its single-player game. NovaLogic continues to do a good job supporting its games on the NovaWorld service, and getting connected is easy and plenty of players are online. There are a variety of scenarios, from Capture the Flag variants, to team Demolition games, to the usual Deathmatch games. Deathmatch is, of course, utterly chaotic and gives new meaning to the term "ephemeral."
People who downloaded Delta Force: Task Force Dagger have also downloaded:
Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, Delta Force: Xtreme, Delta Force: Land Warrior, Delta Force 2, Delta Force, Delta Force: Xtreme 2, Conflict: Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad, Conflict: Desert Storm
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