Delta Force: Black Hawk Down Review

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Graphics: 5.5
Sound : 6.0
Gameplay : 6.5
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 6.2
Review by Alex D.
Times were good in the fall of 1993; gas prices were low and Bill Clinton was president. However, while life may have been swell in North America, the same could not be said for Somalia, where civil war and violent unrest ran rampant and thousands were dying by the day. U.N. Peacekeepers were duly deployed and so was the US Army’s elite Delta Force in an effort to take down General Aidid in what became known as “Operation Restore Hope”. The dramatic events that occurred on October 3rd, 1993 made all the papers, spawned a book, a blockbuster Hollywood film, and a series of videogames. Back in 2003, the PC saw the release of the first Delta Force: Black Hawk Down title, which received mixed reviews, although it provided a pleasant multiplayer experience. After a long delay, console owners can finally experience the same dated visuals and monotonous single-player campaign that PC users so rapidly shrugged off a couple of years ago. Those of you already familiar with the previous version will not find many surprises in store within the recently released console iteration.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down features a 16-mission single-player campaign, which is similar version, if not a carbon copy, of the PC game. Players begin with a crash-course tutorial mission that will help them become accustomed to the controls and vehicles of the game, and then it’s off to the heart of Mogadishu. The missions vary and additional objectives are added to try to keep a fresh pacing but, most of the time, you’ll find yourself running from one point to another while slaughtering hundreds of Somalis. The mission structure has players riding shotgun on a Black Hawk’s minigun, mounting a Humvee’s 50-cal. machine gun, or simply running and gunning on foot. The vehicular segments are on rails and completely scripted, the same events occurring constantly, which makes the game feel dull when replayed for a second time.

If asked to describe the game’s A.I. in a single word, then “laughable” would fall closest to the mark. In certain missions you are assigned a few squad members to accompany you during your monotonous objectives. For the most part, they manage to keep themselves out of trouble, but don’t expect them to cover your back. Players can choose up to eight different squad commands from a cumbersome built-in menu or, if you have the Xbox Communicator, you can bark them with authority and then confirm the action with the press of a button. The voice recognition works surprisingly well and attempts to add an extra layer of strategy, but it can be completely ignored without any reverse effect. The enemies, on the other hand, are truly idiotic; they seem to thoroughly enjoy rushing you with guns blazing while getting slaughtered.

As with the PC version, the real meat of the Delta Force series has always been its multiplayer aspect, and the console versions are no exception. Both the PS2 and Xbox editions feature 32 and 50-player online matches respectively. There’s even a 4-player split-screen cooperative and Deathmatch modes. Although the offline modes are a nice addition, chances are you’ll find yourself playing online and causing havoc. While Novalogic hosts the massive 50-man servers, home users can create matches as well, albeit only up to 32-players—though this is still sufficient. The game types range from the classic and obligatory Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Team King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, and even a few new additions such as Search and Destroy, Attack and Defend, and Flag Ball. These modes will certainly provide a few hours of fun while competing against others players. The game’s online menu features the standard Quickmatch, Optimatch, and Create a Match, as well as a few other notable features such as Teams and Statistics, which allows players to keep track of every little detail they could want to know about their online matches.

To spice things up, players have the choice of four different classes for offline and online play. Each class is characterized by a different weapon layout, such as Close Quarter Battle, Sniper, Medic, etc. Much like in Battlefield 2, medics have the ability to patch up comrades who’ve fallen during combat. Every class has their own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages, and a diverse group of players working well together will easily defeat any disorganized bunch of fools prancing around while lobbing grenades in every direction. The vehicles have also found their way into the online aspect of the game. Both the Humvees and the Black Hawks are peppered through out the urban environments, much like in the single-player campaign. Players have no control over the vehicles except for the weaponry and, while in them, they are practically invincible.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down’s controls are intuitive and easy to become accustomed to. Players can lean, roll, crouch, go prone, and use binoculars whenever needed, although rolling or going prone is rarely required. The main issue with the game’s control scheme is that the PC version of Black Hawk Down was meant to be a precise shooter title, and as the majority of opponents—both on and offline—are so far off in the distance they look like little specks on the screen. Using a joystick for such a level of precision is near impossible to achieve, even with auto-aim switched on.

Visually, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down shows unmistakable signs of aging. This, of course, is the result of it being a direct port of a 2-year-old PC title, and therefore the game’s graphics engine is somewhat disappointing. Although the sheer size of the game’s environments is impressive, upon closer inspection, textures are extremely muddy and low-resolution. In certain areas the game manages to play the low quality visuals to its advantage, when in large stretches of desert for example, but at least the frame rate is always smooth. The same flaws apply to the character models, but none of this really matters, as players will probably spend the majority of their time squinting while searching for specks on the horizon that might represent potential threats. Thankfully, the game supports 480p HDTV, which makes the textures much crisper and easy on the eyes than they originally were on the PC but, even then, by today’s standards the visuals are somewhat dated.

In the aural department, the game is a mixed bag of mediocrity. The sound effects range from bland and uninspired to average and passable, the same applies to the little amount of voice acting present. One particular gripe with the in-game sound emerges when playing in multiplayer mode, where the noise of combat, such as gunfire and explosions, offers scant indication of enemy placement, seeing as a shot fired from distance sounds exactly the same as if it were occurring only a few feet away.

Overall, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down does very little to separate itself from the already heavily populated crowd of gaming shooters. Although the single-player campaign is dull and monotonous, the online component will surely provide some sense of value and amusement. The graphics are notably outdated and the general gameplay and presentation suffers similarly. Incessant squinting while searching for enemy specks on the horizon is generally an unpleasant experience, and the game sound is a typical example of dipping into the military shooter’s generic library. The two different kinds of vehicles present exist on rails and are completely uncontrollable aside from the weaponry aspect, which makes the experience feel like a boring and scripted distraction. Back in 2003, when the PC version was released, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down may have made a splash with its graphics and expansive environments, but nowadays the game feels distinctly shallow and will likely leave players wanting for more—and not in a good way.