(Boom!) Yawn (Explode!)
It’s always a little disappointing when a game that initially looks like it might hold at least some shred of potential turns out to be generic drivel. From the get-go, Elite Forces: Unit 77 seems to proudly channel all of the cheesiness of 80s action flicks, where big muscles, big guns, and big explosions attempt to make up for a canned plot and poor delivery. That may be just the ticket for some, but you just might find yourself bowled over by how much Unit 77 is staggeringly unremarkable.
Terrorist plots have long been fodder for action games, yet you’d think after scores of meathead military shooters revolving around a team of so-called special forces heroes dropped-in behind enemy lines to kick some ass the idea could be freshened up a bit. You’ll find no such reprieve here. Evildoers of some sort or another have kidnapped more than 30 of the world’s prominent citizens as part of a grand scheme that will ultimately jeopardize the safety of millions around the globe. How on earth can they be stopped? You guessed it: by a four person team of covert Elite Forces soldiers armed to the teeth. With a blank check to pump rounds of hot lead into endless waves of similarly adorned faceless combatants – all in the name of democracy, of course – it’s time to get your war on.
The cliché 80s action hero comparison applies to more than just the game’s plot and overall concept. Aside from atrocious names, each of the four members of Unit 77 possesses their own area of expertise that must be drawn upon at different times in the game to survive and complete your missions. The beefy Dag Hammer is a hulking brute who totes around a bazooka that proves useful for dispatching heavily armored nuisances. Kendra Chase is an Olympic shooter turned sniper who can take out enemies at long range using a touch-screen scope to target far-off areas of the map. T.K. Ritchter is the only member of the group who can detect and disarm mines and drive any vehicles you encounter in the field. Bill “The Drill” Matic is a bored, rich-kid hacker who joined the team to tackle electronic obstacles; he’s needed to open gates and interface with other consoles. Each squad member has a primary gun and can use their limited secondary specialty whenever they’ve picked up enough ammo.
Smoking terrorists in each of the game’s dozen moderately-sized levels involves moving your team throughout the maze-like locations to reach key points, taking out obstacles (human or otherwise) in your path, and completing various objectives. While much of the gameplay boils down to constantly mowing down generic enemy soldiers that irritatingly re-spawn constantly as you move back-and-forth to different locations on any given map, there are also mini-boss encounters (big machine-gunning guys, choppers, automated turrets, etc.) that change things up. Safely navigating the levels requires strategic use of each squad member’s special skills and careful planning of your routes. Smashing open boxes to reveal health pickups and ammo to power your abilities is also the key to survival.
If any of your squad members kick the bucket, you’re sent back to the last save point on the map. Unfortunately, you can’t save your game just anywhere, and the predetermined spots are few and far between. This can be an unforgiving punishment in some levels that are more densely packed with dangerous obstacles – including mines, tanks, turrets, snipers, and worse. Being forced to methodically replay the same stretch of map over and over again will grind on even the most stalwart players. It’s not that the game itself is overly tough, but endlessly swarming enemies and sporadic control problems will gradually whittle away at your squad’s health and your patience.
From a birds-eye view perspective, your forces are reasonably detailed despite being pretty small. The cramped nature of the touch screen layout and an inability to get a good look at anything that’s not within your immediate proximity forces you to spend a lot of time watching the map on the top screen. The constant map is great for navigation purposes (it can be dropped down to the touch screen to check on distant locations), but it’s hard not to rely on the map for constant consultation. Otherwise the game looks pretty good.
You control different combinations of your four squad members at different times and can group them to have everyone but the character you’re directly controlling follow you and provide cover fire. Levels are designed to herd you into switching between members frequently to capitalize on their abilities. Freedom is mostly an illusion here; the way levels are designed, it’s pretty clear when you’re meant to use a certain character to proceed – especially since you have no real choice in the matter. Sure, you can decide whether or not you want to pick off the snipers from a distance with Kendra, detect explosive mines with T.K., blast bosses with Dag’s bazooka, or open gates with Bill at the necessary moments. But choosing otherwise often leads to an inability to proceed or a quick death.
Managing your squad can sometimes be unnecessarily difficult in tense situations due to finicky controls. The touch-centric controls have you moving your forces by holding the stylus on the screen and dragging it around wherever you want to go. You can only shoot at enemies when they’re in your line-of-sight, since firing requires you to tap on them. You can instantly select between individuals by tapping their icon, and linking them together to follow your selected character is simple. Comrades will follow you and shoot where you tell them to (occasionally firing at nearby enemies on their own), yet they also tend to stand around and get killed in the face of heavily armed foes. Also, switching between primary weapons and special attacks with a tap of the shoulder button or stylus works fine most of the time, but it’s problematic in mini-boss encounters where getting hit momentarily stuns you and prevents you from firing. It’s not uncommon to have a team member inadvertently mowed down while fumbling to get a shot off.
Elite Forces: Unit 77 mainly suffers from its generic presentation and lack of innovation. There’s very little about this game that makes it stands out from other more interesting handheld action games. The gameplay itself is moderately entertaining if you can keep your squad mates from dying. It just doesn’t have that spark that keeps you coming back for more.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The view is a bit small and cramped, but it’s reasonably interesting. 3.4 Control
Works well most of the time yet fails you when you need it to work the most. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Want some cheese with your sound effects? 3.3
Even a decent number of levels to blast through won’t hold your attention for long.
3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.