Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is based on the events in Somalia in 1993. Like the movie released a while ago, which is not directly related to the game, Novalogic's Black Hawk Down depicts the courage and bravery of the US troops who fought it out in America's most intense battle, at the time, since the Vietnam war. The Delta Force series, especially with its latest entries, had received mixed responses, most of which was disappointment in comparison to competing games like Ghost Recon. Can Delta Force: Black Hawk Down finally put the series in its deserving place of success?
Gameplay - 8.5/10:
Without little more than a opening clip, the action in BHD's single player mode is pretty much effective straight away. As you take the position of a Humvee gunner, your convoy moves to the next checkpoint experiencing some intense resistance. Straight after that, your on foot and battling it out with your teammates at your side. Once the first mission is over, you get the feeling like you have to catch your breath back, because it becomes obvious that this game means war when it says it.
The fact that there is no training or introductory mission for control and gameplay functions doesn't even become apparent, it is just so easy to pick up on the feel of the game and start causing havoc. I don't think I can remember any other FPS that simply planted you dead in the heat of action straight away and succeeded in creating an effective opening. It is truly a great way to start a game like this.
The only problem here is that it feels like you were thrown with everything the enemy had from the very first mission. Throughout the game you do not come across any new style of enemies than you did in your first 3 minutes, which may be realistic enough for real life combat, but maybe not as great in a computer game. Sometimes it is nice to come across an unexpected type of resistance, it helps keeping the boredom level down and you on your toes.
An area which I noted before hand to watch carefully was the area of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. It was said that BHD will feature improved AI but sadly I can't report this to be true at all. On many occasions enemies, even from a mere ten feet away, simply don't respond to your threat. Even worse, this can also happen to your teammates, and when they all die from just standing there doing nothing, you get a mission failure.
Which leads me to another issue resulting in poor AI, the fact that this game seems to rely too much on your performance. If you fail to take out one RPG gunner amongst the other 10 or so in a harsh time gap, his rocket may knock one of your vehicles out and again result in a mission failure. Your teammates will attempt to assist in firing on the enemy, but they usually miss, or don't even respond, so it is up to you to take these threats out. Unfortunately this aspect seems to create a 'Time Crisis' like feel to the gameplay that was already arcade like enough without that.
However the AI is not all bad, in some instances it can really shine. One of these is the Room Clearing function, something which is executed better here in BHD than any other game I've played. What will happen is if you issue a command to clear a room, which can be done by pressing Backspace when told so by an icon on the screen, your team along with yourself will line up next to the room's entrance. One of your teammates will then throw a flash bang in and then everyone will proceed to storm the room. This is extremely effective, you can usually clear a room of threats without having to even dodge a single bullet using this method.
Perhaps the strongest overall aspect of this game is the story line in the singleplayer mode. As mentioned previously, the game spares no time in the introduction and simply brings the action straight into your lap. After that, each mission follows similar templates, where there is more than one objective spread across sometimes huge maps. To add even further depth to the storyline, some missions come with unexpected events and realtime changing objectives as circumstances change. One of these is the infamous Black Hawk Down scene, scripted terrifically by the game creating an almost movie like feel.
Overall, the gameplay is hard to put your finger on, it is certainly very good and very detailed in some areas, while lacking in others. On top of this, it is hard to put it into a certain category. Is it arcade style shooter? not quite. Is it a combat simulation? not quite, either. It is a balance of the two, and considering the effect it leaves on you, I'd say it is a pretty darn good balance.
The Delta Force series has never been an industry leader in visual quality, but BHD is certainly the most impressive in the series graphically. Due to the diverse environment that this game is played out in, a powerful engine is needed to render sparse outdoor and tight indoor locations, which it does so effortlessly. No matter where you are in the game, the engine seems to take care of it nicely.
The environments are captured beautifully in BHD, it really gives the impression you are right there in the Urban slums of Somalia. Most missions are carried out in the tight streets of small villages and you really couldn't ask for a more realistic depiction. The textures look great, the scattered ruble from decaying buildings is a nice touch, and just about everything else in the surroundings involving the creation of the environment is realistic.
If there is one thing that lets the visuals down it is the player models. Enemies and teammates, and even yourself in a 3rd persion view, come off looking a little clunky and rigid. Something about the models seem unnatural, perhaps it is the animations or perhaps it is an issue with body proportions, I don't know. Whatever the case, it is only a minor issue and should not be considered anything other than that.
Although this is no Battlefield 1942, BHD allows you to take control of a few different ingame weaponry. These primarily consist of machine guns mounted on vehicles and black hawk helicopters. During single player they're not really just there to use at any time, they're usually a required part of a mission's success, though they still add a new dimension to the basic control system.
On top of this, you have your usual WASD player control setup with a few extra functions like peeking done by E and Q. You also have the now standard prone, crouch and upright stances to operate in, each designed for different situations. Combined in total, the controls are quite fitting for the game's environments and really allow you to implement real life style tactics for concealment and engagement. If it wasn't for a few oddly placed keys, like shift as 'Action', the controls in BHD would be relatively perfect.
The thing to remember here is that Black Hawk Down is not attempting to nudge itself into the market of, say, Ghost Recon. The Delta Force series has always been about action and fun, and BHD is no exception. However despite the somewhat arcade feel many aspects of the gameplay are realistic, like the injuries and lack of a life bar, giving BHD a good balance between all out shooting fun and tactical ground combat. With the excellent story of single player mode in the mix as well, any bugs or quirks you come across are simply shadowed out. A highly recommended game for anyone in the mood for outrageous fun and challenging FPS gameplay.
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