Spec Ops II: Green Berets
In his glowing review of the original, Richie reckoned that "Spec Ops: Rangers Assault is unlike anything you will have ever played". A bold claim indeed. And one that's unlikely to be levelled at its sequel, Spec Ops 2: Green Berets when it emerges at the end of this year.
Barring a freak change of direction, the chances are that Green Berets will bear at least some resemblance to its predecessor. A minor hit the best pan of a year ago, Rangers Assault was a devious, stealth-oriented war game, and not, as the name might suggest, a sickening simulation of Glaswegian football violence.
Green Berets promises more of the same - war, that is - predictably , featuring the titular elite of the US army. Forgoing historical revisionism, the game, I perhaps wisely, overlooks the team's heroic exploits in the paddy fields of Vietnam, and instead concentrates on modern-day scenarios, taking in such diverse . locations as India, Thailand, Antarctica, Germany, and I the Warfare Centre, wherever that is.
The original was pretty damn stealthy itself, but Spec Ops 2 promises an all-new stealth mode whereby you can sneak up on an enemy character, taking into account the direction he's facing relative to your character's, as well as to any nearby light sources. The chances of detection can be reduced further by shooting out lamps and other artificial light sources.
As for new gadgetry, we're promised bayonets, wire cutters, flares, Thermite grenades, proximity mines, compasses,.50-caliber sniper rifles, barrel-launched grenades, booby traps, laser-pointing devices, and the powerful Carl Gustav recoilless rocket launcher.
New character capabilities are also being developed, from hand and arm signals, to silent kills with a knife, and some levels will involve controlling up to four characters. Characters will now be able to scale obstacles, jump up and down, climb ropes, throw grenades from prone positions, wade through water, parachute, and operate machine guns. Perhaps somewhat macabrely, you will even be able to drag your wounded buddies out of harm's way and, with the correct medical equipment, attempt to revive them. And if that's not enough, then you should seriously consider joining the army.
If the number of'military tactical simulators' is anything to go by, half the UK population thinks they could have joined the SAS. Yes, I know, you could have done demolitions and close-combat at college along with a GCSE in weapon skills. But you didn't like the hours, or the pay. Or perhaps you thought you'd meet more interesting people working in an office. Yeah, right.
The current crop of military tactical sims consist of first-and/or third-person shooters with an ultra-realistic slant, games like Delta Force and Rainbow Six or Rogue Spear where the developers have fallen over backwards to add unabashed realism, authentic weaponry and lots of strategic gameplay.
Spec Ops itself was the first of the genre, though it slipped downhill quickly after the WWII-based classic Hidden & Dangerous stormed ashore. Now Spec Ops 2 has finally surfaced and judging by the list of improvements, it might well snatch back the pole position.
Spec Ops 2: US Army Green Berets is a very different game to the original. Instead of crass-looking, simple-sided wooden huts, you can crawl, scramble or run through the full range of interior and exterior settings from multi-level underground bunkers and ship cargo holds to jungles, deserts and even the Antarctic.
The first game didn't require a 3D card but Spec Ops 2b Glide and Direct3D support makes a big difference. Lighting is now fully dynamic meaning that soldiers can be equipped with flashlights and the in-game searchlights and lamps can all be turned off with an overdose of lead.
The graphics have been given a good working over in every department, with more of everything, from polygons, textures and colours to motion-captured animation. Soldiers now look and act in an extremely life-like fashion, thanks to the extra video work. Add to this a new damage model, souped-up sound effects and dynamic music - the mood of which changes according to events - and Spec Ops 2 can be an almost movie-like experience.
There are six target areas on the body; the head, torso and four limbs. Head shots almost always kill, but you can wound an enemy if you hit an arm or leg. Shoot someone in the leg and they'll grab the wounded appendage, spurt some 3dfx-ified blood and stagger around. Hit them somewhere deadlier and they'll ham out a convincing Tm dying' routine.
