Ah, the War on Terror! It is amazing that we’ve only seen a handful of games based around this modern-day conflict, though I suspect that it has more to do with not pissing off a few special interest groups than popularity. With all of the ‘modern’ combat games coming out lately, perhaps this sub-genre’s time has come! Not to be left out in the cold, SCi Games and 2K Games roll out their latest in the ‘Conflict’ series, Conflict: Global Terror.

The back of the case sums it up far more enthusiastically than I could ever hope to: “In the war on terror, the battlefield is global and only one special ops squad can protect the world’s freedom. It’s up to you to lead this elite group through deadly missions against an enemy fueled by hatred!”

Gee, who are they fighting, Cobra? Tom Clancy this ain’t, but a contrived story doesn’t necessarily add up to a bad game. Unfortunately, Conflict: Global Terror has a lot more going against it than just a bad plot.

At first blush, Conflict: Global Terror doesn’t look too bad. Cutscenes play out like a blockbuster action movie, character models are nicely detailed and realistic, environments are accurately portrayed and well rendered… All in all the visual elements present a very lifelike setting.

As long as you don’t move.

Character animations are so wooden I thought I was playing a puppet simulation. I was truly amazed that something that looked as good as this could look so fake in motion. A disturbing amount of fogging occurs in the distance in some of the larger, more open areas, as well, making scoped weapons a little less effective than they could be in a game like this.

The audio presentation is decent, though not striking. Weapons sound as they should, though they could have a little more punch. Voiceover is pretty top-notch, providing one of the few redeeming qualities of the game. The music is a bit on the techno side, and a little corny, but really the least of this game’s transgressions.

This is where the game goes belly-up. Conflict: Global Terror has the most counter-intuitive control scheme that I have ever encountered. Basic actions like movement and shooting are handled by the thumbsticks and right trigger as one would expect, but attempt to do anything more advanced like commanding squad members or even changing weapons requires a grueling array of hand calisthenics. At least five different actions involved two button combinations followed by pressing the A button.

It was immediately apparent during the opening tutorial stages that the game was dangerously close to unplayable. After playing through the first few levels I pretty much gave up playing it like a traditional squad-based shooter and just cowboy’ed my way through game, switching to a different squad member when my current one went down, or even when I ran out of ammo (hey, it was easier than switching weapons!).

Ignoring the throbbing pain in my hands, I continued to search for a reason, any reason, to keep on playing. Long levels with often changing objectives would not be quite so tedious were it not for a limited save scheme that forced me to play through long stretches over and over again. Basically you are allotted a specific number of saves each level and if you use them too soon then get used to the scenery.

The manual goes on at length about enemy and friendly A.I., proudly boasting “the toughest video game opponents you will ever face”, and “your squad are smarter, too.” Now, if enemies “seek and hold cover more aggressively”, why is it they just charge straight for me at the first sign of trouble? How strategic is it to hold your position and just wait for them to come after you so you can pick them off one at a time?

Your teammates end up being more of a liability than an asset. Far from “not wasting unnecessary ammo,” they typically empty their clips into the general vicinity of the enemy, making my earlier stratagem of switching characters before changing weapons pretty useless. Mind you, the odds of a teammate being anywhere useful are pretty slim. Unless you can navigate the finger-contorting control scheme and babysit your hapless squad, don’t be surprised if you switch over and discover them stuck in a doorway or way back where you were earlier in the level.

Summing the gameplay up in as few words as possible: a tedious chore.

I imagine online multiplayer or co-oporative mode prove to be slightly less frustrating if you allow each other to take a few seconds between every action to negotiate the controls. Of course the only problem with that is either finding someone who is actually playing the game, or convincing your friends to play it. I recommend against the latter if you plan on keeping said friends.Conflict: Global Terror is a game that does well on visual and audio presentation and utterly fails in execution. With the worst set of controls I have ever encountered in a video game and some of the weakest A.I. I have ever seen in a squad shooter, I can think of a couple of different words that should have followed the colon in the name, I just can’t say them here.

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