Delta Force: Black Hawk Down Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 6.0
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 6.7
Review by Andy Levine
Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is an uninspiring military shooter that offers nothing innovative to an already tired genre. Set in Somalia during the early 1990s, the single-player campaign consists of various peacekeeping missions that feel more like target practice than warfare. With average audio and visual presentation, as well as a mediocre online combat system Black Hawk Down will only appeal to true fans of the army shooter.

The concept behind Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is by no means miserable and, if it had been portrayed correctly, it could have led to a game with masses of potential. As a highly respected member of the United States Army, the gamer can participate in a series of missions to ensure the safety of the Somalis. Before the first mission can be started, ranking points must be used to obtain a weapon setup and special character attributes. Different weapon loadouts include your typical tactical weaponry, such as M16s, G3A3s, G36E, 1911As, MP5A3s, and pretty much every other weapon used by US forces. Each load out consists of a primary weapon (assault rifle, sniper rifle, machine gun, or sub-machine gun), a secondary weapon (shotgun, pistol, or sub-machine gun), and a tertiary accessory (claymore, satchel charge, etc.). Once the appropriate amount of points has been used to purchase weaponry, the remaining points can be used to upgrade the main hero’s abilities. Marksmanship will increase accuracy, dexterity will increase speed and reload times, endurance will increase life, and leadership will improve the squad’s functioning ability.

The squad itself can be controlled on the battlefield thanks to an accessible system, but the commands are very basic and aren’t really needed at any point in the game. The crew will follow you around and shoot at enemies, unless you specify otherwise, making most of the team commands somewhat pointless. During a mission, medical kits and extra ammunition can be requested to restore health or replace a low magazine if necessary, and if it weren’t for this the rest of the squad would be better off back at base. The rest of the group is comprised of the worst shots America’s army has to offer, and if enough of your battalion dies then the mission fails. If a mission is completed with style, then more ranking points will be awarded. Obtaining a successful rating can be accomplished by executing pinpoint accuracy, salvaging supplies, using the environment to your advantage, and ensuring the safety of the squad. The foundation of Black Hawk Down would lead one to believe that the game would be hard to put down, but the gameplay mechanics suggest otherwise.

Unfortunately, the single-player campaign only offers a limited amount of entertainment, which gets old rather quickly. While the storyline behind each mission may state that a new objective needs to be completed, there are hardly any variations between each level. The typical mission involves manning a turret on a vehicle, infiltrating a village of enemies, killing everyone in said village, then blowing up something to put the terrorists at a disadvantage. Using a turret is easy enough—even in a moving vehicle—and gives enemies practically no chance for survival. Overheating a turret is possible, but the flow of gameplay doesn’t really allow it to happen. Generally speaking, a group of enemies will ambush your vehicle from a hilltop, but instead of shooting at you they just run your way. A few bursts from the turret soon leaves them all dead, just in time for another ambush. When enemy territory is finally reached, the ensuing events are hardly memorable. Again, distant specks will charge at you, and by using the binoculars you can see that these specks are actually little terrorists. By crouching on a hilltop and using the iron sights, the opposing forces hardly stand a chance. If, for some reason, you miss a terrorist from the hilltop, there is ample environmental protection to allow you to detect the remaining assassin and blow his brains out with ease.

From a control sense, leaning around corners is far too difficult for what it provides by way of cover, but grenade usage is always easy. As a result, a flash or smoke grenade can be tossed over a wall to surprise an enemy, but considering the surplus of grenades supplied at the beginning of each mission, why not just toss a high-explosive grenade over? All of the game’s 16 missions don’t vary much from this basic infrastructure, thus rendering Delta Force: Black Hawk Down extremely boring after just its first few missions. If enemies would fire back, or if there were objectives that weren’t so linear, then the single-player campaign might have had grounds for realizing its potential but, as it stands, the game feels too much like a shooting gallery.

The visuals in Black Hawk Down are plain by today’s lofty standards. The characters’ limbs don’t flow together too well, which makes their movement around the battlefield look forced and awkward. The exterior environments in the desert are all similarly designed, and often consist of rolling hills encompassing a village. The lighting effects are somewhat impressive; a soft glow accompanies the surroundings to make some of the game’s rougher edges less noticeable. The shadows don’t fit at all considering the subtle lighting effects; so don’t expect to use light as an advantage during battle. The interior designs are basic, consisting of random crates and tables and maybe the odd series of staircases. The textures have a generally muddy appearance that looks out of place. The weapon models could have benefited from some detailing, but it is still easy enough to distinguish one weapon from another. The muzzle flash and explosive effects also emit decent lighting, but the poorly designed environments and the vague textural detail won’t exactly make your jaw drop.

The weapon sound effects are sharp for the most part, but overall everything aurally produced is rather weak. The AK47 is the most common weapon you will encounter by way of opposition, and it makes a distinct noise that’s recognizable from a distance. The 3-round burst from the M16 sounds deep, as do the shotgun effects. The M249 SAW doesn’t sound as powerful as perhaps it should, but it will still strike fear into the hearts of those who face it. The in-game voices are also somewhat realistic and, although perhaps we shouldn’t expect a squad member to cheer after every enemy neutralization, most of the team’s radio communication is effective in adding to the realism. The soundtrack in Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is a major letdown, consisting of what appears to be native Somali music. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to make the experience more geographically authentic in that regard, it feels like the same track is being played over and over again and it quickly becomes a musical annoyance. Aside from this, Black Hawk Down delivers a surprisingly good audio experience considering the disappointments in the gameplay area.

Clearly the game’s most talked about feature is its multiplayer capabilities. The PS2 version supports up to 32 players in the common Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Tag modes. At its core the campaign mode has many flaws involving repetitiveness, but the multiplayer experience is supposed to help make up for the computer A.I. Surprisingly enough, the 32 player servers can maintain the full amount of frames per second experienced normally. Maps are either indoor-based, creating an environment where grenades are overused to the point where an explosion goes off every five seconds. The outdoor maps are geared towards rifles, but still have their fair share of close quarter combat moments. Frustratingly, most of the servers are loaded with spammers who fire off grenades nonstop while their teammates snipe from a distance. In the King of the Hill games, the hill is constantly being bombarded with explosives, making it extremely difficult to maintain possession for a long period of time. Still, certain maps favor players with guns instead of grenades, so every once in a while it’s possible to actually have a good time. An online ranking system keeps track of individual stats and awards earned during battle for various accomplishments. For those who prefer offline play, a cooperative campaign is available for the two-player household, but sadly it is plagued with the same issues as the single-player campaign. A 4-player local server can also be set up for some split-screen action, and if you can stand using only a small portion of the screen then it’s easy to kill a few hours. Nonetheless, the multiplayer mode is a step up from the single-player campaign, but issues regarding online weapon abuse still need to be worked out.

In conclusion, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is just another shooter allowing the gamer to control an elite member of the US forces. Army buffs are sure to get a kick from the vast weapon selection, but gamers looking for an in-depth experience may want to search elsewhere for satisfaction. The online support for 32 players might be enough for some to gather their money’s worth, but if you desire a challenging tactical shooter then there are certainly better choices on the market.