The mission timer has gone, thankfully, so you don't need to race against the clock, and there's more weaponry to play with, like the Neostead composite shotgun, the LR300 supergun and OICW shoulder rifle. Grenades and explosives have been revamped, with WP, HE, smoke and frag grenades available as well as the satisfying satchel charges and groovy grenade launchers.
You can fiddle with weapons load-outs to your heart's content, although each man can only start out with one gun. This is patently absurd as they can pick up any number of abandoned ones during the missions.
Soldiers can lie, crawl, crouch, stand, run, and even peep left and right and swap weapons and you can watch them do it from either the first or third-person perspective. The control system is about average - use the mouse for aiming and looking around while physically moving your men with the keyboard. Joystick support is crap because you can't use it to move around, but you can at least reassign all the keys to suit your style of play.
Not counting the four training scenarios, there are five combat zones (Germany, Pakistan, Korea, Antarctica and Thailand) with 25 single-player missions and three difficulty levels. Missions involve two, three or four-man squads and you've a choice of six soldier personalities, including demolitions, sniper, infantry, close-quarters, grenadier or a machine-gunner, each with a slightly varying default Al. Snipers have a magnified cross-hair sight, infra-red scopes and night-sights while others can use binoculars.
Clicking the right mouse button pops up a simple menu that tells individual soldiers to attack, defend or demolish the physical location you happen to be pointing at. If you want to take charge of them individually, you can swap between them with the Tab key. They even tell you things like 'enemy in sight' although it's usually only nanoseconds before they keel over with terminal lead poisoning. At least it is the way I play...
Perhaps the most welcome addition is built-in mulbpiayer support with a choice of six different maps. You can choose the traditional' death match, team versus team, co-operative missions, team versus team missions and king of the hill, altering settings such as frag limits, squad size, and so on. Unfortunately, the multiplayer aspect is rather clumsily implemented and getting a network game going takes some considerable effort.
Take 2 has been banging on for ages about Spec Ops 2's real-world physics and the masterly level of realism. They're right, up to a point, although the graphics can still surprise you when you find your soldiers lying two feet above ground and trees apparently rooted in mid-air. Grenades are handled particularly well, although using them properly takes hours of practice. I was particularly proud of one 'kill' where I spotted some footsteps (Spec Ops 2 soldiers always leave foot print trails, even on concrete) leading under a cliff out of sight % below me. I dropped a grenade and bang, was rewarded with the J message saying I'd killed a hostile. An unrealistic way to confirm a kill, but a satisfying way to do it. Oh and the grenades will bounce r around corners, too...
Undoubtedly, we're talking about a major addition to the military sim genre here. Spec Ops 2 looks and feels totally realistic, especially the way you can hide behind things like crests and crates. The weapons are ace, especially the grenade launchers, which can deliver death in large doses at a relatively long range. And the machine guns are pretty cool, too.
Gawd, we're right at the end and I've still got loads to say. Like telling you about the audio samples from real weapons, the real uniform textures, official military tactics and authentic voice commands. I can't believe I left that out. And what about the silent kills with a knife that I haven't managed to do yet?
Or even the overhead map? Admittedly it's pretty useless for planning because it doesn't show your objective, but hell, it's there. The game's not without its problems, however, and one or two things have been badly implemented. Bodies disappear too quickly while bullets leave a permanent mark, even in sand and snow. The A1 is also somewhat questionable. In my first mission I lost one man who fell down a steep slope when I told the squad to spread out. Durr... On another occasion, one of my men suddenly decided to run straight at the enemy. Come on, he was a hundred yards away at the time. What the hell are guns for? I'd like to have seen an in-mission save, too, but perhaps that's just me.
For frustrated SAS wannabes - or would-be Green Berets, to be completely accurate - Spec Ops 2 should be high on your wanted list. With an amazing level of realism and stupendous atmosphere, it's the yardstick that other such games will be judged by. And you'll just have to carry on regretting that you never joined up...
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Spec Ops II: Green Berets Screenshots
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