Review by EDDY555

"When Westwood got lazy, they still produced an above-average cash-in, as opposed to a poor cash-in!"

After the terrific Command & Conquer, a new breed of RTS fans like me wanted another strategy game to drool over. Instead of the ''sequel'' to C&C being their very next entry in the series (Red Alert), Westwood gave the world an expansion pack for the original instalment in the series, while RA was still in its late stages of development. Covert Operations turns out to be a moderately entertaining slice of what the genre has to offer.

This game utilises the old C&C premise, which is hard to fault on paper, but there are some VERY nasty flaws. Worst of all, the tension that C&C had is totally absent from Covert Operations. Whereas you would be enticed in anticipation when about to start a new mission for the first time in the original, thinking: ''What will happen next?'', and waiting to see what the cool CGI briefing was going to tell you about the progression of that story, and just what Kane was up to (I love him!), Covert Operations appears severely lacking in comparison; instead of a good-looking campaign world map and an excellent, well-written and amusingly acted briefing video, we get a not-so-needed mini-movie with no real actors, lasting only a few seconds, followed by your briefing; it consists of a text message a few lines long. End of story!

The fact lingers that there's no such thing as a ''final showdown'' in Covert Operations; the suspense of having a single minigunner left on the very last mission against a single enemy minigunner has gone completely. The missions can be picked in any order you'd like. Also, where are the extra units and structures? A massive disappointment here. After all, this is an add-on pack.

The difficulty level is astronomical. This is a shame, as it can put off a less experienced player completely, unlike the original, which had enough straightforward missions to help an average being brave the most complex ones. Covert Operations does a good job of making itself tough as nails, nothing else.

Put that aside though, and you'll discover that all of the new missions are exciting, are very open due to their high tech levels and the maps are well-designed with a variety of terrains and objectives. The GDI have 7 new ops to experiment with, but if you prefer the Brotherhood, eight are yours to keep. My personal favourite is ''Under Siege”, where you play as a virtually defeated Nod battalion surrounded by GDI, in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Like the original, Covert Operations makes a good graphical stand for its day, but with no new units or structures there's no change. An advantage is that Covert Operations is commonly found on a Windows 95 OP exclusively nowadays, so you don't have to fear picking up the dire DOS version by mistake.

Covert Operations gives us the typical techno-industrial soundtrack of the early C&C years, from the mind of Frank Klepacki. It's cracking stuff and there are few new tracks on the CD to listen to as well, although none are as timeless as they would be in a perfect world.

This isn't an essential purchase at all, so you can make your own choice; the horrible difficulty level is certainly a factor that novices should take into account when seriously considering buying Covert Operations. True C&C fans will probably be left slightly cold at the end of the day, but it kept me interested, at least for a while.

The classic C&C gameplay is present, so Covert Operations is worth a look; the less said about the difficulty level and lacks of extras, the better. Unless you really can't contain yourself, stick with the original. I'd say Westwood wanted to cash in on the franchise this time round, to be honest, rather than reward us, their patient fans, with a solid experience.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/29/02, Updated 08/09/04

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