Review by ayame95

"A fair review for a good game with it's share of flaws"

A Fair Review for a Good Game with It's Share of Flaws

Shadow Ops: Red Mercury (hereafter referred to as "Red Mercury") is a military themed first-person shooter available for the xbox. After having played through the entire single player campaign, and spent a decent amount of time on multiplayer, I decided to write what I felt was a fair review for anybody thinking about buying this game.
The fact of the matter is that Red Mercury is a fun game, if you are able to overlook its many flaws. The game does deliver solid first-person shooting action, but it's nothing new or exciting. It's nothing you haven't seen before. In fact, in many ways I found the game to be a combination of a variety of console first-person shooters that have come out over the years (see the "derivative" section). But that doesn't mean that you can't have an enjoyable experience playing this game if you give it a decent try.
-Graphics: 7/10-
Once again, although this is nothing new or innovative in the graphics, they are relatively well done. The textures are good as long as you don't look at them too hard. The indoor levels are a little repetitive, but the outdoor ones generally look fairly good. The enemy animations are actually quite good, and they used ever-so-popular ragdoll physics that were actually tuned just right, so the enemy deaths look quite good. It's worth noting that the gun models in this game are some of the best ever scene. They are clear, crisp, and look great. They reload animations also look cool, although they are unrealistically fast.
However, one thing that really brought down my score in this department was the cutscenes. In an effort to maintain continuity, the developers decided to use the in-game engine to make the cutscenes. Although it's a nice idea, the result is that they look like the cutscenes from a playstation one or nintendo 64 game. The effect is the exact opposite of what was intended, and many of you will find yourselves no longer caring and skipping the cutscenes about halfway through the game.
-Audio: 9/10-
Flat out the best feature in this game. All the sound effects sound really cool and realistic and varied. If you fire the same gun in different environments, you will hear different effects and echoes. All the levels have great environmental sounds, from bugs and birds in the jungle to random explosions in a battlefield setting. The soundtrack is good too. They hired out a full orchestra and got a lot of good, varied BGM going on that helps keep you in the fighting mood and gives the levels some atmosphere. Additionally, the game supports Dolby 5.1 and is THX remastered, and those of you who play this game with the right sound equipment will be duly impressed. Bullets whiz overhead, you can tell what direction your being shot from just by the sound. It's all quite immersive.
The only thing that kept me from giving this a 10 was the fact that I noticed the soundtrack "skipping" like a scratched CD several times. It's not too frequent, but it was there enough to be noticed. I saw several other posts about this so I know it's not just my copy.
-Storyline: 3/10-
Nothing new or original here. Cookiecutter characters and b movie plot. Evil terrorist mastermind with (try to stifle your guffaws) one arm, blah blah blah. Nuclear device that fits inside a briefcase, blah blah blah. You are an elite special forces operative who must save the world by travelling around the globe and killing different sorts of people, blah blah blah. You will find yourself losing interest in the story and it's characters after the first poorly made cutscene or two. The only reason I even gave it a few points was that it at least has a coherent story that makes sense. Luckily this sort of action game isn't story dependent, so it's easily overlooked.
-Gameplay: 7/10-
Oh boy, we really have a mixed bag here. There are a lot of things I like and a lot of things that drive me crazy about the gameplay in this game. One thing worth mentioning is that you have to give the game two or three levels while you get used to the controls. I found myself liking the "feel" of the game the more I played. The control layout is the golden xbox standard: just like halo. Note that there are some controller options, but not as many as you'd like (e.g. the Y-axis must be inverted). The overall "feel" of the of the controls is pretty good, but not quite as tight as you might like. Note that there also seem to be a few useless functions. Your character can jump, but never needs to. There is a melee attack, but I never got close enough to use it.
One this that is going to drive you crazy is that while the enemies are near perfect shots, you are not. Even your second or third time through this level, when you know where all the bad guys will be, 90& of the guys will still hit you. Meanwhile getting your own character's aim down requires quite a bit of practice and finesse. The upside to this is that when you finally get good with the game, it's quite rewarding.
This also ties into the fact that the game has some hit detection issues. One time, I was searching for a sniper in a window, and while my target reticule was focused on one window, the guy popped out of the one next to it. Instinctively I fired, and the guy dropped dead. At other times I felt I was aiming dead on, but my shots wouldn't connect.
Also note that although this game markets itself as a realistic military shooter, it does not follow the vein of Tom Clancy where just a few hits can kill you. You will be shot dozens, if not hundreds of times each level, and your health (measured by the standard 100 point system) can be instantly replenished by grabbing a health pickup. In many ways, this game reminded me of Doom or Wolfenstein the way you had to cache health packs and run back through the level to pick them up later. The same is true of the bad guys; they can take a reasonable amount of punishment. Although a head-shot is an instant kill, I found myself feeling a little frustrated when I unloaded a three-round burst from an assault rifle or fired a shotgun at point blank range into a guy's chest and he just kept on coming like nothing had happened.
