It’s a little surprising to see how big the FPS genre has become. For one, the genre is not very popular in Japan, making it hard for games like Halo and Red Faction to make any good sales there (which is pretty bad considering Japan is basically the Mecca of video games). Secondly, in the regions where the genre is big (North America), the genre is absolutely loaded right now. FPS gamers know this fact well, as they are already grinning ear to ear at the thought of playing, or soon being able to play, Halo 2, Red Faction 2, Timesplitters 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, and Doom III, along with the other gazillion FPS games coming out this holiday season.
In the midst of this great burst of FPS games we’re receiving on PCs and consoles, there are some titles that simply just do not get noticed. One such game is Conflict: Desert Storm. The game, developed by Pivotal Games and published by SCI Games, with assistance from Gotham Games, takes you into Operation Desert Storm. Though the game does have its high points, a fair collection of flaws and technical shortcomings hold the game back from being anything but a second rate game for only diehards of the genre.
CDS’s first shortcoming comes in the way of plot development. The mere fact that Pivotal Games is making a game based on a U.S confrontation so fresh in people’s minds already makes the plot feel a little shaky, and the fact that they really do not develop a good plot doesn’t make it any better. Nowhere in this game does the story really string together, or even go so far as to teach you anything about Operation Desert Storm. This lack of plot development hampers the game a little, but what really takes the game down is the gameplay flaws. The game is designed as a bit of a pseudo FPS. While you can play the entire game in first-person, you can also easily transfer to a third-person camera at any time. This somewhat works well, although the first-person mode makes you run a little slower, giving first-person-preferring gamers a bit of a disadvantage.
The game also plays host to a wide array of gameplay bugs and glitches. Though most of these incidents are few and far between, one that constantly pops up is your player attaching to the wall as if it’s super glue. When this happens, a fair amount of the time you will be unable to detach yourself from the wall, ending your game prematurely. Needless to say, this becomes extremely annoying, especially when it occurs at the end of a level. This glitch was most likely caused by a lack of product testing, which is usually a sign of a title rushed out-the-door. The rest of Conflict: Desert Storm’s gameplay just reinforces this theory, as the somewhat decent gameplay is constantly broken up by flaws that could have probably been fixed had Conflict spent a little more time in the incubator.
Take the combat for example. For the most part, Conflict remains pretty strategy based throughout the game, encouraging you to find good viewpoints in order to pick people off strategically, instead of doing your best Rambo impression by running in shooting everything that moves (and a few things that don’t). This kind of gameplay is a welcome change from the normal killing spree FPS games are known for, but Pivotal Games has made some critical errors in the gameplay department that prevent the game from ever truly being great. For one, playing the game just isn’t very enthralling. Enemies either come in groups so small and weak that a five-year-old kid with a dart gun could thwart them, or they come in groups so strong that Neo, Max Payne, Solid Snake, and James Bond working together couldn’t defeat them. This wayward and inconsistent form of fighting really gets on your nerves after a while.
Another problem the game has deals with its long-range manual aiming. When you want to snipe an enemy, you’ll have to look down your weapon’s scope and get some crosshairs over the enemies’ skull. The problem with this is that while the aiming function works well, you’ll often have the crosshairs aimed perfectly only to have your shot miss. To make matters worse, by the time you notice the aiming discrepancy, the enemy picks up that you’re shooting at him, ushering them to hit the alarm, commencing seemingly all of the Iraqi soldiers to come after you.
There is a logical reason for this, that reason being that some guns are more accurate than others in long-range firing, and that accuracy is reflected in the game. Not being a gun major though, I simply do not know which guns are good/bad in long-range shooting, and I’d wager a guess that many other people are just like me. So, for people like me, the only way to find out how accurate a weapon is in long-range shooting is to go through a process of trial and error, which leads to many unwanted deaths. Such a process quickly becomes infuriating, severely deterring the game’s fun factor.
Beyond these glitches though, there actually is a decent game to be found in Conflict: Desert Storm. The slow pacing of the game gradually works on you, until you get to the point where you enjoy the slow and often strategic gameplay. In fact, when the problems discussed earlier do not rear their ugly heads, Conflict: Desert Storm feels like a pretty solid title. The fact is though, these problems do pop up quite often and do deter the game quite a bit.
There are other contributors to the game’s mediocre pool though, other than just some gameplay annoyances. The controls for example can be a bit annoying. Though they work quite well once learned, they are very meticulous and complex when first used, and only through loads of repetition (or a few runs through the game’s tutorials) will they ever be mastered. This really isn’t bad for Conflict: Desert Storm on a grand scale, but when you consider how many casual gamers will be turned off by the control layout, suddenly the complex controls become quite the crux in the marketability department.
Another thing casual gamers dislike (other than confusing controls) is poor graphics. Conflict’s problem again is not that the graphics are bad, it’s just that they won’t grab anybody by the seat of their pants and impress them. This is largely due to some rather uninspired color palettes, character designs and animations. All of this is only complemented by the game’s mass amounts of pop-up, horizon line fog, and slowdown. The game’s audio, on the other hand, is very well done and not fraught with problems. The orchestrated musical scores are composed creatively and professionally, although they do get a little repetitive after a while. The sound effects are spot on, sounding perfectly like their real-life counterparts.
The problem Conflict: Desert Storm is going to face is that it really won’t be able to find an audience. Though the game has some fun slow-paced gameplay, it isn’t really intense enough for hardcore FPS fans, and it’s not as strategically built for fans of squad-based mission games like Rainbow Six. But if you think you’d like Conflict: Desert Storm’s slow-paced gameplay, and you think you can deal with some minor discrepancies, then go ahead and check out Conflict: Desert Storm. Who knows? Maybe you were the audience Pivotal Games was thinking of when they created this wayward title.