Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down from 2001 showed its audience a part of modern history that hadn’t been depicted much in movies up until that point. The game that was released last year was interesting as well, since you got to do some of the same things as you may've seen in the movie, and more. Unfortunately the game did have some problems. Crafting a good AI for a squad based action game where the terrain varies greatly is no small challenge, and I’d be exaggerating if I said it was any good. The enemies didn’t act very well at all, but the game’s pretty entertaining single player missions, and fun multiplayer mode made the game a decent success.
Black Hawk Down – Team Sabre doesn’t have a lot to do with the whole Black Hawk Down universe at all. In fact, the missions take place in Columbia and Iran. Even though the game isn’t really related at all to Black Hawk Down the missions are still quite realistic, and should provide a good challenge. You will for instance hunt down drug dealers, blow up a lot of enemy installations, defend various things, infiltrate various places, and hopefully make things better for the peaceful citizens.
One of the things that made the single player missions in Black Hawk Down stand out a bit was that several were done while riding helicopters, while driving various armored cars, and so on. Even though this was entirely rail-based it was still a nice diversion from just running around shooting bad-guys. Also, while riding helicopters or whatever it wouldn’t be as apparent that the artificial intelligence is just plain awful. Team Sabre adds a few more crafts to gun down enemies from, as expected. A few new weapons have been added as well, such as a semi-automatic rifle, and some smaller, less interesting additions. The sniper rifle can be entertaining, especially since the 12x zoom lets you pick off villains from such a long distance that they’re left cowering in fear. Actually, it would’ve been nice if the villains actually ran out looking for you, like they do in for instance FarCry – another game where sniping is essential. I could go on and on with examples of silly bot behavior, such as when people who come looking for you get stuck in a small rock, or when your supposedly highly trained operatives actually shoots each other because an enemy was standing somewhere behind. Or maybe how the seemingly lesser trained Columbian and Iranian soldiers sometimes won’t even attack when you come close to them. The action is usually somewhat realistic as long as you stick to what the developers probably thought you would do, as the scripted sequences are more tuned than the AI, but in all honesty you could really make a mockery out of the poor villains if you wanted to.
Even so, I still find it interesting that some of the missions are somewhat open-ended. For instance, a goal may be to board neutralize some villains, seize their boat, and head off to an enemy base. Let’s say all goes well until you meet up with a soldier or two on the boat. By holding the trigger a little too long a few shots hit the boat, effectively blowing it up. It would be a shame if the mission failed right there and then, but instead you’re left with the option to just run. Your team members may of course get stuck in trees during this run, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they didn’t. If you did make it to the base then it certainly would be smart to save your game, because if you already didn’t know; in Delta Force: Black Hawk Down (and Team Sabre) you die very quickly. In fact, things may be going great for a long time, just until you miss just one enemy, who gets lucky and hits you in the head – mission failed. Also, you’re given a fair amount of freedom to explore the map as you please. However, the mission has certain boundaries, and if you cross them for a short period of time then the mission will again be failed. This is somewhat of a shame, because it ruins some of your chances for a surprise attack. I for one often wanted to avoid heavily defended spots by going around hilltops and such, but you need to really watch yourself to avoid the invisible boundary.
Graphically the game doesn’t do too bad. Even though the engine isn’t supremely advanced it does have a few neat pixel shader programs that work on things like metal of various kinds, water, and more. Several of the characters have dynamic shadows, but in my opinion it looks a little “off” when the guy manning the gun on top of the armored truck in front of you has a dynamic shadow, and the truck itself doesn’t. It would’ve been nice if the game allowed the players to turn on more effects like this, so that if you have powerful hardware then you can use more of its potential. At least the game has a very steady framerate, regardless of what’s rendered – but of course your mileage may vary depending on your PC.
The texturing is for the most part decent, but in my opinion some of the environments are a bit overly static and lifeless. The animations aren’t bad either, and whoever you shoot responds fairly realistically depending on where he or she was shot. It’s just a shame the AI has to ruin it.
The audio is actually pretty decent too. All the weapons and explosions sound pretty good, and with the number of expert consultants used for authenticity I’m sure everything sounds just right. The voice overs used in the game are quite decent too, but for the most part voices are only heard during briefing and when your team members decide to announce their presence. Also, playing the game in 5.1 surround is fun, especially when you’ve got cars zooming by, people shooting over your head, and so on.
Those of you who have played earlier Delta Force iterations should know that multiplayer is where a lot of the fun is kept. Using the NovaWorld system it’s relatively easy to create an account, find servers, play some rounds, and even get statistics. If you’re good enough you might wind up on the top player list, a feature I’m sure some of the more competitive players out there will love. The modes available in multiplayer are: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, team king of the hill, search and destroy, and finally Attack and Defend. Also, the game uses what the developers call Progressive Spawn Points. These are spawn points that your team can capture during the game, much like the powernodes in the Unreal Tournament 2004 demo.
When starting a multiplayer game you can also choose what kind of a class you’ll be. The ones available are: sniper, close quarters battle, machine gunner, and medic. These should be fairly self explanatory, and of course all have certain advantages and disadvantages.
Who should buy this? Well if you liked the previous games, and got along with the fairly bad artificial “intelligence” then you’ll probably like Team Sabre too. The new missions are interesting, and the new weapons nice enough. Since this is a $19 addon you’re getting a fair amount of fun for your money, so look it up if you’ve grown bored with the regular Black Hawk Down.
There are however, and will soon come games that are better in most ways, so keep that in mind before you cough up the money.