Novalogic is a company that somewhat flies under the radar sometimes. It could be because they have built a little niche for themselves in military simulation and have never really changed from that. One of their more recent PC titles, Blackhawk Down, was one of the best tactical shooters available for the platform at the time but unfortunately it suffered from a few problems that kept it from being the great game it should have been. Novalogic have gone back to the drawing board and decided that the Xbox should be the next platform for the game. Although it doesn't sound like the best game to bring across to the console, after a hands on session with it, we now tip it to become one of the best Xbox tactical shooters for the year.
The game is set in Somalia in 1993. Continuing the style that Novalogic uses, the game is completely based around real world events. It is based around two campaigns the US army undertook to remove the oppression of the Somalian people, and help the United Nations go about their business. The fact the game is grounded so much in realism is definitely going to help its appeal and should also bring a new element to the style when people realize that these missions actually were undertaken and soldiers really were lost.
Like the PC counterpart, the Xbox version is played from a first person perspective. However it's not a run and gun shooter, this is a game which focuses on realism and if you run around like Rambo, you will be cut down easily. However the tactical style of the game seems a little more lax than games such as Rainbow Six. This is due to the fact that it appears the mission goals continuously change throughout the mission. You are dropped into the conflict with one task, but as time goes on, mission goals change due to changes in the level of threat and what is going on. There have been a few modifications made to accommodate the console such as the auto aim feature, but you still have to move the reticle somewhat near the enemy to pick them up. They are not the easiest to find either, hiding in urban areas or camouflaging themselves in the surrounding foliage.
One thing which is really impressive in the current build is the variety of missions. We played through three or four to a certain degree and were impressed by the huge variety on offer. The final game will ship with sixteen missions to play through. Sometimes you will have to protect a food handout by the UN from being raided, try and safely move through hostile areas while on the back of a truck or just plain remove the enemies from the area. Each mission we played had such variety and continuously changed, the difficulty level also varied greatly depending on how we played. The soldiers have three possible stances and therefore levels of visibility and you can choose your weapon load out before the mission begins. All the guns are based on real world guns and appear to be licensed.
One thing which may have been an issue bringing the game across to the Xbox is the level of graphics quality but it appears that the graphics are better on the Xbox than on the PC. The levels are quite detailed but don't expect a high build up of Urban areas because that is not how the conflict played out. Considering they actually consulted the units that were on the ground during the events, you can't really get much more authentic than that. Missions are set during the day and at night which offers various challenges and while it appears the overall setting of the game won't vary to much, the variety of missions and villages should keep the game fresh to the end.
Multiplayer is also something Novalogic is putting a huge focus on for the Xbox. Via Live up to 32 players will be able to take on each other in a variety of game options. The game will also offer play for up to four players on the same console split screen in a co-operative format which should give the game a bit more a squad based feel.
BlackHawk Down is a game that should be on every Xbox tactical shooter fans shopping list. Novalogic are going the extra mile to ensure that the Xbox version is not just a rushed port and one of the better tactical games available. If the first four missions are anything to go by, it's going to be one heck of a fantastic game when it ships later this year.