XBOX REVIEW: CONFLICT: GLOBAL TERROR

We've been playing the Conflict series for awhile now and Conflict: Global Terror is simply more of the same albeit a lot more of the same. Previous games in the series have been relegated to staying within the limitations of the locales. Last years game, for example, Conflict: Vietnam took place in the jungles of Vietnam for the most part. Thankfully Global Terror allows gamers to jetset across the expanse of Earth, taking out the trash in a variety of settings which goes a long way to alleviate the reptition of the environments of previous games in the series.

For those who have never played a Conflict game before, Conflict: Global Terror is a tactical action shooter played from the third person "behind the character" perspective, very reminiscent of the recent Ghost Recon 2 games. Characters can stand, crouch and drop down onto their stomachs for complete control, each member has a variety of weapons (varying degress of scope and zoom depending on the model, all based on realworld weapons) and explosives. Characters are also able to select from two vision modes - nightvision and heatvision which will prove useful depending on the time of day or the available light in any given mission.

The underlying foundation of the Conflict series is present for better and for worse. In the single player mode you'll be responsible for controlling four operatives of an elite team of counter-terrorists (each can be cycled through via the D-pad). Each member has their specialty - Connors is the heavy artillery dude, Jones is the go to explosives guy, Lance is the trivia whiz who can sing all of the theme songs from your favorite 80's sitcoms which isn't particularly helpful when you're being shot at and I guess that's why he was kicked off the team... My problem with the series has always been the lackluster AI of your teammates (and enemies but more on that later). Without resorting to exaggeration, it's very much like the four of you are sharing one brain - which is almost true. While you are in control of one character, the others don't do a heckuva lot to help out. They will stay primarily in the same spot, sometimes taking a moment out of their busy schedules to shoot an advancing enemy but you will play through the entire game fearful that they will be attacked and killed while you aren't there to protect them. And when I say "you" I mean, that your brain won't be in their body controlling them to defend themselves properly.

Commanding your teammates is an essential tool and each member will be given rank enough to do so in the heat of battle. For example, Jones your explosions expert will be required to use C4 on various objects (walls, consoles etc). You'll need to switch to Jones to set the C4 and then issue a command to either hit the deck (get them out of the way first) or to follow so that you can get your team out of the zone before you detonate the charge. Your team won't know enough to get the hell out of the way themselves and that's where the "sharing the brain" comment begins to make sense. Commands are executed by holding down the L1 button or the Left trigger (X) which brings up a menu that you'll select everything from Hold Position to Follow Me to Heal Teammate with a few other options thrown in.

You can't mention teammate AI without at least ragging on the enemy AI. While Global Terror is a step in the right direction for artifically controlled polygon enemies everywhere, I can stil see their union up in arms over some of the guys who prefer to run directly in the line of fire, fresh from Rambo school. Unfortunately they must have skipped the special lecture on how not to die when standing directly in front of someone with an AK-47 pointed at their noggin. Yeah, some of the enemies are scary dumb while some will actually duck and use cover to return gunfire. In any case you'll meet up with lots of both as the Global Terror often relies far too much on the sheer overwhelming amount of enemies within a given level rather than creating conflict in a more suspenseful nature. It's doubtful you'll make it through half a level without thinking "Where the hell are they getting these all of these guys?".

Since this is the fourth game in the series, the control configuration is spot on. Even if you haven't played any of the previous games in this series, coming to grips with the numerous functions and buttons won't require the digital equivalent to six weeks at bootcamp to become comfortable. Movement is assigned to the L analog stick, shooting to the R shoulder triggers (X, PS2), commands (L trigger), stance is controlled by the Circle (PS2) or B button (X), weapon selection is brought up with Triangle (PS2) or Y (X) etc. Camera control is mapped to the R analog stick, while using the scope of various weapons is activated by a quick click on the R analog stick and then controlled with the click of the L analog stick. The only slight annoyance in regards to the button config is using X (PS2) or A (Xbox) as the context sensitive action button. This button will allow you to do everything from heal a teammate (magically!) to exchanging your weapon to opening a door. Sometimes when these opportunities present themselves within close proximity to each other, you might find yourself doing something you didn't intend to do such as opening a door with an active enemy behind it instead of healing Connors. Oops! My Bad! Put that on my tombstone....

Visually Conflict: Global Terror is the best looking game in the series. A higher polygon count is noticeable in both the main characters and the enemies you'll encounter while environments boast a wide variety of little details that add to the overall sense of being there. I can't wait for the next gen Conflict games when there might be instances of environmental destruction which would allow buildings to crumble after the impact of a wall-shattering grenade. As it is, walls and signs will show cosmetic damage to let you know that you've hit it with something big, but they'll remain standing. The overall look and feel won't impress you as much as the latest Splinter Cell, but what Pivotal has created for this latest Conflict game is definitely a few notches above their last game.

Aurally Global Terror is a mixed bag. The voiceacting isn't particularly strong but the sound effects such as explosions and gunfire are decent. Custom soundtracks is supported which is a welcome addition so you can save the world listening to whatever the heck you want. For the record it appears that terrorists hate Petula Clark's classic "Downtown". That tune really seemed to flush them out of their hiding places but that might have been coincidence....

While the single player game is comprised of 14 levels which you can play on three difficulty levels, the real game waits online for you and three friends. You won't be able to fight against real human opponents but you will be able to stock each player on your team with their own brain in their head playing through the online co-op mode. The 14 levels available in single player are instantly unlocked online (with multiple difficulty settings) and you and your buds can play through your favorite levels. The problem of course might be finding enough friends who enjoy the Conflict series as much as you. One little bone of contention is Pivotal's lack of creating at least one new level to enjoy online. In the future I'd rather see 12 levels of single player, with two extra levels available online just to encourage those who like the series to explore the online world of gaming. It just might be the incentive they require. Those who don't have online capabilities can play Global Terror co-op via splitscreen. I have never been a fan of splitscreen play due to my eyesight, but if you dig it, don't let me spoil your fun.

I've admired the Conflict series for awhile now ever since one of our oldtimers Chris Blair emphatically tried to convince me to give it a whirl a couple of years ago. I did and I found a game that had its share of brightspots and weakspots, but it had heart and it always managed to get my bloodpumping. Global Terror continues that tradition and Pivotal is definitely on their way to creating the perfect action tactical shooter which is evident in this game, which is the best Conflict game to date. The single player game will hold your attention and you'll get more mileage out of it if you play on the harder difficulty settings, but the real secret to milking everything out of this one is the online co-op mode. If you can't play online you might want to consider a weekend rental, but all of you Conflict fanatics...well, I'll see you online after you've purchased your copies.

System: Xbox, PC, PS2
Dev: Pivotal
Pub: 2K Games
Release: Oct 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
3.0