Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
Consumers want conflict. They want violence and war, rivers of blood and viscera, and they want it in a form they can identify with. Nothing too close to home, mind, but give them a real-life conflict in a far flung nation and they're as happy as a dog with two dicks. Now that all the big wars have pretty much been covered though, the demand for new conflicts is effectively outstripping the supply, and we seem to be getting the film and the game of the war before the fighting stops. Delta Force: Task Force Dagger's Afghan setting. Behind Enemy Lines hitting the cinema screens when the dust had barely settled in Kosova -it's getting to the stage where US presidents have to start wars just to appease the appetite for new consumer products (and don't be surprised when the Operation Enduring Freedom RTS comes along in a year or two either).
Of course all this is fine news for us gamers, as there's only so many ways you can kill a roomful of Nazis. We still get to shoot things in the head, but the change of scenery is always nice.
This time we're off to Mogadishu, Somalia, with our good friends the Delta Force, the eponymous heroes of Novalogic's long-running tactical action series. And needless to say, it's not going to be any summer holiday.
Confusingly, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is not based on the film or the book of almost the same name, or even the incident in which the Black Hawk went down (see boxout: Massacre in Mogadishu). Neither is it, as we had originally hoped, the long-awaited collaboration between hairy-chinned action has-been Chuck 'The Ginger Ninja' Norris and homegrown cinematic visionary Ridley Scott, in which Chuck returns to Somalia to rescue captured American GIs from illegal POW camps. Instead, the game takes the far more sensible route of recreating, as closely as possible, the events that took place in Somalia circa 1993, content with only visual reference to the film. And a whole lot less blood.
Good Guys Wear Black
More importantly, it all looks rather good. While previous Delta Force games, much like the films of Chuck Norris, have always had something to recommend them, they were never exactly works of art. In fact, they often looked nasty, and were saved only by their addictive multiplayer modes, working hand in hand with the excellent NovaWorid Internet servers.
Black Hawk Down, on the other hand, the first significant Delta Force game since Land Warrior, is a visually striking piece of software. It's being built on a modified Comanche 4 engine, which has adapted remarkably well to powering a first/third-person shooter. The environments are expansive and detailed, the action transitioning smoothly between indoor and outdoor settings. Characters move convincingly around the terrain, and scripted and real-time events mesh seamlessly to create the illusion of battlefield chaos. It's a far cry from the drab days of Land Warrior, that's for sure.
Most striking of all, the levels are simply huge, promising to take the trademark multiplayer action to even greater heights. And you better believe the team is working on some serious multiplayer options, with co-operative play, team deathmatch and free-for-all modes already confirmed.
Better still, the engine's chopper-sim background is set to produce some top-notch vehicular action, with both airborne and ground vehicles available through the course of the 20 missions. These are set to include attack choppers, humvees and maybe more, though as no vehicles had been implemented last time we played the game, it's hard to see the developers expanding much on this list (it's due to ship in October). How the addition of vehicles will figure into multiplayer is yet to be seen, but it certainly suggests some interesting possibilities (humvees vs technicals, anyone?).
Dominance And Submission
The upshot of all this is that while Black Hawk Down is still very much a Delta Force game at heart, it's a far more complete and accomplished example than any before it. As if we were in any doubt of this, we played through a couple of the game's 20 missions with Novalogic producer Ed Gwynn, who was keen to impress upon us the amount of variety and complexity we can expect come October.
"One of the things these Delta Force and Rangers guys were dealing with in Somalia was that a lot of the enemy were just civilians running around with guns. They didn't want to shoot these guys. I mean, some of them were using women as shields. And as much as we want the game to be action-filled and fast, we want to get some of that complexity in there too," says Ed. The mere idea of enemies using women as human shields certainly suggests a brave design stance on Novalogic's part, though we've since been assured that such devices will not be used in the game. It nevertheless points to an ambitious approach to enemy Al, one that we can only pray they follow through on.
Ed explains: "We're pushing to have some smart Al. For example, if you surprise the enemy, say approaching from behind and getting them at gunpoint, they'll drop their gun and submit. Hopefully players will figure out that they don't have to kill everything, just get them worried."
Fight Or Flight
To give you a better idea of the overall feel of the game, the main level we played, and the one most suggestive of Ridley Scott's film, begins in a US base on the outskirts of Mogadishu. As soon as the level loads up, the familiar buzz of radio chatter reminds you that you're back in the world of Delta Force, a place where rigorous military authenticity is a point of pnde. After a quick jog across the dusty base, you're given the ominous order to hop aboard a Black Hawk helicopter and prepare for an assault on Mogadishu. Soon afterwards, you take to the air. still in real-time, and begin zooming over the dunes towards the city. A single false move at this stage could see you tumbling to your death, but soon enough you're approaching downtown Mogadishu, and are far too busy trying to pick off tangos through your rifle scope to worry about such trivialities. Your journey comes to an end atop a terrorist-infested building in the centre of town, whereupon you hop off and continue on foot. It's an exciting way to introduce a level, one influenced as much by games like Medal of Honor as any Hollywood account, and Ed assures us that the entire game will be infused with this impressive sense of cinema. However, not every mission is going to be such a straightforward urban assault, and other levels promise a variety of closequarters and long-range combat missions, as well as stealth, sniping and recon.
"We don't want to pigeonhole the player, we want to give them options. If you want to be the Rambo guy and go and shoot everybody, you can try. Or you can be really sneaky, maybe not kill anyone at all. There's always a couple of different ways to play the game." Ed pauses to fill a couple of local thugs with lead.
