CONFLICT: DESERT STORM / Gotham Games / Playstation 2
 
 
Following hot on the heels of SOCOM and Rainbow Six, Conflict: DS has "shoestring budget game by unknown publisher desperately hoping to cash in on the trend with inferior clone" written all over it. It's a squad-based FPS where you command up to 3 teammates in SOCOM style, which plops you down in the midst of 1990's Desert Storm conflict, which the Allies never would have won so easily if they structured their missions the way they are done in this game.

The game actually isn't terrible, but it's always a noticeable step back from the better games of the genre in pretty much all aspects. It's clearly done by a team that had not much money nor much talent/experience to work with. The first issue you hit is ridiculous load times for a game that has graphics and environments as simplistic as this one does. Movement in the game always feels slightly molasses-y, and the camera has a bit of the ol' "drunken sailor" wild swinging to it as you adjust it to look around the environment.

Squad games are a very hit-or-miss proposition, especially in single-player. In general I'm an FPS fan, but I hate having to drag along some derpy team of AIs and keep them alive with constant orders. With a "budget" production like this, of course you are not getting the sharpest tools in the shed as your wingmates. As with the rest of the game, they're not *awful*, but they also fall far short of impressing. Normally with these games I tend to just leave the squad behind as much as possible since I hate micro-managing them, but that's not possible with this one. The level design here is a bunch of ham-fisted funnels into waiting enemy deathtraps in hardened positions. Even if you waste half of your youth slinking around everywhere on your belly, you're inevitably going to be forced to go down some road or through some checkpoint where the eagle-eyed enemy sentries spot you and open fire from a mile away and you don't have adequate cover. Without backing firepower in these situations you're done pretty quickly, though I did enjoy the overblown and overly-slow-motion death spasm your guy goes through when he gets shot to death.

Unfortunately, the only thing the poor enemies have going for them is that the Invisible Hand Of Level Design plopped them into nice fortified positions that you are herded through, because otherwise they're pretty terrible. Clumsy scripting is all over the place, and unless an enemy physically can't reach you by being stuck in a tower or machine gun nest, their preferred response to fire is to charge out in the open toward you firing wildly as they run.

I can't comment on multiplayer because whatever servers there were for it have been dead for the better part of a decade now.

Aside from derpy squad AI, I get frustrated with games which are clearly trying to incorporate "realism" and put an emphasis on stealth to negate overwhelming odds against you ... and yet the level design and enemy programming makes it all but impossible to actually use stealth, or really do anything but run up in Rambo style with machine gun blazing before they can all train their sights on you. Between that, and the drab graphics, and the somewhat clunky movement and aim, and the strangely long map loading times, this one just falls too far short of the mark.
 
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