Review by SaP

Reviewed: 07/26/06

There must have been a saboteur among the developers.

When Sony lowered its PlayStation licensing fees after PS2 came out in order to help maintain the image of continuous support for the system, the already uneven PlayStation library got further diluted with lots of dodgy software. Much of it was (sort of) designed only to make a quick buck - think Midas Entertainment - but there were also bona fide titles to be found. With its potential to be a good game senselessly wasted, Delta Force Urban Warfare is unfortunately one of those games that try hard but ultimately fall flat on their face.

Delta Force makes a decidedly sub-par first impression: the introductory cut-scene (as well as all further ones) features ugly character models, poor voice acting out of sync with the visuals, unsuitable associated reverberation and ambience effects, there are random sound drop-outs and constant glitches - even the menu music isn't looped properly. The manual also leaves a bit to be desired as it is often not descriptive enough for such a complex game, and at places also inaccurate. Considering that the game features real-life weapons and supposedly realistic close-quarters urban combat, more detailed descriptions would've been a welcome addition, as well as a general guide to the rules of engagement. I'm inclined to think, however, that Delta Force is thus rough around the edges not because of the designers' amateurism or negligence but most likely to budget constraints.

If there was indeed a choice to be made between surface polish and functional fundamental game mechanics, Rebellion certainly took the right path. Delta Force was conceived to be a very technical first-person shooter with emphasis on stealth but even as such, it's surprisingly manageable, much more than any of the three Rainbow Six titles. Once the complex, albeit logical control scheme is mastered, even detailed weapon management becomes second nature while handling explosives and other items takes a bit longer to get used to. Realism was obviously very high on the priority list and the amount of things to do and watch out for can be overwhelming at first. Studying your surroundings and enemy patrol routes in particular means the difference between life and death as you get gunned down rather quickly if taking the enemy head-on, especially with both first-aid kits (if only they opted for bullet-proof vests instead) and ammo in such short supply.

The game looks quite good with the code obviously pushing the PlayStation hardware right to the limit as merely increasing the moving/looking speed beyond the preset values already causes noticeable drops in the frame rate and, consequently, problems with aiming. Even so, Rebellion's graphics engine is far from Hammerhead's phenomenal achievement that is Quake 2 as both models and textures are more crude and less detailed in Delta Force. The game fares better in the sound department (just remember to turn off the music first as "dramatic cues" are both mishandled and in contrast with the overall level of realism): from the buzz of CCTV to the enemies' reloading, paying attention to the sound effects is essential. You can even pick up enemy radios and listen in on their conversations in order to learn about their level of alertness though this particular aspect could've been developed a bit further.

Delta Force starts off as a strictly stealthy affair with little room for error as the enemies are invariably perfect shots. While AI tends to be impressively smart and particularly good with working in groups - the enemies enter rooms in pairs, lay cover fire and often try to ambush the player - its complexity is probably also the cause for its volatility. Slowly crawling through half a level, setting up silent kills and being generally extra careful doesn't guarantee that bad guys won't spot you - and possibly shoot you through a solid wall. I appreciate the designers' ambition to make the enemies as smart as possible but they should've realised at one point that they wouldn't be able to execute it well enough. The juxtaposition of smart and stupid enemy moves can be quite ludicrous: one moment they run for cover and shoot back but as soon as visual contact is lost, they forget all about you and just passively stand in one spot not even reacting to direct gunfire. Even when AI is seemingly working well, however, there are no golden rules about not getting spotted: crouching does it most of the time but every once in a while, an enemy will come after you from nowhere in pitch dark.

There is another, even more damning caveat, however: after the first few stealth levels, the game turns into an action first-person shooter. With neither the graphics engine nor the game mechanics at all suited to it, this is a cause of much deeper frustration. Initially, I didn't mind the imbalance as direct confrontations with the enemy were the player's own fault but once the gameplay got really cheap - in more than one stage, the player is given a clearly inadequate amount of ammo and/or first aid kits, and there is a particularly frantic level where there are civilians running around that are nearly impossible to distinguish from enemies at a distance - I began to take issue with it. Soon after, I stopped bothering, not because I wasn't making progress but because I saw no purpose in doing so anymore.

I'm having trouble understanding why exactly Rebellion chose to undermine their own game's foundations by needlessly making it into something it isn't. Imagine Metal Gear Solid turning into an all-out action title after the first battle with Vulcan Raven with genome soldiers constantly on red alert. Well, you'd probably still keep playing, but unlike Solid Snake, John Carter is such a generic character (and the vengeance-cum-conspiracy plot so lame) that the player is given no incentive to look beyond the game's flaws. Regardless of how cheap you can get it, Delta Force Urban Warfare isn't worth your time.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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