Is Conflict: Desert Storm worth its weight in black gold? Find out inside.
Conflict: Desert Storm (CDS) is uninspired, to say the least. While it’s not terrible, it approaches a level of bland mediocrity that is all too typical of today’s mass market gaming industry. As a third-person game with the option to switch to first-person, it never fully satisfies the requirements for either perspective and the only thing that stands out about it is the setting. I’m not really sure that there is a great demand for a game about the Gulf War, let alone one that doesn’t have much else to offer.
The game takes place in the early 90’s as Iraq begins its invasion of Kuwait. You take control of either the US Delta Force or the British SAS (accents included) in an effort to thwart Saddam and keep the world’s oil safe. Your team consists of four members, each with their own skill-set (sniper, demolitions, heavy-weapons, and general rifleman/medic), and you can switch between them at any time. If a member of your team survives a mission, he levels up RPG-style, making him more effective as you continue the quest.
The graphics get the job done, but that’s about it. The textures are poor, the animations are choppy, and the details are non-existent. On the plus side, the environments are well done, and they seem quite accurate when compared to the news footage of Iraq. Unfortunately, that means you’ll be spending a lot of time in similar looking ravines and the like, but hey, that’s Iraq. The cities and towns are interesting and laid out well. The frame-rate is steady, but it’s not silky smooth. The sound, like the graphics, is adequate and nothing more. Everything sounds like it’s supposed to, and your footsteps will change with the surface. The voice acting is good, but limited to mission overviews and a few barked commands. There is a training section complete with an over-bearing drill sergeant, but he quickly wears out his welcome. The music is unobtrusive and generically suspenseful. If it weren’t for the British accents, you wouldn’t notice anything about the sound either way.
The major problems with Conflict: Desert Storm all revolve around the control, which is plagued with issues. The first thing you’ll notice is that the sticks are set up like most FPS games, with the main stick controlling forward and lateral movement and the C-stick controlling the camera. While this isn’t really a problem in and of itself, it takes some getting used to in a third-person perspective. The second thing you’ll notice is how slow some of the movements are. Strafing feels like wading through quicksand, and crawling on your belly (a key part of the game) is yawn-inducing. Furthermore, in the first-person view, it’s actually impractical to turn left and right. If you’ve got to turn 180 degrees, it’s better to do it in the third-person view. Switching weapons involves bringing up the overlay menu (press and hold) and cycling with the D-pad, which would be fine if you didn’t have to come to a full stop to do it (even with finger gymnastics, the menu halts your character). The command interface is generally adequate, with the exception of having to use the Z button. You can assign one or all of your teammates follow or hold, and you can have individual men go to any given spot and face any direction, although the procedure for doing so is awkward. Like switching weapons, you cannot command your team on the fly, which sucks, especially when you’re trying to get away from enemy fire. In a nice touch, you can bring the noise and instantly order your team to open fire on all available targets. The auto-target in third-person is all right, if somewhat over-anxious, and you can cycle through available targets easily. Another annoyance is that in order to see the map, you have to bring up the pause menu and enter the objectives section.
Overall, the gameplay is slightly schizophrenic, as the game never really decides to fully pursue realism or action. CDS is challenging right from the start, and by the end it will really have you working hard. Unfortunately, the difficulty always borders on and frequently crosses the frustration line. Stealth is crucial, as a raised alarm will bring unlimited enemies against you. Since you can’t use their weapons, this can be disastrous for your ammo supplies. You’ll have to spend a lot of time on your belly, which as mentioned above, takes literally forever. Even this tactic often won’t help, as the enemies are practically telepathic. Once the alarm is raised, all tactical considerations go right out the window. The team system is probably the best feature of the game. Setting up cross fires and the like is critical and works well. Your teammates’ AI is good, as they’ll act responsibly on their own and follow your orders to the best of their ability. It’s nice to leave your sniper in a good spot and be able to rely on him to provide cover. You can also share items between members and even heal fallen soldiers. The level-up feature is much appreciated, even though I’d rather be able to allocate the points myself. It’s also necessary, as when you begin the game your rocket-launcher and sniper rifle bob up and down more than Monica Lewinski. One of the coolest features (when permitted) is the ability to laser “paint” large targets and call in an air strike. There’s nothing quite like watching jets come in and blow the hell out of a target. There is also a co-op mode for up to four players. It’s a necessary feature, but it doesn’t change the nature of the game.
In the final analysis, there is no reason to buy this game unless you have a real hard-on for the Middle East. If you’re into these types of games, it’s probably worth a rent, but there are many better games on the market. The sequel could turn out to be good if the original’s problems are fixed, but as it stands now, Conflict: Desert Storm isn’t worth much of your time.