Conflict: Desert Storm 1.5 is an improvement over the original, but just barely.
Conflict: Desert Storm 2, like its predecessor, is a squad-based tactical action game set during the Gulf War in the early 90’s. In fact, it’s really more like an expansion pack than a true sequel. While the developers at Pivotal have polished some of the gameplay and bolted on a few interesting additions, CDS2 still suffers from the core problems that plagued the first game.
At the outset, you’ll be given a choice between commanding either the US Delta Force or the British SAS through the game’s ten missions. Your team consists of a rifleman, a sniper, a heavy gunner, and a demolitions expert. The differences between the Brits and the Yankees are purely cosmetic. You can easily switch between members of your team using the D-pad, and you’ll be doing this a lot to keep the mediocre AI from getting killed. Issuing commands is also a fairly simple process as you order your teammates to follow your lead, hold position, open or hold fire, or move to a player-specified position, though this last feature is very awkward. The missions become quite intricate and will require you to use all the skills of your members as well as some vehicles and mounted weaponry.
The control is still a major issue that has been tweaked but not fixed from the first game. The animations of your team members are still largely wooden, but strafing and crawling are thankfully no longer reminiscent of one of those nightmares where you can’t move your legs. You’ll still be spending a lot of time on your belly, only this time around you can roll to either direction so as to actually avoid enemy fire. You can switch into a first-person perspective at any time for manual aiming, but your turning radius is worse than a Mack truck. It’s noticeably more efficient to switch back to third-person if you want to turn around. The auto-aim is hyper-active, often targeting enemies before you’ve made visual contact, and yet it still manages to miss the guy two feet away. A major pet-peeve of mine has returned for round two, making it impossible to switch weapons or issue commands without coming to a full stop. I thought this was supposed to be a war, not a tea party. While some may commend Pivotal for mapping such a large number of functions to the GameCube controller, I say just getting them on there isn’t enough. To be fair, you won’t be throwing your controller in frustration, but you’ll never be satisfied either.
Overall, the gameplay is lacking. The mission structure is linear to an extreme. Most of the time there’s not even the illusion of an open path, as you’re traveling down one narrow ravine to another or desperately searching a war-torn city for the single exit. Your teammates’ AI succeeds only because it is so limited that they can’t make too many mistakes. They will absolutely cap the bad guys on their own, but they haven’t enough sense to take cover unless you hold their hand. If it weren’t for the fact that each member holds certain skill-specific items, or for their propensity for getting shot, you could probably go through the entire game without switching characters.
The game does offer the option for co-op multiplayer, and if you’ve got a friend, or better yet, three, it can be a satisfying experience. This is especially true in vehicles as one player drives, one shoots and one blows stuff up. Still, once you no longer have to wrangle your crew the game shies even farther away from true tactical play and becomes at best a restricted action game. Furthermore, with only ten missions and no versus mode, you can cruise through the multiplayer fairly quickly, limiting the replay value.
Truthfully, unless you’re starved for “tactical” action, there is little reason to buy Conflict: Desert Storm 2. While it is an improvement over the first one, the two games are largely identical and suffer from the same identity problem. The formula offers gamers a taste of both action and tactics, but neither tastes good enough for a second helping.