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Delta Force: Black Hawk Down

A long time ago, when I was less demanding with my games and still new to the PC scene, I enjoyed a FPS shooter called Delta Force. The realistic gameplay enthralled me, even though the only ìrealismî consisted of dying in a few shots and fighting with a squad of soldiers in larger-than-life levels. A year ago I decided to try out Delta Force: Task Force Dagger, remembering the enjoyment I got out of the original. After playing a few missions I came to the conclusion I didnít like the game one bit. It was incredibly shallow when compared to other titles and the A.I. was simply abysmal. Perhaps my dislike had something to do with me growing older, wiser, and fatter, but odds are the developers Novalogic are at fault for not improving the series.

Perhaps Novalogic realized the awful state their franchise was in and wanted to fix things, so Delta Force: Black Hawk Down was made. Taking place in the city of Mogadishu, located in the obscure country of Somalia, BHD is loosely based on the tragic events that transpired in 1993. Over a dozen American soldiers and 1,000 Somalis lost their lives in a routine mission that was supposed to last only 30 minutes. Despite the ìBlack Hawk Downî moniker, the game isnít officially based on the popular movie. Sorry girls, but Josh Hartnett is nowhere to be found here. The only similarity is that the last few missions are based on the historical events that occurred during those fateful days in 1993. All the missions leading up to the final few are purely fictitious.

Although BHD takes a lot of liberties when it comes to historical detail, that doesnít hinder the game it all. In fact, it works in the gameís favor. While on the initial appearance it may look like a tactical FPS, itís simply an action-packed shooter that delivers plenty of entertainment with little historical context. One section of the game has you shooting alligators, for crying out loud.

Armed with a variety of realistic weapons, you trek across 16 missions, taking place in urban battlegrounds or in rural areas, as you take out hundreds upon hundreds of enemies. Some of the later levels had about 200 enemies in one level alone! A lot of the action takes place in rail-shooting segments where youíre manning either a humvee turret or a helicopter chain gun. You get all of the excitement of an arcade game without having to spend any of the spare change.

Even the levels without any rail-shooting were exciting. One particularly exciting mission had you trying to take out truck loads of enemies with swarms of civilians panicking and running around. Later, in that same mission, you find yourself being chased on a bridge by dozens of bad guys wielding Ak-47s. Your orders are to plant satchel charges in the center of the bridge, and after you plant them youíre treated to satisfying explosion with dozens of bodies flying through the air. All I have to say is ìsweet.î

Another memorable mission is the Mogadishu Mile (an event seen in the movie). You run alongside a large convoy thatís trying to get the hell out of Mogadishu, a definite death trap, and into the safe stadium located a mile or two away. Your convoy ends up having to speed away and itís you and your small squad fending for yourself. There are over 200 hundred baddies armed with rocket launchers, AKís, and turrets. After some difficult fighting you meet up with your convoy and run as fast as you can to the stadium as bullets whiz over your head and your health slowly drops. Is it a realistic reenactment of the actual events? Not really, but the important thing is that itís fun.

Despite all the improvements in BHD, the chief flaw of the Delta Force series still remains: the abysmal A.I. You can give your squadmates a handful of commands, though odds are you wonít even bother. Their aim is awful and they almost always behave embarrassingly during combat. Iím no military expert, but I think members of an elite military squadron would move out of the way of enemy fire or at least not get stuck behind objects during a dangerous mission. But then again, Iím no military expert.

The enemies are also severely lacking in intelligence. Oddly enough, in this case it actually enhances the game. You see, if every single enemy reacted realistically (and there are A LOT of enemies at times) then the game would be nearly impossible. That would definitely put a hamper on the white-knuckled action. Looks like NovaLogic is off the hook this timeÖbarely.

The levels only last 10 minutes a piece, not including all the restarts you may have to do. In most games Iím a quicksave whore that pushes that glorious button after every 5 steps. BHD eliminates this by only allocating a certain amount of saves each level. You might hate it at first, but in the end youíll be appreciative that it added some longevity to the game.

Even with the elimination of constant quicksaving, longevity is certainly not one of singleplayer campaignís strongest points. It can be beaten on the easiest difficulty in less than 6 hours. Thank goodness the multiplayer picks up the slack. Boasting a variety of features such as the deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, and various other modes, coupled with a plethora of levels, the multiplayer is no disappointment. While it isnít nearly as fun as Counter-Strike or BF 1942, it certainly isnít a bad way to kill some time.

One of the strongest aspects of the game is the massive scale of the levels. As you zoom through the city on a helicopter you can see what looks like miles of terrain. Sometimes there appears to be at least fifty guys running around in the midst of battle. Also, the civilian Somalis chuck rocks at the American soldiers, just like the rest of the world would! I suppose thatís one bit of realism in the otherwise arcade-shooter. Who would have thought that the game engine for a helicopter sim could have created such great FPS graphics?

The sound also does a great job of setting the frantic pace of the game. You hear tons of Somalis screaming for American blood and the whoosh of a chopper landing a couple streets away. The explosions and the rest of the sound effects are a great tool for checking out the greatness of your new speakers. Most of the music is excellent and sets the mood as either dramatic or tense, but thereís one annoying rock tune that gets played way too much and seems totally out of place. Itís just one tarnish in BHDís highly polished armor.

Like a good summer blockbuster, the action is entertaining, the thinking is kept to a minimum and most of the experience is forgotten when it stops. By no means is that an insult. If youíre in the mood for some compelling chaos, then look no further than Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. Itís a shame the singleplayer campaign is so brief because this is one of the few games that left me wanting more.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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