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Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  SCI/Pivotal Games
Publisher:  Gotham Games
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Shooter
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  8-7-03

With a lackluster port of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and a lack of war games in general, the GameCube has lagged behind both the Xbox and PS2 in good military-themed squad shooters.   Gotham Games has answered the prayers of many with its port of Conflict: Desert Storm.  Released last year for both PS2 and Xbox, the game has now arrived on GameCube to help fill the void.

Like most games in the genre (notably Rainbow Six), Conflict: Desert Storm allows the player to control a team of up to four different soldiers through a variety of different missions.  Each soldier has his own specialty, including a sniper, rifleman, heavy weapons expert, and a combat engineer.  As missions are completed, each soldier will advance in their knowledge and expertise based on actions that took place in that mission.  Soldiers can be controlled individually or as a unit, with the one currently being controlled by the player taking the team lead (more on that later).

If a soldier happens to get killed during combat, he’s gone forever.  A largely unskilled rookie’ll replace him during the next mission, so obviously it’s important to keep the starting soldiers alive throughout the campaign.  Whenever a soldier goes down, the player has a window of roughly two minutes to get another member of the unit to heal that soldier.  This is often difficult to do, as the enemy will continue to attack the aiding soldier as well as his teammates providing cover fire.

Controlling the team can be a bit daunting at first, but once the controls are practiced they quickly become second nature.  The A button acts as the general action button, allowing for a variety of individual soldier actions depending on the current situation.  The control stick is used for general movement, while the B button allows the soldier to crouch, lay flat on the ground, or stand straight up depending on the current positioning of that soldier.  The R button controls weapons fire, while the C stick is used to aim weapons.  The L button toggles first and third person view.

While controlling individual soldiers is fairly simple, squad control and inventory management is where it gets tricky.  The d-pad is used for selecting which soldier to control, while Y toggles all soldiers between firing and standing down.  Z brings up the orders menu, which while held down with various button presses allows the player to order all soldiers at once to lay prone/stand up, follow/hold position, order a single soldier to follow/hold, and order a single soldier to advance to a given position.  X brings up the inventory menu, and while hold allows the player to move through an individual soldier’s inventory, turn on/off night vision, and change weapons fire.  Some practice will definitely be required for most players to get this down properly, and while it never really becomes second nature it does become quite manageable.

Set in the Gulf War, missions play out in desert and city regions throughout Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.  The player is briefed before the mission through a combination of video and speech on that mission’s objectives, and then plunked down into the mission without any of the Rainbow Six type planning.  Mission objectives are varied, including taking out a given target(s), rescuing other soldiers, eliminating the enemy, laser-guiding air-based attacks, etc.  Each mission is also reasonably long, with one in mission save allowed anywhere during the course of the mission.  Missions also allow for up to four players to play cooperatively, which provide plenty of opportunity for cooperation (and backstabbing) between players.

Graphically, Desert Storm isn’t anything to rave about.  Each of the desert and city locations looks good, with run-down buildings, sand storms, and plenty of brown everywhere.  The nature of the game means that it can only do so much though, since desert locations are typically barren and uninteresting graphically.  Soldiers also look pretty good, with realistic outfits and good character models.  Weapons-fire bounces off of the environment realistically, including some nice dust effects whenever bullets impact the ground.  On the downside, bullet trails are very arcade-like yellow lines, which look laughably bad.  There’s also some minor pop-up and plenty of fogging in the distance of each level.  The game also doesn’t do much more beyond the standard graphical effects: no lighting tricks, little variety of color, average texturing, and no progressive scan support.  Overall a decent looking game, but not one of the system’s best. 

Sound fares much better, with some excellent voice work (check out the sarge in the training missions), nice ambient sounds, and other sound effects to keep the desert locations from being devoid of sound.  The Pro Logic II support is nice as well, although the soundtrack is forgettable.

Highs:

  • Tight gameplay and interesting missions.

  • Excellent voice acting.

  • Not too hardcore for the casual fan, but complicated enough for the hardcore fan.

  • What American doesn't want to fight Saddam's regime?

Lows:

  • Some nice environments mixed with some ugly graphic shortcomings.

  • Squad control takes a lot of practice, and it’ll never seem “second nature”.

Final Verdict:

Gotham Games has managed to find a nice niche here, as this game isn’t quite as complicated as the Rainbow Six series and not as simplified as some other military-themed shooters.  Thus it appeals to both hardcore (I’m personally a big fan of Clancy’s games) and casual fans, and manages to provide a welcome addition to the GameCube’s lacking library.

Overall Score: 7.8

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