Shadow Ops: Red Mercury Xbox Review
There was a time when the videogames industry was less about smart AI controlled enemies that oppose a challenge to players and more about running and gunning. Both the brainless and smarter designed FPS’s have clearly polarised opinion, you have Halo and its Covenant army running around and diving for cover when necessary, then there’s other FPS titles such as Shadow Ops where the emphasis is purely on gunning down everything that moves, with not a single soldier -boasting the gaming equivalent brain of a mathematician- surprising you with an attack. In contrast the running and gunning sort is obviously less methodical then Halo and its ilk, but still every much as appealing.
Shadow Ops may be too basic for those looking for titles with smart AI opponents, although if you like going all James Bond style and blowing away mindless bad guys you’ll be right at home here. Apart from the fact that enemies go for cover and chuck the odd grenade back, the game has very little you can call clever about it, and even when they do go for that all-important cover they often leave their limbs unconcealed and for maximum dumbness their heads are often right out in the open, more or less inviting you to instantly kill them, basically with all this said, they’re nothing but cannon fodder for your guns to feed on and only a threat in number. Even your own troops, who accompany you at times (any deaths are scripted), are slow on the shot and aren’t a great deal of help in the midst of a battlefield. But Shadow Ops isn’t trying to be anything but an explosive shooter, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The atmosphere here also assures that Shadow Ops is explosive in impact, and also very much in aural feedback. The opening levels are exhilarating; with loud explosions and gunfire shuddering the battlefield, and this sets the tone incredibly well. The sound effects were done by Soundelux, a Hollywood sound design studio, who worked on the likes of Kill Bill and Black Hawk Down. The music composed by Inon Zur and performed by The Northwest Symphonia is also arousing and we found it to be very comparable and almost as powerful as the divine musical pieces from the fantastic Medal of Honor series, another string of soundtracks that the same orchestra (bar Rising Sun) was responsible for.
Shadow Ops is quite literally a blast of a First Person Shooter and in comparison to the new fangled strategic military type FPS’s, the game warrants very little brainstorming on each approach. Despite all the latter said it’s not all running forward and shooting down any enemy waving a gun in your face though, there is a hint of strategy involved. You are able to use a Rainbow Six like lean feature, which allows you to peer around walls and shoot any enemies in your immediate target view. On the subject of targeting, despite having a huge reticule that turns red when an enemy is in your sights, it still feels rather clumsy and at times you don’t even have to have the target directly across an enemy to shoot and kill.
The main campaign can be frustrating and cruel at times, mainly due to the lack of checkpoints. The only time when the game can be saved is at the start of each new level and this is also the only point when your mission progress is met at a checkpoint, therefore dying during a rather lengthy mission can be a bit of a set-back and we were left wondering why those all-important checkpoints weren’t included in the first place.
The loading times are also embarrassingly long for an Xbox title and it’s all well and good that helpful gameplay tips are displayed during loading screens whilst you wait, as they needed to offer you something to tide you over. Then there’s the cosmetics, which definitely don’t sit amongst the beautiful Xbox elite, sadly the game is scarred by horrible textures and nothing that says, “I’m an Xbox game”.
Accompanying the solid action-packed single player campaign is a fair amount of multi-player options. Players can battle it out in a smooth four-player split-screen mode on a singled Xbox and there’s also a cooperative mode for a duo of players. The game can also cater for eight players at once, either by utilising System Link or over Xbox Live. Online play suffers from bouts of lag, but it isn’t serious and doesn’t detract from the overall experience as some people have suggested. Sadly over Xbox Live there isn’t any rankings either, which is an oversight, if only a mild one.
Shadow Ops: Red Mercury is a fantastic, uncomplicated shooter. The AI may be unintelligent and lack the finer detail of other shooters, the loading times may be dreadful, checkpoints don’t exist, the targeting is a little off and finally it’s as linear as a walk along a familiar trek. Despite its flaws, this shooter is a fantastic frag-fest for those of you who don’t mind such a game to have next to no strategy or realism involved.