Delta Force: Black Hawk Down full review

Team-based tactical games typically require as much strategy as reflex: you have to think about where your team is and what each member is doing, while keeping the enemy at bay. But while Aspyr bills its new Delta Force: Black Hawk Down as a serious tactical shooter, the game largely eschews strategic challenge in favour of arcade-style action. It also arrives more than a year behind its Windows counterpart.

Like the film and book, the game’s storyline is based on the US military’s involvement with Operation Restore Hope, a failed 1993 United Nations peacekeeping effort in the East African country of Somalia. However, the events in the game are largely fictional. The action in Black Hawk Down picks up a few months before the conflict’s dramatic climax in October 1993, and only the last third or so of the game focuses on real events.

For adrenaline junkies, Black Hawk Down offers copious amounts of non-stop action. You’ll start the game from the gun turret of a Humvee on your way to rescue a convoy from certain doom. By the end of that first mission, you’ll also have taken on the enemy with your own rifle and manned a minigun bolted to the side of a helicopter. And missions get more hectic from there. There’s no training mission to help you get acclimated to all this action, so expect to spend some time during your first mission trying to figure out what everything does. That said, the game play is fairly straightforward, and you should be sufficiently comfortable with the controls by the time the action truly heats up.

In many ways, Black Hawn Down is similar to the first-person shooter Medal of Honor. In each mission, you’ll be given tasks, such as destroying a bridge or taking down a radio tower. The main difference here is that you’re not alone. Unfortunately, you’ll find that your fire team is woefully stupid and incapable of helping you most of the time. One exception to this rule is the room takedown feature: just click on a button to send your team in to clear an enemy-controlled room.

Collateral damage – the death of innocent civilians – is something that’s always paramount in the minds of soldiers when they go into combat. It also figures dramatically into this game. Much of Black Hawk Down centres on urban combat, where civilians are almost always underfoot. To succeed, you’ll have to be careful to keep them out of your line of fire. Unfortunately, the game’s design strips some of the challenge out of tracking down and killing enemy gunmen. Extensive use of scripted actions means that the bad guys pop up in the same place and at the same time in each mission. This reduces much of Black Hawk Down to a simple matter of remembering sequences and patterns.

Black Hawk Down looks and sounds great – assuming you have the horsepower to run it. You’ll need at least a 1GHz processor, as well as an ATI Radeon 8500 or NVidia GeForce2 MX graphics card or better with at least 64MB of VRAM. These requirements exclude a lot of consumer-class Macs.

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