Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising
First the bad news. Joint Operations has been pushed back from May to later this summer. The official reason given is the usual 'final polishing... committed to delivering excellence... blah de blah' corporate spiel. From our extensive testing of the beta version, we'd say it's mainly down to eliminating the horrendous lag displayed on some of the larger servers.
The good news is that conceptually it still looks like a winner -100-player games; all the vehicles, guns and military equipment you could ask for; and scenery to die for. It's clear that NovaLogic is determined to make this the premier online tactical shooting experience.
Teamwork is going to be key to success, and with NovaWorld supporting plenty of clan options, we're likely to see a lot of action in the various ladders and tournaments expected to go live with the game.
All in all, we've pretty high hopes for Joint Operations' prospects, assuming those technical details can be sorted.
Download Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's no secret that I've never been much of a fan of NovaLogic's games, especially the over-simplified arcade leanings of the Delia Force series. So I approached Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising with a degree of trepidation. The fact that the game uses a modified version of the Delta Force: Black Hawk Down engine and the blatant way it appeared to ape the gameplay of the Battlefield series did little to alleviate tensions either. After all, why should I get excited when there are couple of highly accomplished mods for BF1942 that cover much the same contemporary ground?
As it turns out, I found myself not just mildly entertained but actually gripped by the turmoil of a near-future Indonesia. While Joint Ops does indeed beg, borrow and steal a great deal from our favourite combined arms shooter, it has much more going for it than just the modern-day tropical setting. As ever NovaLogic's figures are impressive. Maps up to 50 square kilometres in size and able to service up to 150 players, each of which are able to gain entry to 29 types of drivable vehicle - from Jeeps and amphibious ATVs to patrol boats, hovercraft and helicopters.
No, You Drive
Unlike in Battlefield, most vehicles can seat an impressive number of players, almost all of whom are able to pop a few shots off from their seat. And because there are no tanks being constantly repaired by a pit crew of engineers following close behind, players are more willing to enjoy themselves on foot, encouraged by the fact that most of the vehicles are highly susceptible to infantry attack and the maps so dense with foliage that trudging is often the safest way around.
Despite the finely tuned balance between soldier and vehicular combat. Joint Ops is far from faultless. As is so often the case where telescopic sights are issued freely, sniping is a constant frustration. Stomping off to take an objective, only to meet a sniper's bullet time and time again is pretty irritating, and can result in many minutes of dead time'.
One might also suggest that although the game rightly favours the foot soldier, the vehicles could do with a little extra beef and certainly have need of some attention to the handling. Helicopters aside, everything drives like a souped-up hover-tank.
Such issues, plus the numerous bugs - the most annoying of which is the dodgy collision detection of the various vehicles - are sure to be addressed if they haven't been already by the time you read this. Nevertheless, Joint Ops already shows a lot of promise, and can certainly lay claim to being the most realistic and tactical of the current crop of multiplayer teambased shooters. UT2004 may still be the most balls-out fun to play and Battlefield 1942 probably has the edge in terms of variety, but Joint Ops is certainly a worthwhile contender.
We never know whether to worry or celebrate when a game can be summed up in ten words or less. It certainly makes our jobs easier (or totally redundant, if you like), though a cynic might suggest it points to a certain lack of novelty and/or depth in the game at hand. In the case of Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising, however, we're pretty sure it's a cause for celebration, as this is a rather fine-looking entry in a new sub-genre.
To put you out of your misery, the ten words we're talking about are: 'Battlefield 1942 with the Delta Force: Black Hawk Down engine'. There's a bit more to it than that, but that's the basic starting point. Large-scale maps, real-world team-based warfare, vehicular action over land, air and sea - all online of course, with up to 64 players duking it out simultaneously. There's also a nine-mission single-player campaign, but as with BF1942, this serves mainly as a primer for the online games.
Loyal Battlefielders may be reeling in horror at such shameless coattail-riding, but bear with us, as there are some interesting twists on the formula here, some of which aren't half bad.
To get a better idea of what Joint Ops is bringing to the table, we recently got hold of the latest code and fired it up on the office LAN. While teams of three and four obviously didn't give us the full experience, we managed to get a good grasp of the direction NovaLogic is taking - and have a surprising number of laughs in the process.
