Zombie
Atari
FPS
1-4 (2-8)
06.15.04

Shadow Ops: Red Mercury


Shadow Ops…what is Shadow Ops? Shadow Ops is Atari's newest FPS. Shadow Ops' opening sequence resembles Black Hawk Down the movie. You are Frank Hayden, an elite Delta Force operative. You are dropped in with 2 other elite members to get the job done. You're sent in to disable a nuclear weapon labeled Red Mercury. Well, guess how Shadow Ops starts off? You guessed it (maybe not), a Black Hawk goes down. You are introduced to this game by jumping out of a helicopter into a hostile territory.

Gameplay

You are basically brought right into the action in a full-blown warzone. You have your squad with you, but not all the time. When you are with your team, it's you, Ruiz, and Gati. You can't switch off to other people within your squad, you're on your own. And for the most part, you're doing all the shooting.

Besides the main campaign mode, there's co-op and multiplayer. In addition to split screen in multiplayer, there's system link and Xbox Live. I'll be honest with you; I didn't like the game at all when I first put it on for the single player campaign. It just didn't feel up to par with other first person shooters, and I would die very easily. The co-op multiplayer is a good "trainer" for the main campaign. With that said, after playing through the 10 co-op levels with a buddy, I was a lot more eager to jump into the single player game.

Each level follows the preceding one pretty well, so you usually stay on the same path after you complete a level. The only drawback is that sometimes you are left with basically the same amount of ammo. So don't waste ammo. It's a good idea that you go to the dead bodies and take their ammo, because you'll be needing it. Be aware though, they all don't drop items. Besides the annoying fact of running out of ammo, you do have 3 guns to work with at any given time. The main guns that you'll be using are a little pistol, automatic rifle, shotgun, and sniper. There are different variations of each (i.e. silencers). More rocket launchers would have been cool once in a while. The only other means of attacking is to throw frag and/or smoke grenades.

This game is a mix between SWAT, Timesplitters 2, and Medal of Honor: Frontline. Timesplitters 2 because you flash back and you play levels before and after the main idea of the story. Also, because the controls feel slightly similar to TS2. MoH: Frontline because new objectives appear out of no where, and you pretty much just stay on the path that the game leads you on. Also, Frontline because the graphics are that type of quality (solid, but not great). I say SWAT because you have a couple of guys with you on your squad, but you are mostly on your own (like in MoH). Like most first person shooters, there's health packs scattered throughout each level. This game is based on Unreal Technology, and it is a very fast FPS shooter. It's not so much a war sim because I had to walk back in some levels just to find some health. If you have to back track at any time to get a health pack or ammo, your boys will follow you (usually), and provide cover. I didn't like doing that too much, and at that point it turned into an average FPS. To get through, you got to really just relax when playing this game. You can't just run out in the open because you'll die in no time. When you die, you have to restart the entire mission, because there are no checkpoints! If you can remember that the game is good if you relax and take your time for each mission, you'll be able to enjoy it. On one of the jungle levels, taking my time with my team made me feel like we were out there all alone. As I said before, you are doing all the shooting, but your buddies will fire on enemies and kill a few here and there.

There are a few short, but sweet cutscenes when you arrive at an objective. They could have been a little more high quality in terms of graphics. Most of them do very little to make you feel like you accomplished something. There are, however some clever ones that break right into the action. A few other things that bothered me were some, not all, levels are designed poorly. And you don't get a map or anything, but the worst thing about Shadow Ops is that it takes forever to load up a level. You can be out in a field, or out in a dark snowy area, but you have no night vision available. Half the time you are by yourself, which I don't like because I like a full squad on your side when playing a military game.

A lot of the gameplay is pretty much doing the same thing every mission. Completing the first objective, then a new objective appears, place demo charges, and you're done. The ending levels can get a bit more challenging than any of the earlier levels.

The story may be very weak in the beginning, but picks up heavily in the middle of the game, and in the ending levels. For that reason, I like how the story unfolds. The single player mode turns out to have some awesome sequences. I guarantee you'll jump at least once while playing this. You never no when an ambush, or an explosion will happen near you.

Multiplayer

After playing the co-op mode extensively, the ten levels aren't bad to play with a friend. I give them credit for adding in a co-op mode, and that definitely adds on a few extra points. Shadow Ops has its fair share of Xbox Live capability. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF, and V.I.P. Escort are the main Xbox Live features. I was unfortunately hit with massive amounts of lag when I attempted to play online.

Graphics

This game is an Xbox Exclusive (Only on Xbox), but yet it looks like a PS2 game. The framerate isn't exactly silky smooth either. The environments are blown out buildings, trucks and damaged cars. Nothing really can be more damaged than it already is. As funny as it may sound, the game seems to get a little more destructible with its environments as you progress further into it.

To add to the feeling of being outside, one thing Zombie added was birds flying around. Also, when the characters talk, their lips move in real time. The way your teammates walk just looks ridiculous. It looks like they're always walking sideways with a limp. Level design is respectable. The levels aren't just straight corridors, as you have to walk through damaged airplanes, buildings, etc. The jungle levels could have been designed a little better because they get annoying sometimes. The animations of the enemies when they die is realistic. They react life-like to the environments that surround them. Some things are realistic, but at the same time not. For example, there are actually working clocks in this game, and the hands move and all. The non-realistic part is that when you shoot them, they still keep on ticking! Maybe I'm being a little too picky here, but it's just a little nit-picking.

The graphics are just not up to par with today's Xbox games. I was tempted to walk into a burning man that was up in flames on the ground. Nothing happened to my health. You can walk through fire! This is not the Terminator! You can shoot out very few lights. Usually spotlights are the only lights that can be shot out. I experienced ridiculous slowdown, even when the on screen action wasn't that intense. When you're on the inside levels the lighting is good, and the visuals look much better than the outside levels.

Sound

Shadow Ops features THX sound. There is a lot of talk between your squad members. Your teammates yell helpful stuff out such as, "gunner in the tower," "sniper!" or "move up." It all goes together quite well. Some of the sounds are just "there," however. Sounds of gunfire in the background to birds chirping in the jungle, they are not really visually in the game. I know this because when I loaded up a multiplayer game and I was the only one in the game, there was gunfire. And another time I really wanted to shoot the bird that was chirping so loud, but it was nowhere to be found. The sounds are realistic and all, don't get me wrong, but some of them were just thrown in there.

The music in the game is great at times, as well as bothersome. I was bothered by the multiplayer music, and by the first few levels of single player. After that the music is magnificent.

Replay Value

Will you play through the single player campaign a second time? Probably not. You might play the co-op missions a few times over, but nothing that will last forever. You'll almost certainly play this game on Xbox Live, because that is its only hope for being played for a substantial amount of time.

Bottom Line:

There's good mixed in with the bad. This game is not easy, but if you play it don't make it hard on yourself. I've had mixed feelings about this game, but it turns out the Shadow Ops is a pretty decent first person shooter. I would recommend this game especially if you are into multiplayer. This game has it all for your multiplayer needs- Xbox Live, system link, and split screen play modes. Use your recon skills, and don't rush ahead! If you do, you'll hate this game.

Related Links:

Official Shadow Ops: Red Mercury Website

-Steve Melanson




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