Conflict: Denied Ops

Conflict Denied Ops: x360a Hands On Preview

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Pivotal Games have been bringing the Conflict series to our consoles for over five years now and are back for the first time on next gen consoles with their fifth rendition, Conflict Denied Ops. You'll step in to the shoes of Lang and Graves as they travel around a slew of exotic locations from Russia to Rwanda, in attempts to stop an evil terror that's on a mission to destroy a large proportion of our poor old world, spearheaded by the devilish General Ramirez.

This is the first Conflict game in which you take control of a squad of two, as opposed to previous instalments where you were able to have a crew of four doing your dirty work, but fear not; this does not detract from the gameplay, merely changes it somewhat. The two main characters of the game which you will find yourself flicking between, are two CIA operatives called Lang and Graves. Lang is the stereotypical heavy gunner, built like a brick **** house and with more brawn than brains. Lang’s primary weapon is a 5.56mm light machine gun that packs a real punch thanks to the grenade launcher secondary attachment, whilst Graves on the other hand is the typical war veteran doing the battle with his mind and years of experience. He carries with him a 7.62mm sniper rifle which oddly enough has a secondary function of a shotgun. The ammo for your primary weapon is unlimited, so there's no more desperate looting of enemy corpses looking for that extra clip. It’s great having not to worry about ammo when you have hordes of enemies after your blood and the addition seems to reveal the arcade simulation intentions of Pivotal Games.

The single player campaign kicks off in Santa Cecilia Monastery in Venezuela where your main aim is to find the true location of General Ramirez and his nukes. You’ll get dropped in with not much background revealed about your task in hand and you must make your way across the Monastery courtyard fending off the onslaught of Ramirez’s troops as you enter the main building. Your objective is shown on your HUD with a little blue arrow; admittedly half the time we spent on the game so far was going round in circles in the dark, dingy corridors of the monastery which was quite frustrating. After finally breaking free of the shackles of confusion, we found ourselves at an oddly placed computer server and were given the option of either sending Graves in to blow it up on his own, or to take manual control of him and plant the C4 ourselves. With the ensuing explosion the guards are alerted and obviously aren't happy about us disturbing their dinner, as they attempt to make our way back difficult. After fending them off we find ourselves where we were previously... Back in the open aired great hall, but this time, we have a pesky chopper to deal with. A few timely shots with Graves' sniper rifle at the gunner and the bird will crash down in to the yard just metres away.

Back out in the open and on the horizon lies a small infantry tank which we are instructed to use to advance further into the battlefield. After ordering our team mate to get in, we follow and begin to work our way through towards the objective. The vehicle is fairly easy to control but the aiming of the cannons seems a little sensitive and can quickly become a pain. After using the cannon to pluck the choppers out the sky and surprising oncoming enemies hundreds of feet away with a direct hit, we hit a dead end. The end of the level is close, we can almost smell it, but now we're forced to advance on foot and must take care of the small army blocking our path without the luxury of the tank. The combination of switching between Graves and Lang works well here, sniping the guys operating the turrets with Graves and switching to Lang to fill the rest of the troops with ten tonnes of lead. Plenty of carnage for all here but nothing quite taxing if you take advantage of each of your character's strengths, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards and well on your way to victory. After clearing the way, the extraction point is just a stones throw away. Where you go next, you decide. Three levels to choose from but plenty of unlockable bonuses from the previous mission to help aid your course, such as the addition of a grenade launcher attachment for Lang and a shotgun attachment for Graves and who can forget the gun camera (Ghost Recon anyone?) and the rocket launcher which certainly makes things easier.
The controls took a minute to get used to but once you do, you’ll be sending in your team mate to do the dirty work while you sit back and admire the scenery. Controlling your squad boils down to a simple one button system, aim the crosshair over where you want your partner to go and he’ll run off happily. I found that sometimes if you are not accurate enough with where you want him to go, the command won’t register. You couldn’t click on a wall and send him to stand by it, but if you focussed on where you wanted him to stand, then it works great. The AI of your squad mate is great, this one actually helps you... Well, so long as you tell him where to go. Leave him to his own devices and you’ll find him lagging behind considerably. To switch between squad members, all it takes is a simple click of the B button and your view will morph from one player to the other. It is actually possible to play through the game as just one character, but there are moments in the game where the stealthy Grave just won’t cut it and it needs the sheer firepower of Lang.

One of the noticeable welcome additions to this title is the new “Puncture” technology that was implemented. It’s as simple as it sounds, Puncture gives you the ability to, well, puncture holes through flimsy materials. The size of the hole depends on the gun you are using which sets up some great set pieces. Why not a shoot a pistol size bullet hole through a surface and use it as your spy hole for a cheeky sniper shot... Or even better, blast through a huge hole with the shotgun and then change to the machine gun and let rip on unsuspecting foes. The great thing with Puncture is that it takes into account things such as load bearing, so if you shoot out the top and the bottom out of a wall, the middle will just drop to the ground. Great addition to the sense of realism the game tries to capture and endless fun.

The game also uses a persistent level damage system, so say if you destroy a lookout tower, should you ever come back this way you’ll find it just as you left it, smouldering in a heap... No magical reincarnations this time round. Another thing that adds to the realism of the whole experience and is a very nice touch. Simple but effective.

Whether you’re igniting flammable barrels scattered around the level or taking down one of the many birds, you’ll never be short of an explosion in this game. This aspect adds more to the arcade feel and makes it feel more like a Bond movie with its dramatic explosions rather than a game with tactical espionage being the underlying factor. Denied Ops? Not with the commotion we made!

Although Conflict may not look like the greatest title on the Xbox 360 it certainly has its moments. The visuals on the whole are quite crisp and it certainly does itself no harm with some of the detail on textures throughout, although it doesn’t quite have the "wow factor" of certain other games but that by no means detracts from the gameplay even in the slightest.

The Co-op mode is quite fun and great to play with a mate, it’s the same story from the single player campaign but obviously without the need to switch between characters. The great thing is that no matter how many times you get taken down by an enemy, your teammate has 3 minutes to revive you. So long as you don’t die at the same time, you should really make easy pickings of the co-op. The same health mentality works throughout the single player as well and it should be noted that if you get downed, you can hold LT to call your teammate to heal you.

Conflict Denied Ops is a decent shooter, the feel of which however is now more on the arcade side of things rather than the tactical side we’ve come to know from the Conflict series. The squad based gameplay mechanics coupled together with the genius Puncture technology looks like the basis for a memorable experience and ought be worth picking up. Expect Conflict Denied Ops to hit your local retailers across North America on 12th February 2008.


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Game Info
Pivotal Games


Europe February 15, 2008
Japan February 12, 2008

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