The most immediate difference between JO and its Swedish inspiration is the environment. Set in an imaginary conflict in near-future Indonesia, JO pits US and allied Joint Forces (a real-life combination of land, sea and air forces) against some random Indonesian guerillas. As such, the levels take in vast open swamps and rice paddies, dense jungle areas and sprawling tropical islands - along with the occasional shantytown or urban death maze. The designers have done their best to highlight the strategic possibilities and limitations of each different terrain type, so the jungle is dense enough to both hide and get lost in, and the more open areas are dotted with buildings with multiple entrances and vantage points.
Joint Ops seeks to raise the realism stakes in other areas t too.
There's full day and night cycling for the serious campaigner, and one or two attempts to reflect the actual practices of warfare. Since Joint Force protocol dictates that you approach dangerous terrain with your gun practically glued to your cheek, the interface lets you peer down the sights of all the guns, even while on the move. Other little touches include a temporary blindness effect if you aim into the sun and some bloody great alligators that attack you in murky waters - sure to give you pause next time you're crossing a swamp.
Despite all the nods towards realism, the overriding feeling is of a far more rcade-style experience than BF1942 - not surprising if you've ever played a Delta Force game before. Of the 25 or so real-world vehicles in the game (taking in zodiacs, jeeps, trucks, choppers, amphibious APCs, huge LCAC hovercraft and loads more), none is difficult to pilot. You can enter a boat simply by swimming underneath it and pressing the action key, and you can change player class (your basic sniper/support/grunt setup) simply by stepping into a supply truck and picking up a new weapon.
Even the gameplay modes have a slightly arcade tone to them. While there's an objective-based assault mode similar to BF1942's Conquest, NovaLogic is hanging on to the likes of Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, and even a manic single flag scramble known as Flagball.
Risk Vs Reward
Other than this basic rethink in the areas of realism and ease of play, there are a number of small tweaks to the blueprint that aren't as immediately apparent. One of our favourites is the scoring system, which despite being a work-in-progress is already far ahead of the clunky points and medals scheme used in BF1942. Borrowing from the likes of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, the system takes into account individual kills, rewards teambased objectives, and gives bonuses for things like headshots and knife kills. It's not perfect, but it seems to offer suitable rewards for both team players and the inevitable lone wolves.
But however many small changes we identify, the bottom line is Joint Ops still feels exactly like Delta Force doing Battlefield 1942. Whether this is a good thing or not comes down to if you're a Battlefield purist or not. In our minds, considering the Delta Force games have always worked best in multiplayer, it makes perfect sense, and we have high hopes that Joint Ops will learn from BF1942's mistakes and propel the emerging 'online warfare' genre to some exciting new places.
Carry On Hauling
Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising Is Designed From The Ground Up To Push Teamwork
Despite its fast-paced arcade leanings, Joint Operations places a lot of emphasis on constructive teamwork. In the bigger maps - some of which stretch up to 64 square kilometres - managing and transporting troops and equipment is vital. You can use Big Chinook and Mi-26 helicopters to airlift vehicles and units into the fray, while . air-cushioned landing craft can carry your fighting force to coastal locations. One of the Conquest-style maps we played saw the Joint Ops forces advancing on a rebel island from an isolated ocean platform, making this sort of teamwork essential if you want to deploy your ground vehicles.
Joint Ops producer, Joel Taubel, elaborates: "There are several other key features that require teamwork. The mortar team will benefit from a Forward Observer picking targets. The pilot will benefit from the gunners taking out the opposing team. The assault force will benefit from the snipers pinning the enemy down." As is so often the case, it's good to play together.
If You Thought you needed a bullet-proof vest for the Battlefield series, then you'll need to remember the bug spray for Joint Ops (as it's affectionately become known). Set in a near-future Indonesia, the game plays much like its distant EA cousin, but will see you crawling on your belly through lush jungle and rice paddies instead, with maps that are larger than Battlefield's and cater for up to a massive 150 players at any one time.
The game leant heavily towards 1 those who preferred to view the throes of battle through the sights of their sniper rifle, but with the Escalation expansion also available for the same money, you can sort that out and add some brilliant dirt bikes and tanks to the jungle mix too. A decent alternative to Battlefield 2 on a shoe-string budget.