Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger Review

Every so often a game will come along that successfully breaks the rules and fuses a number of genres together to stunning effect. Here we have a game that tries its best to do the same but never quite pulls it off. With the number and quality of FPS titles already available on the 360 it was a brave decision to try and go in a different direction, but it's a gamble that doesn't quite pay off. What we have here is a game that is trying so hard to be unique but unfortunately can't even get the fundamentals right, although, beneath the surface there are a number of decent ideas.

Better finish him off before the giant white V gets him.

For developers Atomic Motion this is their first foray onto the 360 and it is certainly a baptism of fire. Against the likes of Halo or Call of Duty this game was never going to stand up as merely a budget FPS game, so instead a strategy element has been added in as well with the player free to switch between the two at any time. While this does mean that the game occupies more of a niche and avoids direct comparisons with the big hitters, it also means that both aspects of the game need to be solid in order for it to be successful and that is where most of the problems lie. Not to mention the fact that this style has already been seen on a very similar scale through the Ghost Recon games – three years ago.

The story is shockingly clichéd, almost to a fault. Your team has been sent to secure the survivors of a plane crash, along with some missing data they were carrying. Unfortunately, as seems to always be the case, your transport is also shot down leaving you and your teammates stranded in the Amazon. The main cause of all this trouble is the local militant warlord, Juarez, and your only hope lies in a handy archeologist who helps you make your way through the inhospitable terrain to freedom. Frankly if you have seen any number of straight to DVD action trash then this whole game will seem very familiar. It does not help that all of the team seems to perpetrate the most basic soldier style stereotypes, and all of your assailants also seem to come from the same 'wooden' school of acting that Clive Owen graduated from. It really does border on the ridiculous.

Blowing stuff up – rule one of fun.

With a bunch of stereotypical South American fighters standing in your way you are forced to rely on your rag tag team of soldiers to fight your way through the masses. Thankfully each member of your two three man teams has their own unique set of skills. Regular weapons have infinite ammo, but you also have access to a limited amount of skill ammo which can make your life a heck of a lot simpler. All of the usual bases are covered with the usual array of machine guns, heavy weapons and sniper rifles on show - pretty much what you would expect from any FPS game. The game handles well enough while you are in FPS mode without ever really breaking sweat, you can switch between teammates at the touch of a button and revive incapacitated colleagues should the need arise. The problem is that nothing ever feels too polished so you will never be forced out of a very familiar comfort zone the whole time you are playing.

Obviously the major selling point on show here is the ability to play the entire game, should you wish, from a strategy standpoint. Players can switch between the standard shooter viewpoint and the panaromic RTS viewpoint at any time, and the game will even give you specific prompts when it thinks it would be strategically sound to do so. While in RTS mode you can give each team specific orders and move them wherever you see fit; objects of interest are highlighted and enemies are picked out once you are aware of their location. It makes controlling the two teams and setting up cover fire remarkably easy. The only question here is why, as the game is never that taxing to begin with so this extra feature just feels like it is there for a bit of fun rather than being a necessity. With a few more units at your disposal and maps that were a bit less linear then it may well have been a viable addition rather then a mere bonus feature.

What do you mean "stereotypical soldier look"?

As has already been mentioned, the script in this game is just flat out bad – almost embarrassingly so at times. The voice work is the same and you have to wonder whether the budget was just poor or the game was aiming to be intentionally cheesy. The graphics are pretty much of the same standard too with everything being extremely generic across the board; the carbon cutout enemies and frankly shoddy textures at times will make you want to tear your hair out. Not to mention the fact that the game has odd invisible barriers that cannot be shot through. Things look a bit better in RTS mode, but again, it all seems like a very dated copy of GRAW but without the extra flashy effects.

At least the achievements do not disappoint. First of all the only online requirement is playing the game with a co-op partner, a fact that makes the game a lot more fun in the first place and is certainly advisable to speed things along. Other than that you can get all of the points through single player and the mix of story progression, weapon specific tasks and mission specific challenges is spot on. A full one thousand points is therefore well within your grasp as long as you can find another person that shelled out for the game in the first place – which may be a bigger task than the rest of the points.

At such a low price point it is hard to complain too much but this game is middle of the road in absolutely every department, so even for less money you should still expect a whole lot more. There are some decent ideas hidden away in there though, and with a bit more variety and a few more units, then the split between FPS and RTS could become an intriguing prospect. For now though, you have to question whether or not a few hours of entertainment is really worth your money when the enjoyment you are likely to get is going to be minimal. With a clichéd story, stereotypical cast and bland gameplay you are best advised to look elsewhere.

Truly cringe worthy voice acting and quite possibly some of the most dubious script work since the original Resident Evil.

Decidedly average and the RTS mode looks exactly like GRAW lite – if you can barely keep up with a game that is three years old then you are always going to struggle.

The mix of FPS and RTS genres never seems to come off and both are left feeling rushed as a result. A bit more variety could have spiced things up but you will have seen everything on offer here many times before.

This game wants to be GRAW but just cannot pull it off, it does not do anything too badly but still feels like it is rough around the edges in far too many places.

The achievements are actually fairly reasonable, as you can pick up a good amount of points just for playing through the game but you can also go for mission and action specific tasks in order to snag the rest. Co-op is recommended for maximum enjoyment and it will grab you the rest of the points – nothing too stressful.

Raven Squad is not terrible but it ticks just about every box on the way to being decidedly average. Experienced gamers will romp through the story and only the co-op mode provides any real fun. At a budget price you get what you pay for and this game may well pass a few hours, sadly though, it is a very poor clone of GRAW that has arrived a number of years too late.

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