Special Forces: Nemesis Strike is a value-minded third-person shooter that puts players in control of a two-man team of commandos and sends them on missions around the globe to stamp out terrorism. In addition to a fine selection of modern firearms, players can cause explosions and "requisition" vehicles to help them get the job done. Some levels also involve free-fall combat, high above the surface of the Earth. Many environmental features are destructible, leading to chaotic battle scenes and unexpected consequences.
Nemesis starts you out in the dual roles of Raptor and Owl, two elite military operatives working for a nebulous military organization sometime in the near future. Raptor is the gung-ho type. He sounds like Solid Snake aping a WWE wrestler after snorting a line of coke. You may find this extremely masculine, but I cringed every time he got his cue to unleash pure testosterone. As you might expect, he's armed with some seriously intense weapons, including a weapon that fires four people-seeking missiles at once. I made noisy whooshing sounds every time I did it, but it didn't make the game any better, sadly. Raptor also has an energy shield that seems to vaporize bullets on contact, and he recharges this at electrical outlets all over the place. He's like a cross between Rambo and the Energizer bunny.
The other dude, Owl, is some "covert" pansy. Well, Patton would be a pansy next to Raptor, so we shouldn't be too hard on him. Owl uses a lot of vision enhancement types inspired by Splinter Cell, a Predator-style stealth suit inspired by, well, Predator, and a gun that bends around corners to kill you dead. Unfortunately, there's never any ammo lying around for the damn thing. You also have a silenced M4--I think it's an M4. None of the weapons use real-world names. It's pretty handy because it doesn't alert every gun-toter within a city block like your sniper rifle does. The sniper rifle is quite fun, though, because you're almost guaranteed to kill the crap out of someone with one slug. They go flying back quite satisfyingly.
At any rate, you'll have a variety of search-and-rescue, assault and infiltration missions, involving both water- and land-based vehicles as well as running on foot, and night and day missions. Urban environments, sea vessels, and seaports are just some of the locales in which you'll be spending your vacation of death and destruction. In this respect, SF: NS is not monotonous, nor are the missions particularly tedious, two aspects that often sink other games of this type. However, gameplay suffers from numerous problems and re-hashes some ancient bad habits.
First of all, there's the AI, which can probably be summed up as "autistic." Enemies will sometimes retreat, shoot from behind obstacles, throw grenades, and rush you. Most of the time, though, they just rush at you, guns blazing. Shoot one guard before they've caught wind of you, and the guy standing right next to him will typically just crouch and look around. They also like to congregate around the ever-present explosive barrel, sometimes even using one or two for cover. Man, that's edgy! Extremely entertaining for me, but also suicidal, like base jumping.
Weapon accuracy, for both you and the enemy, is also inconsistent. A guy with a fully automatic rifle can stand right next to you and unload, but Raptor in particular can stand there and pick his teeth, especially since the enemy will fire in controlled bursts, no matter what his distance. Meanwhile, a sniper will plug you while you're at a full run, from hundreds of yards away. I'll bet he was the first in his Boy Scout troop to get the Sharpshooter merit badge.
Oh, the snipers. Combine them with the rocket launcher guys, and you have a slew of killers lurking at the perimeter of your vision, typically attacking before you can draw a bead. To make matters worse, a rocket hit is an instant kill, even if it isn't direct, and even if you have full health and Raptor has his shield fully powered up. While this is manageable when taken singly, the rocket guys will appear in large numbers at some points, forcing you to reload several times before you finally make it through one cheap gauntlet or another.
Speaking of reloads, Nemesis doesn't do a particular good job with save points, which use the checkpoint system. I've never much been a fan of checkpoint saves to begin with, but they feel erratically spaced, badly placed, and you lose all of them if you quit the game before the mission is over. Shut it down and start it up again (or crash--it's not the most stable game) and you're starting the mission from scratch. What's also annoying is when your last checkpoint places you into an exposed location.
A few hours into play, you begin to understand that the interesting innovations can't hold the weight of undercooked gameplay. You can duck behind things and shoot around them without exposing yourself; some missions have you doing some extreme skydiving, shooting incoming missiles and enemy paratroopers out of the sky while you race to beat a timer; and the dual main characters are appreciably distinct. The constant bullet tracers, the warping explosion effects, the ragdolls, those are all neat. But the AI is dumb, the story thin and a little bewildering, and the graphics middle-of-the-road at best, with the blurry textures common to console ports.
The maps aren't very well-designed, either. Since you can't jump (or sprint, for that matter), you're completely at the mercy of whatever Asobo Studios decides to put in your way. The numerous dead ends, and lack of multiple entry points in many areas, are especially aggravating when you're facing a timer. At one point, it isn't clear if you're supposed to proceed on foot or continue via boat. After wandering around for several minutes and not finding another ramp up to where the game actually is, you wind your way back through unfamiliar territory, unless one of those cyborg snipers finds you first.
Speaking of boats, I have to say that the vehicle physics and controls are pretty bad. There's a small hoverboat, for example, that can't move backwards. When you hit the "S" key, it turns around. The power boat doesn't even do that. It just kind of slides around and generates a bizarre slalom effect when you take a tight turn. There are also some land-based vehicles, and they control about as nimbly as stoned bison. Not that I've ever gotten a bison stoned. I think that would take a very large amount of weed.
Anyways, there's more junk to talk about. Besides exploding barrels, erratic AI and repetitive combat callouts, there's a decided lack of enemy variety. There's the guy in the brown suit, the guy in the red suit, the dude in the black getup with the sniper rifle, some guy dressed like a construction worker with a rocket launcher, and that's about as much as I noticed. None of them really stay around for long, since it only takes a few rounds to kill someone, and grenades have a huge blast radius, and bodies kinda vaporize after a minute.
Whenever I used Owl, I enabled thermal vision to pick out live targets from shrubbery at reprehensible distances. With no scope drift and only a piddlingly small inaccuracy cone in my way, I could be virtually unstoppable, were it not for those damned snipers. I could also cut wide, chunky swaths through the enemy, thanks to Owl's stealth suit. Sure, he needs to juice it up like Raptor does, but the outlets are so numerous that you can be stealthed almost all the time. There's also plenty of health packs and ammo boxes lying around. Owl's suit doesn't make muzzle flash or tracers invisible, but the enemy apparently can't see that stuff, allowing me to get real close, plug them quick, and move onto the next clump of sitting ducks. Naturally, there were scripted segments where I could be tracked and attacked no matter what, particularly with this one helicopter armed with a mean set of guns. I wasn't willing to trust Asobo's level of unspoken fiction that the heli might have been equipped with thermal detection.
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