Top critical review
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Good But Not Perfect
on 2 May 2006
First off, the plot. The Soviets-win concept was actually handled quite well, and the video cut-scenes actually add a lot to the atmosphere. There are a few holes (the apparent lack of any military resistance in the New York area, despite the city playing home to a major US Navy installation, is never properly explained) but not enough to seriously harm the player's enjoyment.
The graphics have a slightly comic-like feel that fit in well with the plot, and the weather effects are brilliant. Muzzle flashes and tracer feel pretty convincing, and the flame and explosion effects look lovely. The sound is atmospheric and convincing, and the voice actors do a creditable job of both NY and Russian accents. There are lots of neat audio-visual touches like car alarms being triggered if vehicles get clipped by rounds, and I liked the fact that the bodies of slain enemies don't fade away before your eyes, but stay where they fall.
The gameplay is hugely entertaining. The control interface took a little getting used to (pressing down the analogue sticks to access the inventory screen then moving them to select items felt especially clumsy the first time) but soon became second nature. Friendly and enemy AI is excellent, and directing your squad is a piece of cake, largely because even after they've been given an order they'll do something sensible like find cover to engage the enemy from behind. Each level is large and well-populated with enemies, and there's usually more than one way to tackle each set-piece. The charisma system is hardly the radical idea it's touted as (perform some task and you'll get a reward), but it does make things more interesting, and the way the order in which you tackle your objectives affects conditions in the others can lead to some head-scratching.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few niggles. First off, the selection of weapons is too limited. There's a good range, yes, but only one type of everything. This is supposed to be a group of patriotic US citizens banding together, right? And just about everything, except for two guns and the Molotov Cocktail, is captured Soviet equipment; in this alternate history, it seems that New York has no violent crime and the strictest gun-laws in the Union. Sure, standardising equipment makes sense, and you'd almost certainly end up carrying a captured Russian gun by the end of each level because you'd run out of ammunition, but just the choice between an AK and an M16 or an Uzi and one of those weird-looking Russian SMGs would have added a bit of variety. Regarding the manhole-opening wrench as a weapon when pressing the melee button has the same effect whatever you're carrying -even though this can mean punching somebody whilst you've got a demo-charge under one arm- was a bit pointless as well.
Then, of course, there's how short it is. On my first play-through with difficulty at the easier end of the spectrum, I beat the game in about thirty hours. Within two replays I'd found out that there's almost always a shortcut to the objective that takes you around the bulk of the enemy forces, and renders every level far too easy whatever difficulty setting the game's on.
The single multiplayer mode is a literal capture-the-flag experience, and contrary to long tradition is considerably less fun than single-player. The three or four 'arenas' are maze-like; not the 'creep around jumping at shadows and expecting an ambush at any moment' maze-like, but 'wander around for large chunks of the game trying to work out where the hell you're supposed to go' maze-like. The reinforcement bunkers are a pain in the neck; going near one belonging to the enemy is usually instant death, which means that if one player grabs all four he'll keep them for the rest of the game whilst his opponent is obliged to try and fight off the whole lot on his own. The multi-player squads accrued from said bunkers have had their AI and health cut back for the occasion as well, which is the laziest possible way to make multiplayer mode more challenging and is outright annoying. Frankly, I wish they'd spent the time it took to throw this half-arsed extra feature together into putting in an extra level or two (though I doubt they spent as long putting it together as they did on just one single player level), because it feels tacked on at the last minute. Given that the main game is singularly addictive, that's a real shame.