"Realistically, a lot of players are going to want to just shoot everything that moves and get a stat screen at the end. saying they shot so many enemies. But then, you're not going to have unlimited ammo, so if you're out there drilling everyone down, all of a sudden, hey. you don't have enough ammo to finish the objectives. It's a bit of balancing act, but we think we've got it right."
The way things are shaping up, we've got no reason to argue, though it's going to be a sprint to the finish if Black Hawk Down is to hit its over-ambitious October release date. With a game this promising, let's just hope it doesn't come out half-cocked.
Download Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott's movie Black Hawk Down riveted audiences in 2001 with its story of modern war and heroism. Along with Saving Private Ryan, it helped redefine the war movie genre with its realistic portrayal of war that was more than just an old John Wayne flick with bloodless battles and noble heroes, but rather a dark portrayal of what war is really like. Needless to say, it raked in millions at the box office, so what's the next step to financial gain? Make a lackluster videogame that will sell well no matter what, of course. Thankfully, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down breaks the mold and delivers the same thrill-ride on your PC that can be had at the movie theatres.
DF: BHD is loosely based on its namesake - key word being loosely. Its all mission based, but there's no cohesion that links everything together, which is a shame since the movie had such an engaging and rich story that could've added some real life to the game. Regardless, DF: BHD has a lot to offer. It doesn't try to be a tactical thriller like so many games nowadays. Instead, it goes back to the basics of the first-person shooter genre: pure, unadulterated action. Sure, every now and then you'll have to come up with tactical plans to accomplish missions, but for the most part, it's a straightforward action - and boy is it fun. Whether you're fighting your way through the demolished streets of Somalia or flying high in a Black Hawk, it's an exciting and immersive experience.
Along with the long single player campaigns, NovaLogic also included a great multiplayer game. It's all standard stuff and the there's plenty of interesting maps, though they are a bit large so matches with small numbers will be strained for action.
Sadly, the AI isn't up to par with the rest of the game. Enemies will tend to cower or run around aimlessly when they feel they're overpowered. This would usually be regarded as realistic AI, but they cower a lot, which makes them little more than sitting ducks. To compensate, they're thrown at you by the truckloads so it doesn't really affect the difficulty, but it can really cheapen the experience after killing the hundredth mindless drone. Squad AI is equally as bad. It feels like they're just following the leader, forcing you to be a one-man army for most missions.
Simply put, DF: BHD looks fantastic. Utilizing a flight simulator engine, DF: BHD sports beautifully lush and unhindered landscapes, and there's virtually no fog to be seen. Character models look very nice with fluid animation, although there could be more variety among character's appearances. Framerates are solid as well. I could run almost everything at the highest setting on my mid-end machine without a significant loss in framerates.
Some may be turned off by the fact that Delta Force: Black Hawk Down isn't particularly deep, but this is perfect for gamers who are looking for frantic and intense action in their first-person shooter. Simplistic? Sure, but it's fun all the same.
Two years ago, I was able to review Delta Force: Black Hawk Down for the PC. Back then, I liked it. It was a dumb, brainless shooter, sure, but if you're in the mood for that kind of thing, it made for a decent time. Add in to the fact that the online portion of the game was good fun, sporting matches with over 30 people, and you had yourself a good, if mindless, first person shooter.
Two years later, I'm able to review Delta Force: Black Hawk Down for the Xbox. Now, I don't like it so much. That same dumb brainless, shooter now feels outdated and aged; it's just another military first person shooter to throw in the ever growing Xbox library. Worse yet is that little seems to have been improved in the transition from the PC to the Xbox. The exact complaints I had with the original game ' the overly linear mission layouts, the game's brevity, the unrelenting difficulty level ' are still intact in Black Hawk Down. It's just a quick and dirty port of a game that didn't really need a port at all, especially for the FPS-saturated console it's on.
While Delta Force: Black Hawk Down isn't a broken shooter or anything, there's just far too many better alternatives out there if you're looking for an action rush. Leave this one behind on the store shelf.
If you happen to remember when Delta Force Black Hawk Down was originally released on the PC in 2003, it made quite an impact and most were quite impressed with the arcade style shooter. That was over two years ago however and seeing old game repackaged onto a new system is usually a sign of questionable game quality on many levels. Some actually are successful with this strategy as an old favorite with a face lift can be well worth the cash, but Delta Force Black Hawk Down has me scratching my head since this port seems to be worse then the original.
So what happened? Well, somewhere this successful, fun, purely arcade style FPS turned into something made for the bargain bin. Almost every aspect of the game has been affected. The graphics and audio actually appear to be lower quality then previously. Graphical detail in particular leaves much to be desired with bland and blocky visuals. The gameplay follows suit with a basic structure that lacks a story line and really follows more of an old school, checkpoint type of progress. Basically you'll be firing in the vicinity of the enemy throughout the game and be knocking them down with little need of strategy or thought. It brings to mind an arcade game you might find in an old movie theater that been sitting there for years.
Sometimes when games are re-released, the cost is listed significantly lower then newly developed games, usually around $20. It's at least some indication for the buyer to realign his expectations before purchase. Delta Force Black Hawk Down however is listed for $50 at most retailers upon release. This game is a tough sell in most respects. What originally was a high quality, entertaining game, has really lost its way and I can't think of many people who would be happy spending $50 for it.