Tactical FPS games are probably the closest thing this industry has to a ‘safe bet’ – with multiplatform, co-op centric tactical FPS games probably being the safest of all. Everybody wants to play those.
That’s not a criticism either, though it may seem like I’m being all aloof and sardonic. I’m not. Really. There are some really rather good tactical shooters out there, like the Call of Duty series which has gone from strength to strength over the years. In fact, if you really wanted to make sure that people played your game then probably the best thing to do would be to make a co-op focused, semi-tactical, multiplatform, casual shooter that is both new and part of a long running series.
That’s what Pivotal Games and Eidos have done with Conflict: Denied Ops. They’ve created a two-player FPS game which has a tactical theme running through the middle but still tries to be casual enough that you can come home after a few beers, flip on your console or PC and sit down for some army action. It’s also the fifth game in the long running Conflict series – though don’t be put off as Denied Ops uses entirely new characters, settings and plots.
With a concept like that it’s hugely possible that Conflict: Denied Ops could be the most exciting shooter of 2008 so far…
That's Graves...or is it Lang?
Conflict: Denied Ops is what I like to call a singleplayer co-op game. By that, I mean that the game is a co-op even when it isn’t – though that isn’t a lot clearer. Like Eidos’ other recent shooter, Kane and Lynch: Dead men, the game has not a single main character, but a duo of protagonists.
Players will find themselves flicking backwards and forwards between two very different soldiers; Graves and Lang. One is a white, forty-something sniper and professional soldier with a no-nonsense attitude and a gruff demeanour. The other one is a black heavy gunner and retired pro-footballer who insists on loudly proclaiming how he grew up in the Bronx – as proved by his mastery of street slang stereotypes.
And no, I honestly can’t remember which one is which off the top of my head. Both characters are so flat and one-dimensional that I could probably floss with them if I ever wanted to put something so eye-rollingly dull into my mouth. And I don’t, before you ask.
Graves and Lang are a team of highly-trained, secret soldiers who work for an American intelligence agency and travel all over the world, fighting terrorists, capturing nuclear weapons…
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Sorry. I could go further with explaining the plot but it really isn’t worth the effort because the story is drivel of the most ice-thin variety. In fact, all I really need to do is put the words American and Terrorists together—perhaps putting the word ‘versus’ in the middle to hammer the point home—and you’ll understand everything you need to about the game. Stolen nukes, ex-Spetznaz renegades and Venezuelan revolutionaries – it’s that type of shtick, probably stolen from the offcuts of Under Siege.
Of course, there’s nothing essentially wrong with that. I love a bit of mindless silliness, I adored Jean Claude Van-Damme movies growing up and I have If Chins Could Kill on my bookshelf as well. What’s so criminal about Conflict though is that it has the most unfortunate of triumvirates – it’s mindless, verbose and it takes itself seriously.
With that said, character development isn’t everything to all games and just because Graves and Lang are tremendously uninspiring doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world for them. I mean, if they play well and are fun then that’s enough, right?
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case either and both Graves and Lang are as obscenely uninteresting in terms of gameplay and handling as they are in depth. Neither character feels fun on anything but the shallowest levels.