Fans of Conflict will remember the series for its real-world war zones, accurate weapons and deep squad tactics. Be prepared for a shock. Conflict: Denied Ops ditches all of the features we came to love in favour of a fast-paced, almost arcade-like co-op blast. The four-man squad is cut down to a duo, the real war zones are now an imaginary struggle against rogue terrorist gangs and there’s no additional weapons. Our hero Lang packs a heavy machine-gun and our other hero Graves a sniper rifle. This is bad news, if you’re a die-hard Conflict fan.
There is a tactical edge to Denied Ops, but it's one that has more in common with a shootout in Doom than the tense duck, cover and command system of the original Conflict games. In single-player, commands are given simply and quickly. Point at a place onscreen and issue the command to send your partner to that position, or order him to regroup on your position. Tag a gun placement or vehicle to order your buddy to giddy-up and use it; likewise hold the crosshair over an enemy to order cover-fire. The controls are simple, immediate and obvious. This isn’t Conflict as you remember it.
On paper there have been some strange decisions made with this new Conflict - you can’t choose weapons or pick-up dropped guns from defeated enemies and neither character can run out of ammo for their primary weapon. It’s unreal and takes the series away from the original Conflict template, but in-game it works - if you switch off your brain, flop down with a mate and focus on the team play. After a couple of hours of co-op play you'll soon forget about running out of bullets as the game’s emphasis gets targeted on the co-op tactics rather than a hunt for more ammo.
Nothing major cripples Denied Ops, but a bunch of the small stuff adds up. The character design and game world is chunky and cartoonish (not helped by the flat, “macho” dialogue). In single-player the game’s shortfalls become more apparent as the co-op camouflage is removed. Many of the alternate routes become void as you hot-swap between characters rather than work in tandem with a friend. Though swift, this hot-swapping is far less fun than backing up a buddy in the heat of combat.
In many ways, these shortcomings are forgivable because the game runs at such a frantic pace you’ll rarely stop to notice the excessive use of brown crates. More importantly, there’s a wide range of locations and missions styles to master. The Koyle Castle and Salem Union Saw Mill stages require more stealth, so Graves takes the lead to tackle the set-pieces silently while the Kyrkalov Sub Facility and Chemical Tanker missions demand more punch and Lang’s big guns come into play. Most importantly, at every stage it’s clear these maps have been designed with the core strategy of cooperating with a friend - and in this sense they’re a real triumph. So make sure you’ve got someone to play with before attempting Conflict: Denied Ops to get the most bang (or in the case, boom) for your buck.
Feb 12, 2008