The game moves at a somewhat sluggish 30fps. There is a bit of dip, but it's not too bad. Nonetheless, the character's slow movement speed and the 30fps doesn't exactly match the run-and-gun style of the game. In fact, in a lot of ways I found the speed and pacing of the game reminded me of Goldeneye or Perfect Dark.
One last thing worth noting is that the save and load system is just plain terrible. The loading times are much too long for a game like this, and during the load screens the game gives you "helpful advice" that is actually really annoying because it's full of obvious stuff like "avoid friendly fire," and "only use medpacks when you really need them." Additionally, there is a loading screen that you have to sit through just to get back the menus, and it's as long as the level load times (easily 45 seconds to a minute). As for the saving system, it is just obtuse. Nowhere in the menus is there a "save" option. The game saves automatically between levels or when you quit, but it doesn't tell you that so it's quite confusing. Note that there are no checkpoints or in-level saves, but that's OK since the levels are really short.
-Immersion 7/10-
I included this category because the developer made it clear that their intent was to create a cinematic, immersive game. Actually, they have succeeded in many ways, but many of the techniques they used came back to nip them in the butt. For example, the single-player levels are HEAVILY scripted. Every last thing in the level that happens is triggered by you walking into a certain area or taking a certain action. The first time through the level this works rather well, it gives the game the real feeling of a movie or something. However, the second time though the level you will find yourself knowing exactly what is going to happen next, exactly where the next guy will pop out from. It detracts from the replay value.
Nonetheless, between the stunning audio and the atmosphere of the game, most of the levels do give you the feeling that you're in a Hollywood war movie. It's worth nothing that the outdoor levels do a much better job of this than the indoor ones.
-Multiplayer 6/10-
For the most part, the multiplayer just isn't good. There are several modes, but only deathmatch and team deathmatch are good. Capture the flag is ruined by the fact that fragged enemies can respawn right next to their flag with full health, so it's almost impossible to take the flag if one or two guys are guarding it. "VIP escort" involves protecting a weaker player who moves from point A to B, but it's just not that interesting. Co-op is OK (it has some levels designed just for co-op), but a lot of the levels are linear and congested, so that you sort of have to "take turns" playing while the other guy hangs back.
The game does support all the ways of playing multiplayer: Splitscreen (up to four players), Lan, and Xbox live. The xbox live is OK, but it's nothing new. I was disappointed that the game only supported up to 8 players online, when so many games of this type support 16.
One thing that is good is the multiplayer level design. Although they are nothing new and the textures are a bit dull, I found their layout quite well done. In fact, like the game's pacing, I thought a lot of the level design (particularly the indoor stuff) was quite reminiscent of Goldeneye. A lot of the levels are multi-teared with a bunch of passage ways and sniper shots, and the character's slow movement gives the deathmatch a feel like you're "hunting" each other. I actually enjoyed it. It would have been nice to see bots, but oh well.
Note that there are no weapon pickups in the multiplayer (or even in the single player). You get whatever you start the level with for the duration of the level. However, in multiplayer you can choose from one of four classes, each of which starts with a pistol and a larger gun. When you die, you can come back as a different type, or you can choose to sacrifice a frag (like a suicide) to change classes: Rifleman (assault rifle), Heavy Weapons (machine gun), Close Combat (shotgun), and Sniper (sniper rifle). The different classes also have different looks (the sniper is dark and harder to see). Also, you can choose between "terrorist" and "Special Forces," with each having different guns (e.g. the Special Forces rifleman has an M16 while the terrorist rifleman has an AK-47). This last difference is mostly cosmetic, but it allows you to "change it up" somewhat.
-Replay Value 5/10-
A fun game while it lasts, but there just isn't enough here. The single player campaign has some 25 levels, but none of them are particularly long, and about a quarter of them feel like "filler" levels. You'll beat the game in 10-15 hours and probably not feel motivated to play though it again anytime soon. Without a solid multiplayer to back it up, the game's life is considerably shortened.
It's worth noting that the game comes with seven or eight two minute movies on the making of the game, but unfortunately it's comes across more like a big commercial for the game where the develops plug themselves and show off their programming skills. Any of you who followed the "ask the developer" thread on the gamefaqs board will laugh as head developer Mark Long continually reuses the phrase "full meal deal" to describe the game.
This game can be a lot of fun, but it depends what you like. It's got classic first person shooting that can feel a little too classic at times. But the great sound and cinematic style does kind of get to you. I found myself enjoying the game more and more as I became accustomed to it. It would have been nice to see a more fleshed-out multiplayer and a lot of the little problems worked out, but in the end I still liked the game, evidenced by the fact that my overall game score was higher than the averages of the individual scores I gave for graphics, gameplay, etc.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/06/04

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