In a day and time where the PC Game Market is heavily dominated by quality First Person Shooters (FPS) it can be a tough time for the new kid on the block. The concept of Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror was born in December 1999 by a student in Paris as a mod for the ever popular Unreal Tournament. It has gained such a strong following, it could be compared to the ever popular Counter-Strike, not only in its gameplay, but in the fact it started as little more than a hobby and grew into something more, a fully blown retail game.
I must admit I have been a fan of Tactical Ops for a long period of time, as far back as Beta 1.6. Over time I have seen it grow as a game, admittedly it hasn't attained the cult following of Counter Strike, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
I am sure everyone is familiar with the concept of a game like this, shoot or be shot. However in Tactical Ops this can sometimes not be the case. The gameplay although appearing to be based on real world terrorists vs. anti terrorists is sometimes so fast, you can be dead before you know it.
There are basically three types of scenarios you will come across as you play Tactical Ops. The most popular been the famous hostage rescue, as a terrorist it's your job to stop the anti terrorists from leading the hostages to safety by either killing them, or managing to hold the hostages for a set period of time. The other two varieties involve either blowing something up as a terrorist, or having to escape the clutches of the anti terrorists by reaching certain escape points on the map. Nice ideas in general, however it is very rare to see these objectives accomplished, as the game tends to favor one side obliterating the other in a matter of a minute or so.
At the start of each round you are presented with a buy item screen, which in its own takes quite a while to get used to. Throughout the game you win money for achieving various feats. Kill an opposing team member and money goes into you wallet, rescue a hostage and likewise, whilst killing a hostage looses some of your hard earned cash. It's often wise to first think about your surroundings before running blindly to your latest victims' body to pickup his cash, the experienced Tactical Ops player will use this as a ambush method and will not only collect his dead team mates stash, but yours as well after he sends a hail of lead in your direction!
Weapons are another point of interest, there is no shortage of variety that's for sure, with 27 different choices. When starting out it takes a while to work out what weapon favors each situation. For example in a tight complex level, it is often wiser to favor the shotgun for short effective blasts, where in a wide open map it's definitely advantageous to buy a rifle with a scope. Grenades also play a big part, not only as explosives, but smoke grenades provide excellent cover from enemies, and flash grenades are extremely useful, just ensure you warn your teammates before letting one of these babies loose, as you won't be the most popular if you blind every player on the map.
A big concern I have with the game is the rate of fire of most of the weapons, it seems to take only 1 sec to empty a full 30 round magazine, it kind of makes it hard for a decent fire fight. You will find most fights are pop up fire a huge burst, duck down reload and the process repeats until one of you is lucky enough to kill the other, or you run out of ammunition, which in all honesty is the most likely outcome.
The maps within the game appear to be rather unbalanced, the majority will tend to favor one side more than the other, at least one good thing is that this advantage varies from map to map. Other issues arise with the actual character skins themselves, a lot of the terrorists and anti terrorists look alike and you will quite often find yourself opening fire on a teammate who happened to be standing in a dark corner. Thank goodness when you place your cross hair over another player it turns blue if friendly, and red if enemy, just sometimes in the heat of the battle you don't have that luxury. It appears that most server administrators have realised this and disabled friendly fire.
Based on the Unreal Tournament engine, the graphics are more than adequate for a game of this genre. At times there seem to be small glitches and clipping problems but overall you can see the detail in the blood splatter, bullet holes and scorch marks.
If you're running a current video card it is rare you will suffer any slowdown, except for the occasions when a smoke grenade is deployed, this seems to slow the frame rate down at times.
The audio is one of the stronger points of Tactical Ops. Each map brings a different background tune, although it is often overlooked with amount of other sound effects taking place at any one time. If you walk on a grassed area, your footsteps are muffled and sound extremely different to the sharp ringing steps of say running on a metal platform.
During the game you can actually overhear the chatter from the opposing side, and quite often you will here warnings of impending grenades without having to read the same message displayed in the chat console.
Having said that, some of the weapon effects seem to be slightly wanting, each weapon does have its own sound, but some come across as it's the sound of another weapon, but muffled to make it seem an entire new sound.
There is not a lot to be said about the controls, they follow the standard FPS layout, with the keyboard used for walking, and the mouse for aiming.
I did experience problems when attempting to bind keys to certain actions within the game, however if you do this manually though the ini file it appears to overcome this issue, however it is something that needs addressing.
In all honestly Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror is nothing new to the PC Game market, this alone means that Kamehan Studios were already facing an uphill battle from the word go. What might have had strong support as a free mod for Unreal Tournament, will not fare as well in the retail market with the obvious issues it has. Many say that the previous beta was a superior game to the retail release, and aside from the graphics enhancements I would have to agree.
A lot of the issues experienced with character skins, speed of gameplay, unbalanced maps are all easily fixed, and most likely will be in an upcoming patch, but these are issues which should have been sorted before releasing on store shelves.