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Zombie Studios



T (Teen)



Q2 2004



- With integrated THX, this is one of the best-sounding games ever
- Co-op is most enjoyable mode in the game
- Good story, but not entirely original: somewhat resembles the plot of the George Clooney movie ďThe PeacemakerĒ



- Ho-hum single-player game becomes bogged down in mediocrity due to lack of frequent save system
- Unpredictable weapon aiming
- Annoying multiplayer glitches
- Teen rating means thereís no exploding craniums



Review: TimeSplitters 2 (XB)

Review: Halo (XB)

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Review: Medal of Honor - Frontline (XB)



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Shadow Ops: Red Mercury

Score: 6.5 / 10


shadow ops red mercury review          shadow ops red mercury review


Featuring THX sound, HDTV-supported graphics and cinematic cut-scenes, and a solid-if-somewhat-familiar storyline, the Xbox-exclusive Shadow Ops: Red Mercury (SORM) could easily be mistaken as a theater-ready movie. Unfortunately, with all those big-budget blockbuster film qualities, the development team must have forgotten that they were actually working on a video game, because as impressive as the sensual elements of SORM are, it fails to be entertaining.

As elite operative Frank Hayden, itís up to you to track down Red Mercury and prevent it from being used for nefarious purposes. What is Red Mercury, and why is it so dangerous? It is a highly destructive nuclear device that is so small it can fit into a knapsack. Terrorists have their hands on Red Mercury, and as Hayden working for the CIA, youíll travel around the globe including jungles and cities before squaring off in a final showdown that determines that fate of millions of lives. Vaguely familiar in its plot to the movie ďThe PeacemakerĒ (George Clooney




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as a soldier hunting down nukes) the SORMís story plays out rather nicely ďifĒ you play through the single-player game. Sorry to say, thatís a pretty big ďif.Ē

The single-player mode of the game is difficult even on the lowest setting because of a disadvantageous save system. Although the game informs you at various points during mission that you have completed a particular


mission objective that should trigger a game save, the only way you progress to the next mission is to complete your current mission on the very first try. So although you can make it to the last chapter of a particular mission, if you happen to get killed in action, you donít go back to a save point somewhere during the course of a mission. No, youíre forced to start from the very beginning. And even with a decent story leading you through the game, because of the derivative nature of the levels that borrow heavily from Tom Clancy titles (not only in their location but in appearance too), if you get easily frustrated by repetitive, over-and-over-playing-the-same-mission gameplay due to the lack of a good save system, you wonít even bother trying to progress very far through the single-player mode.

Even worse, SORM is predictable in its enemy placement and A.I. The enemies always appear in the same place during the game, and even on higher challenge settings, donít always act smartly. Making things more difficult, there are times when the A.I. gets away with an unfair advantage. Even if you think you have cleared an area of all possible threats, enemies perplexingly appear out of thin air and fill you with a few rounds of hot lead, and this doesnít help your goal of reaching the mission objective before getting killed. Other times, itís hard to figure out where gunfire is coming from (usually a hard to find sniper) and then thereís times early in the game when you canít even tell right away if you are shooting a foe or friend because of a similar clothing appearance of both your support squad and those trying to kill you.

Because of the single-player modeís deficiencies, SORM had a chance for redemption with its Xbox Live-supported multiplayer mode. Alas, it isnít much better than its single-player counterpart. The expected capture the flag and deathmatch are here, but the problem is that the multiplayer levels arenít exactly multiplayer friendly compared to other similar games such as Unreal Championship, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six 3, Ghost Recon, and even Halo.

These levels donít create a totally horrible online game, especially if youíre into the soldier-type FPS, but they certainly wonít rank anywhere near the best available on Xbox Live multiplayer. On top of ill-suited levels, I personally ran into some weird multiplayer glitches, some that could be explained away as lag, but one that I donít see how could. I was unable to reload my weapon during more than a few matches, even though I had ample ammo in reserve. And naturally, that led to an untimely demise from an enemy that I was left helplessly swallowing lead from because of this bizarre glitch. This might not be a widespread glitch, but it didnít make my SORM online time fun, to say the least.


shadow ops red mercury review          shadow ops red mercury review

The only mode that proved to be enjoyable was the co-op mode, which was the only way I (with the help of a partner) was able to actually finish game levels without dying. My longest stretch of gameplay with SORM was playing the co-op mode. The co-op mode is just as difficult as the single-player game, but it certainly helps immensely to have someone covering your back in the heat of a firefight.

Handling the FPS festivities is an okay control schematic. Moving around is down with the usual dual-thumbstick setup, and the controls are responsive as they need to be. Shooting is another matter completely. While the shooting of weapons isnít bad and gives the proper timely response to your weapon firing, the targeting system is not reliable. Shooting targets is a hit-or-miss proposition. Even if you have a target in your crosshair, they donít always respond as if they are being shot. In fact, it takes more hits to take down a single target than should be necessary. Conversely, you may think you donít have a solid target lock to take down a target, but somehow he is killed by your fire.

You can use lean around corners and cover tactics, and this is completely essential to being able to complete the game. But the only way to lean is to use the weapon zoom at the same time, and this can get confusing, especially when you are involved in the midst of a big-time battle and knowing where all, not just one, of your enemies are placed in relation to your current position is supremely important.

It isnít as impressive as SORMís sound elements, but visually the game is better than average, and if you have the capacity to support HDTV 480p youíll really be in for an eye-candy treat particularly during the many gorgeous cut-scenes. Unfortunately, while the graphics are good, thereís not too much seen that you havenít seen in other similar games. Jungle and city environments are so cookie-cutter that it would be hard to figure out if what you see was from SORM or Rainbow Six 3. One question I have is why is SORM a ďTĒ rated game? Iím certainly not a violence-in-games-is-good-proponent, but in a war-oriented game, the lack of blood due to the gameís rating is a bit perplexing and headshots just donít seem satisfying without heads exploding into a bloody pulp.

Movie quality production values aside, an uneven single-player game, questionable A.I. and game physics, and the glitches I encountered during multiplayer action unmercifully deliver a quick killshot to SORM. Not even a good co-op mode can overcome the bland and ďbeen-there-done-that-betterĒ flavor of SORM. Fans of the soldier shooting genre are better off sticking with the current and upcoming Tom Clancy games than looking at the weak shadow of a game that SORM ultimately turns out to be.

- Lee Cieniawa

(July 28, 2004)


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