Somalia, 1993. Delta Force, US Army Rangers and 10th Mountain Division begin 'Task Force Ranger' and 'Operation Restore Hope' campaigns with a view toward removing two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord inside Mogadishu.
USA, 2001. Ridley Scott releases a film he's directed based on Mark Bowden's book chronicling the events in Somalia, 1993.
April, 2005. NovaLogic releases a console game on multiple platforms that reduces the events in Mogadishu to a handful of shooting gallery games; digital versions of the kind one would normally find at a parking lot carnival. When you take into account the price tag of this title on any console, the "carnival-logic" concept of spending $49.99 in order to earn a prize worth about $0.68 comes screaming forth in all of its ironic glory.
Players start out in Somalia. The game offers players the ability to tailor their character profile into the kind of soldier they would like to be. The available classes are medic, sniper, close quarters combat, or assault. To be perfectly honest, none of the classes other than assault are worth choosing for the single-player campaign, and the squads very rarely even need any input from you. Save the other character classes for multiplayer.
In terms of presentation, the game is weak and muddy. It sports the same type of brown, lifeless textures you've seen a thousand times before in other titles in the genre. Shoot at an inanimate object and you'll get to see a swapped texture map rather than any kind of organic damage, shoot a human enemy and watch the corpse disappear in seconds (lets hope the next gen systems can do away with that shooter cliche once and for all). The actual enemy models repeat themselves often and are simplistic and bland in appearance (it's like the developers made one model of one guy and just duplicated it; either that or all Somalian rebels wear the same thing). This game is actually a port of the two-year-old, tepidly-received PC version and it seems no effort was made to improve on any aspect of the game, graphically or otherwise, since.
The sound design can be summed up with a single word: confusing. There's a constant assault on your ears going on in the sound design, with gunshots blazing and yelling Somalis. When you first start playing the game it is easy to get caught up in trying to find the firefight that's creating the noise, and then you realize it's just part of the sound design... and it never stops. The music, however, consists of solid compositions that complement the emotional impact of whatever is happening on screen, and adjusts itself when necessary. Solid effort there.
Through the sixteen missions contained in the single player campaign, you will experience frustration, boredom, confusion and disbelief. Players will run through several brown areas, shooting all the hostiles that come at them in the same stilted, uneventful way over and over again. After some running, you get to do some gunning during the game's many 'on rails' shooting sequences that define boredom after a while.
As for the enemy AI, well, there really isn't any.
They just seem to run toward you, one after the other, straight into your line of fire (sometimes even facing the wrong way) regardless of how many others you kill in front of them. In some areas of the game the attacks feel more like a mass suicide than an assault on your Rangers, as enemies line up to be mowed down by your Black Hawk's stationary gun (or the like) that never runs out of ammo. The minute a player takes control of a stationary gun in this manner is when the whole shooting gallery gameplay really takes over and the game just seems to go downhill from there.
In other areas you're reduced to firing at hard-to-see specs on the horizon, which will definitely kill you if you do not deal with them. There have been reports of some gamers having Beach Head II flashbacks when playing this title, so if you're old enough to remember that title, prepare to have one yourself (Beach Head II is an old Commodore 64 war title in which the gameplay was shooting-gallery style, much like several sections of Black Hawk Down. Beach Head II has the excuse of being made over twenty years ago, however).
The one area of this game that actually sparkles a bit is in the snappy, surprisingly lag-free and robust multiplayer. There's a four-player split screen co-op mode, and Xbox Live support for over 50 players! Naturally, all of the expected modes (deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the flag, search and destroy) are present as well. In all fairness, the multiplayer end of the game is considerably different than the single player, and almost makes for a completely different experience even though it does have its own flaws with the laughable vehicle implementation. Character class selection and weapon loadouts do play a major role in multiplayer, requiring a bit more strategy than you would need to embark on the single player campaign. Does it make Black Hawk Down worth the purchase price? No, but it's about as much fun as you're going to have with the title.
The bland graphics, antiquated gameplay, and shoddy AI of this title place it far beneath the myriad of others in the genre currently available. If you must play it, rent it.