SEAL Team 6
It was only seven or eight years ago that our gaming options on our phones were limited to a single title; Snake. Nokia’s brilliantly simple and addictive eat ’em up created a spark in the industry and ever since we’ve seen a huge boom in mobile phone games, taking them from harmless add-ons to full-blown titles with 3D graphics. This new income stream that mobiles offer has been greeted with open arms by publishers and developers alike, but it’s all been so fast that these games have been left with a definite image problem; no one takes them seriously. It’s far too easy to brand every single mobile title as a shamefully bad game with a recognisable license slapped across it to give it consumer appeal. People seem to still regard mobile games as poor quality pieces of software, created with as little thought as possible. I was a little skeptical at first as well; how can you not be when they sit alongside tacky ringtones in the back pages of magazines? However, it’s clear that mobile games are maturing at an alarming rate and one title spearheading this charge is 5th Cell’s latest offering.
I must admit, I was a little wary of SEAL Team 6 when I first installed it. It’s not attached to any lucrative franchise, there’s no hugely original idea and it sounds a little too like those bargain basement PC games which are churned out every single week. Yet once I took the plunge and started to explore the game, it turned out to shatter all my misconceptions and revealed its true potential in every department.
Unsurprisingly, SEAL Team 6 sees you commanding a team of five soldiers in the Navy SEALs, the US special forces detachment. Through ten vast indoor levels, you guide your squad as they eliminate Red Cell terrorists, rescue hostages and defuse bombs.
The first thing that will strike you is just how damn good the game looks. Viewed from a top down perspective, everything is rendered in cute pixel art with nifty little animations. The semi-cartoon style is clearly defined and consistent, clearly showing good artistic direction and an eye for detail. Although every level is based in the same office environment, every piece of furniture is carefully crafted and an effort has been made to make good use of the visual resources available, giving the locations a dose of variety in the process. Fortunately though, it isn’t just the graphics that make SEAL Team 6 shine.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that controlling five characters in real time on a phone handset would be either extremely hard or ridiculously complex. Yet 5th Cell have created a system which is equally baffling in its sheer simplicity. You control one SEAL operative at a time, using the 5 button to switch between each on. No next or previous soldier, just a predictable cycle. Getting to the right trooper in time doesn’t prove to be an issue though, as the game’s pacing and mechanics stop this from ever cropping up.
You see, your enemies are either stationary or walk around in a simple pattern, so once you spot them you can easily take cover where you know that they won’t look. This simple A.I. allows you to then switch to another SEAL and move him around, which is done with the directional buttons. As soon as you learn the Red Cell troops are this predictable, it makes managing your squad a breeze. In some games, simple A.I. is often frowned upon, but here it makes the whole experience much easier to handle.
So, what happens when we meet any opposition? Instead of opting for awkward real time combat, SEAL Team 6 initiates a whole separate mechanic when you enter the line of sight of a Red Cell trooper. The viewpoint changes to a cartoon sketch of your trooper and your opposition, upon which appears a number. To score a successful hit, you simply have to hit the button indicated by this number before your opponent (or beat the enemy’s reaction time, at least). This reflex game continues until either the Red Cell combatant or your own SEAL is killed.
However, firefights are not the only way to take out enemy soldiers. If you manage to sneak up behind your opponent by simply avoiding his field of vision, you can execute a stealth kill simply by moving into the Red Cell trooper. When this happens, a little banner pops up with a comical “Arrghh!”, another neat graphical touch. Stealth kills are one of many actions activated by simply walking towards items; almost everything that you need to interact with is handled in this way, from doors to hostages.
In true special forces style, you also get to use a handful of gadgets during your missions. Flashbangs stun your opponents for a few seconds, while thermal goggles help you to locate them. Kevlar body armour takes the hits for you, while medi-packs heal those who didn’t have a choice in the matter. But how do we get to play with these toys, and while we’re at it, how does everything link together?
The developers have designed SEAL Team 6 so that you can play it for short spells, but they’ve brought together the missions by having the effects of the previous one affecting the next. Losing a man in your fight against Red Cell will see your numbers diminished and subsequent operations will be harder. You also visit a simple shop screen between missions, allowing you to buy various items and stock up on ammunition. Its this cause and effect which makes SEAL Team 6 feel like more than a few random levels glued together for the hell of it.
5th Cell have created a game that does the industry proud. It’s cleverly designed, beautifully crafted and most of all, great value for money. For a few pounds, dollars, euros or whichever currency you may be accustomed to, you get a superb little game which will occupy you for many a train journey. It’s got depth and variety that many much larger games never seem to provide, while remaining well paced and easy to pick up. You certainly won’t feel ripped off after you’ve bought this little mobile gem, that’s for sure.