Conflict Denied Ops is the next installment of the long running Conflict series. It’s quite fitting that this new installment should have denied in its title, as this project should have been denied from the start. Games have been hit or miss lately with Eidos. With great titles like Tomb Raider Legend, Tomb Raider Anniversary and Just Cause tied to your name, expectations are higher, and let’s be honest, we are still trying to forget that stinker that was Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. Unfortunately, this title ends up in the latter category.
Let’s start at the beginning. To appeal to casual gamers, Eidos decided to drop the four man team that was in the previous Conflict games and bring in a ‘friendlier’ two man team. They also opted for a first person view rather than the traditional third person view. You may be trying to figure out what issues I have with that; however, they did not stop there.
One of the most important aspects of any game is the likability of the main character or characters. In order to enjoy the game; you must connect with the character. In Conflict, you have two main characters that from the get go make you want to kill yourself. They are both CIA Paramilitary Operatives. The first character is called Lincoln Graves, who is a sniper expert. He’s the older of the two men, a committed Christian, with a loving wife and daughters, and he loves his country. Patriotic huh? Next you have Reggie Lang, who is the younger out of the two and is a specialist in heavy weapons. He gave up his career as an American Football player after 9/11 to serve his country. According to the memo, he is an impetuous and fearless warrior and not scared of anyone. Where have we heard that before?
In order to enjoy the game, you must be able to enjoy the company of the characters; however, Eidos has shot themselves in the foot, before you even get into the game. Graves is a moody, boring old man with a voice that is bland that you never want to hear it again. Then there’s Lang, which they tried to make the comedic member of the team. Unfortunately, they epically failed to do so in the process, as all he knows to do is to call his partner a “red neck” and shout “Mother ******” every time he shoots a bad guy. The occasional one liners that he utters are so bad your grandparents could probably think of better ones. All in all, this makes for a forgettable experience throughout the single player missions in the game.
Moving onto the games graphics, we have been spoilt lately with games such as Assassins Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock that push the console’s power to new levels. We expected that it was only a matter of time before the Xbox got its rest from the grueling workout, and Conflict gives it that rest (partially since you really shouldn’t even play it). It has been two years since the 360 came on the market, and after two years you would expect all games to look amazing. But then again, you would be wrong. Conflict could not even be considered a good launch game. The graphics are way below the standard we expect from a next-gen title. At points there will be times when you feel you’re playing a PS2 game. The animation of the enemy and your partner are blocky. The environments are lifeless and dull, with too much emphasis on explosions. Eidos has not taken advantage of the power the 360 can output.
The unpleasantness of the two main characters and shoddy graphics could have been slightly over looked if the gameplay was up to scratch. Sadly, it was a letdown in itself. The controls are chunky, taking ages to move the around. Once you zoom in with the sniper rifle, it’s like moving a crane while you wait for the character to move the cursor. The inability to jump is awkward, since you must rely on the “A” button popping up on screen to perform an action. This in itself becomes a major problem, as the A button is also melee, action and used to heal your partner. Sometimes, instead healing your partner when he is down on the floor injured, it will melee him, sometimes killing him, forcing you to play through the mission again. This could also happen the other way round, causing you to die while healing your partner, when your intentions were to melee the enemy.
The enemy AI is terrible. You can stand there for ages trying to snipe an enemy without him even noticing he’s been shot at. They won’t try to flank you, and they don’t work as a team to kill you. They just stay in their little area and shoot at you occasionally going back into cover now and then. Another flaw is the partner AI. Sometimes you find yourself taking down the enemy by yourself, as your partner is still in previous area. If you don’t shout orders; he will just stay there, which is rather annoying, especially when you’re in the heat of the battle. The controls for moving your partner are simple yet frustrating. You just move the cursor where you would like your partner to go and pull the left trigger. It was meant to be one click action, but for some reason when you order your partner to re-supply or to get into a vehicle, it will take multiple pulls of the left trigger to get the right action. When you’re in the heat of the battle, this is the last thing you need to worry about.
There are a couple of good points about Conflict. The one press button to switch between characters while in missions is a very good idea. With the press of the “B” button, you can switch in-between characters any time you want. If you get ambushed and are in need of an automatic, you can switch to Lang to clear out the room. If you want to go the stealth route, you can switch to Graves and take them out with his sniper rifle. The ability to do this is the games stand out feature, and one I hope other developers will consider implementing in their own games.
Another nice feature is its Co-op mode, which is surprisingly good, in particular, when compared to the rest of the game. Although it does not push anything new, it is solid and enjoyable to play, specifically with one of your friends over LIVE.
You will be hard pressed to find an online match, as there is hardly anyone playing online. Conflict would have to be very special indeed to pull people away from COD4 and Halo 3, and frankly it’s not. With only the option of three online modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch and conquest, there is nothing here to give the consumer a reason to play online.
Overall Conflict: Denied Ops is a forgettable game that has caused a dent in the conflict series that is going to be very hard to fix. As a First Person Shooter on the 360, it’s going to have to be something special, and this just isn’t close. It’s a below average game with very few good points to take from it. It’s a rental at best.