A few months ago we checked out an Xbox build of BlackHawk Down and came away very impressed with where Novalogic was going with it. Shortly after, the PS2 version was announced and although the console version on Xbox was impressive, we did have our doubts as to whether the PS2 could maintain the same experience with its lesser power. The biggest move Novalogic made was giving the development rights to Rebellion and the fact they have FPS experience on a console has paid off. We recently checked out a PS2 preview build and it looks like both Xbox and PS2 fans have quite a bit of urban combat to look forward to come next month.
One thing which hasn't changed between either the PS2 or Xbox version is the setting and timeline of the game. Set in Somalia 1993, BlackHawk Down is based on a movie which was based on a book which was based on the real world events from just over a decade ago. As with most Novalogic games it is deeply in the simulation side of things in terms of both the action and the storyline. Novalogic takes no prisoners when it comes to realism and the fact this is based on real world events has just inspired them and Rebellion to create the ultimate recreation available. That is exactly where the PS2 game looks like it's heading.
However this is where some of the similarities end. Of course the main game will remain the same as both the PC and Xbox versions with a first person, squad based standpoint being used but the changes are more in the mission structure than compromises being made because of the lesser system. The mission changes are more to give the PS2 players a unique experience and probably from a marketing standpoint, encourage people to buy both. From what we have played, buying both is not exactly going to be a waste of time.
One thing we really like about the console version in its current state is the balance between action and simulation gameplay. While you can't run and gun all the time, if you're more inclined to charge an enemy, the game is a lot more forgiving than the PC versions are. You still have to look out for specific targets such as enemies with rocket launchers (more than once in the preview build, our convoy was taken out by a lone RPG) but on foot you have a lot more freedom to run around rather than having to find cover. Of course this is not the case in higher difficulty levels, but that gives those who want a simulation option the ability to play the game as well.
The missions are dynamically changing as you would expect. The tried and tested Delta Force style waypoints are the mission checkpoints but you don't really know what is over the next hill. Peaceful landing zones can turn into war zones in a matter of seconds and while the game does have aiming help, the sheer number of enemies will challenge you in the final game if the preview build is anything to go by. You will take enemies on in a number of ways; on foot, in vehicles and with a mixture of weapons. There is a lot of guess and checking in the game right now where you may get taken out by a hidden enemy, but then know to take them out next time around, assuming you can see them.
The visuals of the game are quite impressive for the PS2 and this is one thing that we weren't expecting to impress in the current build. Character models are highly detailed and comparable to the Xbox and it seems the enemies, levels and general layout has not been affected all that much by the lesser hardware and even the framerate manages to remain stable most of the time. Our theory on this is that most of the action takes place in wide open areas, allowing more processing power for the rest of the game. The controls of the PS2 also seem to suit the game better then the Xbox version and it is very much in its current state a pick up and play title.
Blackhawk Down PS2 is going to surprise a lot of PS2 fans and fans of simulation games in general. We are astounded as to how well Rebellion is putting this port together on hardware which really is coming to the end of its lifecycle quickly. The Xbox version may have the visuals and more online players, but the PS2 version will be a worthwhile counterpart and on the surface and after a play of a preview build, picking both up on release may just be the right move, if you have both consoles that is.