SCI/Pivotal
Gotham Games
War/Action
1-4
10.10.03

Conflict: Desert Storm II - Back to Baghdad


Last year Conflict: Desert Storm was released, and this year we are happy to see that Gotham Games has gone back to Baghdad. You see, we at Xbox Exclusive simply could not put down the original Conflict: Desert Storm, and we have been anticipating the release of its sequel for quite some time. Well, it has finally arrived on US shores, and this is just what we've been waiting for!

Conflict: Desert Storm II - Back to Baghdad refers to the first gulf war in 1991, and has nothing to do with the current war in Iraq. We'll have to wait a few more years for that one! Even with this particular title having nothing to do with the 2003 Iraqi war, it would be a good time to check out what US and British troops did during the 1991 conflict. Before every mission there is a lot to read up on, and it explains what happened, and what you are about to do.

Gameplay

If you haven't played the first game, then you might want to read our review of Conflict: Desert Storm. Conflict: Desert Storm II features 10 all new missions, plus 4 training levels. From the early screenshots, it was thought that there would be a new cast of main characters, but the originals are intact. That's right, the boys are back! Bradley, Foley, Connors, and Jones all here, and ready to lock and load. As in the first Storm game, Jones is the medic, Connors is the heavy weapons man, Foley is the Sniper, and Bradley is the team leader. Connors can now run and fire with his heavy weapons at the same time. Even though each has their own unique skill, anyone can carry any weapon and use it. At any time you can take, give, or swap any items between each of the four players. There are three difficulty levels: easy, medium, and hard. Before you play, you choose either an American or a British unit to go up against Iraq. Each mission is not just "shoot everyone" because sometimes you have objectives that involve disabling bombs, blowing up scuds, etc.

CDS II uses the same basic engine as the first CDS; it's just tweaked to near perfection now. You can now do "rolls" on the ground to take cover. When you are taking heavy fire, or if you get caught on fire, you can roll on the ground to put the fire out. Enemies, as well as your own men can catch on fire from grenades, rockets, or a C4 explosion. You are able to take out streetlights, and mostly any other light source. Besides the initial inventory, additional weapons and items are scattered all throughout the levels. There's not always enough for everyone, so you'll have to divide them up resourcefully.

For the most part, controlling your men is the same as the first game. The R trigger fires your weapon. B is used to control crouching, lying, and to stand back up. Y is for changing items and weapons. CDS II's weapons menu is very neat and in order, while last years was a complete mess. X is to put your men on "fire at will" or to "stand down". When you hold down L you can select a member of your squad, and give him a command. They range from "on me" to giving him coordinates to move to. When it comes time to shoot the enemies, you can either fire with the auto-aim the game sets you to, or do what I like better and click the right thumbstick (first person view), and do it yourself manually. After you click that, you then can click the left thumbstick to zoom in even more. Depending on whom you're controlling, and what gun your using, the control will vary. One of the best parts about this game is that your teammates will be firing and actually killing the enemies. This is a real military squad based action shooter. You are also able to control multiple vehicles. Jeeps and tanks are drivable, and all four team members can ride away on one. Just don't get shot with a rocket or your all dead.

One thing that is a little different then the last game is that if one of your men is lying on the ground wounded, you have to get to them before they totally die, or the mission is over. In the previous version, you would just get a replacement for the next mission with less experience points if someone didn't make it. To add to the realism, if a player is about to die, he'll be limping until he gets a fresh medical kit.

The AI has been drastically improved. You now have to be somewhat "sneaky" on who you come in contact with, or else they will call for back up. The enemies hardly ever stand still, and it can be a task just to sniper them sometimes.

There were rumors that may have even been confirmed by the developer that there were plans of bringing this game online. Well, unfortunately there is no live online play, but there is Xbox Live downloadable content for new skins and scenarios. I was a little disappointed how there was no opening movie like in the first CDS, but then I wasn't when I noticed that there is all new cut scenes before each mission.

Graphics

The graphics in the first Desert Storm were enough to get by, but the sequel has gotten a major overhaul! Pumping out more polygons then last year's version, the player models look so much better. They even blink their eyes. The actual environments are really quite nice to look at.

Real-time lighting effects, and heat haze from the hot desert can really affect the gameplay. You'll be blinded sometimes, and you have the option to shoot the lights out. Pivotal/SCI must have been listening to us because there is no more fog (CDS had tons of fog). That's right, you can now see the entire screen from a distance. You're going to see blood on the pants and shirts of your men. It shows what you and your team have been through, and they sometimes look like they've been through hell.

There are a lot more animations when you kill the enemies than in CDS. Sometimes they will fall to the ground and just be pinned up against something. After killing some of the enemy, they won't disappear right away. If it's not a clean kill, they will shake for a few seconds. The way the men run has also been updated. They no longer run in place before actually moving, and it looks very natural. They will also slow up (and walk) as they get near you when you call them over.

Sound

I was never on a real-life battlefield, but the in-game Dolby Digital does an amazing job of making me feel like I am in the middle of one. There's lots of talk and yelling between each of your teammates. They shout out constant updates that are said usually when they are under fire, or if an enemy is spotted. All the voices are unique to their own character, and have been redone for this sequel. The overall music audio in the game is realistic and keeps your attention as you're in the middle of a battle. Custom soundtracks are also welcomed.

Replay

The replay value is ridiculously high. Its amazing to have a game like this available. There is never a time where you play a level and it's exactly the same, especially with the improved AI. With friends, the multiplayer mode will last for a very long time because you always wind up in different situations. You really have to "fight" your way through these levels. As you play some levels over for a second time, you'll probably find new areas, or a new place to obtain weapons.

The multiplayer feature returns once again in all its glory. Up to four players can play at once on one screen. The only drawback is that there is no system link capability. Playing with two players is the best mode because you have a little more control. You each get two characters to control, whereas with four players, you are limited to one each.

Bottom Line:

For those who still think this series is not worthy of a good score, then you still don't know what you're missing. My only gripe about this game is that I wish it were longer than 10 missions. For Conflict: Desert Storm II, and the rest of the series (past and upcoming), there is simply nothing else like it. If you want to immerse yourself into a war, CDS II is the way to do it.

Gotham Games (a division of Take Two) is really starting to make a name for themselves, especially with this series. With the updated AI, enhanced gameplay abilities, improved menus, and the realistic things that happen during gameplay, they are really making us wonder how great the next "Conflict" game (already in development) will be. You have not played a realistic war game until you played this one.

-Steve Melanson




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