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Game Over Online ~ Delta Force: Task Force Dagger

GameOver Game Reviews - Delta Force: Task Force Dagger (c) NovaLogic, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Delta Force: Task Force Dagger (c) NovaLogic
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II 400MHz, 64MB RAM, 200MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4X CD-ROM
Overall Rating 57%
Date Published Thursday, August 1st, 2002 at 04:05 PM


Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Capitalizing on the recent 'Coalition' (you just have to love the unimaginative terms the Bush administration comes up with) forces launched on the Taliban government and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, NovaLogic has adapted their Land Warrior tactical FPS engine to provide some gritty entertainment against an enemy that is surely deserving of your virtual wrath. Taking place in areas immortalized by the press, like Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif or the mountain range of Tora Bora, Delta Force: Task Force Dagger lets you assume the role of elite fighting units around the world from the field intelligence officers of the CIA to lesser known groups like the Canadian JTF-2.

By now, NovaLogic titles are often predictable, at least in the tactical FPS genre. You have a campaign strung together, a series of quick missions and a multiplayer mode on NovaLogic's unique battle servers. Dagger doesn't deviate from this and in fact, on first glance, will remind you of its predecessor, Land Warrior. Except this time around, the action is decidedly more of the arcade quality. How did I come to that conclusion? Key to my argument is the introduction of special forces from a variety of world-renowned (English-speaking) military operatives. Gone are the character classes of Land Warrior and in comes a feeble attempt to capitalize on the personnel shown in recent events. Furthermore, each operative carries a primary rifle, a secondary submachine gun, in addition to a sidearm and a host of other equipment, plus an anti-tank rocket launcher. Considering most titles, including even FPSes like Halo, are going with fewer and fewer weapons for realism sake, the equipment loadout here is something that fits a title from the console world, rather than the growing tactical FPS sub-genre on the PC.

Arguably, the result is that each operative you assume is a one-man army. That's important because you *are* for all intents and purposes, a one man army. One of the things Land Warrior, this title's predecessor, tried to implement was the integration of squad tactics. Delta Force, as a genre, has never been known for its squad or enemy AI. Often, you're a lone gunner (another arcade-like feature) pit against enormous odds. However, NovaLogic increasingly scripted and implemented friendly forces to aid you, directly and indirectly with fire support. So when Dagger came around with all these components stripped out, it feels like NovaLogic took a step back. In light of progress made by titles like Operation Flashpoint or Ghost Recon, a huge step back.

Some of this, I imagine, is due to inattention or lack of care on the part of the developers. Each mission is littered with dozens upon dozens of enemies. In an urban setting, I can imagine this is important. As recent films like Black Hawk Down illustrate, overwhelming numerical odds in a confined urban setting are deadly for any military fighting force, regardless of the level of training or expertise. I'm reminded by the Allied soldiers in their 1945 approach to Berlin. A fatal bullet in your head on the last day of the war is just as deadly as a bullet in your head on the first day. Dagger forces you through a deadly gauntlet against innumerable numbers of opposition, frequently with no help at all from friendly forces. Granted, this may have been what it was like for soldiers in Afghanistan (although I highly doubt that), it makes for fairly bad gameplay. Because in the end, the killing and firing of your weapon goes on for so long that there's no possible logical reason for it to continue. Pulling aimed shots at more than three (try four or five) dozen people per mission is a ridiculous demand, even on an arcade game.

Coming back to my inattention thesis, I think the reason why this happened is due to the fact that the enemy AI in this title is absolutely horrid. Delta Force, the franchise, has never been known for excellent AI. So I didn't come into Dagger thinking I'd see things that will pass the Turing test. Time after time during play, I found the enemies to be completely oblivious to danger. You can pick troops off one by one with a sniper rifle. It gets so long in tooth that you'll get tired of repeating this process; tired of killing. Increasing the AI difficulty doesn't seem to help. Admittedly, Taliban and Al-Qaeda do not hold the mantle of best military force in the world. Veterans of the Afghanistan campaign often tell the public that enemy forces aren't the best shots but that doesn't mean they don't spray bullets at you. But something is truly amiss when I fire a sniper rifle from far away, only to miss the target and see him fire a grenade in retaliation (into an object, might I add), killing himself and all his comrades. Enemy placement is also suspect. There are times where enemy units will start out on the sides of steep hills, completely exposed. Or, inside a building, they'll all face away from the entrance and be ignorant of my entry. These design problems denote some carelessness on the developers' part.

Otherwise, Dagger takes full advantage of its special ops emphasis. You'll be inserted covertly by plane or helicopter into some luscious environs from afar. However, even with the 3D acceleration enhancements, the Land Warrior engine is showing its age, especially once you hit the ground and explosions start dragging your framerate to a crawl. There are missions that are truly engaging, if not in execution, at least in concept. The defense of a fort in Paktia is a riveting favorite of mine, where you must hold off a two-pronged enemy assault until forces come to relieve you. There are also missions where you ride a helicopter, providing overhead sniper support or picking off convoys fleeing into Pakistan. These enjoyable missions are the ones that typically include friendly forces, support helicopters and the now famous CIA spy drones.

It's rather a shame Dagger has been released now. It's all the more a pity because the Land Warrior engine is one of the few titles that factors in bullet ballistics. High-powered rifles can penetrate even metal. Sound clarity is always a NovaLogic strength and the unique voxel technology produces distances that create a haven for would-be virtual snipers. This title, however, even lacks the co-operative multiplayer mode that is found in its predecessors. Therefore, it's my opinion that Dagger illustrates a move by one of the original three great tactical FPS kings on the PC towards an arcade FPS. Perhaps the integration of Zombie, who was responsible for a lot of console ports of the Spec Ops franchise, is showing its influence here. Clearly, Dagger only serves to tarnish the Delta Force name that NovaLogic strove so hard to redeem in Land Warrior.

 

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Rating
57%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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