Conflict: Denied Ops Review - 09/04/2008

The Conflict games (particularly the Desert Storms) have become a staple of our third person co-op adventures here at TGSN, so have Eidos shot themselves in the foot by jumping onboard the crowded FPS bandwagon for this latest effort, Denied Ops?

To say Eidos' underdog series was facing some tough competition making the big leap into the next-generation would be the understatement of the year. These were once the go-to games for easy co-op kicks and solid tactical gameplay, but up against the production values of Call of Duty, SOCOM, and Ghost Recon, in recent years it hasn't stood much of a chance. The fact is, other shooters boasting the latest tech or an epic single player narrative began to hit store shelves and have diminished the popularity of the series. So Eidos have gone back to the drawing board, by switching the game to a first person perspective, chopping the squad size in half, and reinventing the campaign co-op that was at one time the reason to invest in the Conflict name.

For starters, this is the most graphically detailed Conflict title to date, with some nice visual features thrown in for good measure. The level of destruction now possible (thanks to the heavily publicized "Puncture technology") means that not every piece of cover is as reliable as you might think. Unfortunately, things that you think should be deformable turn out to simply not be, so the destruction that does occur is sometimes almost accidental. In the heat of combat, the environmental damage works well, but when you set out to destroy something, it invariably won't blow up. Also, some of the environment detail is covered with a bizarre Perfect Dark Zero like sheen that tends to look out of place given the grittier tone of the game. The character models are not that great, and the physics of certain objects behave very strangely at times, but the broad scale of the levels (a trademark of the Conflict series) more than makes up for any lack of overall polish. On the whole, Denied Ops features above average visuals that could perhaps have benefitted from a few months extra development to make them truly exceptional.

The guns are a little underpowered, despite taking up most of the screen.

When you combine the level destruction with the freedom of movement now available (vaulting through windows, melee takedowns, stealth kills etc...), there are still some quite memorable moments to be had. One that springs to mind would be when I was taking cover inside a wooden hut, after vaulting through the window to avoid some sniper fire. The wall in front of me gradually splintered and broke away as the A.I (that uses the destructible environments for their own benefit as well) bombarded my position. It brought a subtle cinematic quality to the fight, something which seems to be the aim of most developers nowadays, as the line between the mediums of video gaming and film continues to blur.

On the subject of A.I, partner and enemy behavior is inconsistent but on the whole sophisticated enough to avoid becoming a frustration. Your adversaries tend not to value their lives too highly, and will often put themselves in the line of fire just to heighten the intensity of a firefight. The ability to switch between the two characters on the fly (another classic element of the series which has now been made more accessible by reducing the size of your squad) is an efficient system, and when the computer is in control of your buddy, he performs well and doesn't need to be looked after too much. As with every single previous Conflict title, there are still glitches aplenty, the most common of which being when your NPC teammate will lag behind until a checkpoint is reached and his position is reset. Thankfully this doesn't happen too often, but often enough to become a distraction. The online/offline co-op is therefore where the most fun can be had, and the skill sets of your adversaries have been balanced to accommodate two human players in the same game. The stability of the online servers (for both the 16 player multiplayer and 2 player co-op) seemed OK at the time of testing, with only one case of a random disconnect.

The graphics really are a mixed bag.

There's a lot to like in Denied Ops, even if the switch to a first person perspective has in some respect made it feel too generic for our liking. It was however a necessary evil in this case, as if the Conflict series was to become more appealing to "casual gamers" then it needed an easily promotable way to catch the attention of the masses. What pleases us the most is that much of what once made the Conflict games a cut above the rest has been retained: a combination of CGI and in-game cut scenes, superb voice work, and strong co-op mechanics. The graphics may not be to everyone's taste, and some of the weapon sound effects are below par, but the effortlessly fun gameplay has remained intact.

- Jon Titmuss



Eidos Int.
Pivotal Games
PC - PS3 - 360