Operation Shadow «

The summer was full of ports for the N-Gage. EA came through with flying colors, with Tiger Woods and The Sims. Hudson and Vivendi’s colors were a little closer to doo-doo brown, with Bomberman and Crash Nitro Kart, respectively. But fall is a new season, right? And a Nokia-published, original title has got to revitalize the library, right? *BUZZ* I’m sorry, but that’s an incorrect response.

Damn You, Mission 2!!!

Let me just describe mission two for your. Why this mission in particular? Because it’s here where I decided, unequivocally, that I don’t like this game. It also shows what’s wrong Operation Shadow as a whole. It’s not the mission so much as the amount of times it took to pass said mission. That number, my friends, is an even dozen. Now, I’m not a world-class gamer; but I consider myself pretty damn good. To have to wallow in this level’s crapulence for that many times broke me like you wouldn’t believe. I pity anyone who has to go through what I did.

It starts off pretty easy, with you securing a Hummer and looking to blow some stuff up. You do this without much effort, then it’s time to chase down the emissary, who’s trying to high-tail it out of there. He’s flanked by an armada of tanks, and they launch missiles at you the second you come into view. You have a Hummer with weaponry as weak as your regular machine gun, with the added handicap of limited ammunition.

The roadblock prevents either of you from scoring a kill.

Take your time to destroy each tank, and he’ll escape. Rush past them and try to take out the emissary’s vehicle with your pea shooter, and tank missiles will blow you to bits. Get out of the vehicle and try to use your bazooka, and you’ll die even faster. Future levels don’t fare much better.

With no mid-level save feature, the 10-15 minutes you spent working through the level will have to be repeated over and over again. By then, your thumb will be sporting some fashionable blisters, as driving the vehicle with the d-pad is about the worst decision developer Torus could’ve made — aside from ever making this game to begin with.

It Ain’t All Bad

As a matter of fact, a few things about Operation Shadow impressed me. Its polygonal look was pleasing, reminding me of PSone titles like Assault Rigs — though it may actually have that game beat in terms of graphics. At the same time, it moved at a pretty smooth pace. That’s saying a lot for a 3D N-Gage title. The style of the cutscene stills is nice as well.

I like being able to topple almost everything in the environment, and not just because they look good doing down. You’re rewarded with more ammo or health boosts for destroying some structures, which makes it worth your time to level the land.

But It Definitely Is Bad

The AI is horrible. You can blow up a gunner tower within five feet of a foot soldier, and he’ll just stand there as if everything is perfect in his world. Dune buggies will engage in short-term firefights with you before settling on trying to drive through solid objects. If this is the enemy, no wonder they only sent one person to combat them.

Later vehicles are cool, but the early ones are just faster ways to get you from point A to point B. I would get out, run ahead, and clear the area on foot before backtracking to retrieve my Hummer. That didn’t actually save me any more time.

The chopper is surprisingly easy to control.

The collision will most certainly drive you batty. You and an enemy could be standing close enough to make out with one another, but a sawhorse roadblock will magically prevent you from killing your enemy. In an attempt to commit suicide, I tried to decapitate myself with the blades of my own chopper. Cruel fate turned on me yet again, as the blade just traveled through my neck without causing damage.

If the less tangible aspects of Operation Shadow‘s development, like balancing and level design, were tackled with the same dedication that its graphics were, I may be singing a different tune about this game. While you may find yourself having bouts of shooter bliss amidst the sea of frustration, I doubt anyone will exhibit my journalist integrity-inspired patience. In fact, I advise against it.


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