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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: November 27, 1999
As every combat veteran knows, war is primarily sheer boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.” — Harry G Summers, Jr. Infantry Colonel. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, 1982
The 80s and 90s have truly glorified the act of war and the soldiers that fight in them. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, most of the entertainment offerings depicting events of the military and their operations focussed on events during W.W.II, such as the classic The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Recently, special forces organizations have been getting much more of the attention, especially as the medium moves into the computer age. In a time when conventional warfare is ultimately the last resort, special forces units such as Army Rangers, Navy SEALS and Marine Recon are called upon to eliminate threats and maintain national security, potential and real. The latest PC entertainment title to simulate this experience comes from Zombie Studios, who introduced us to this style of game when they released Spec Ops: Rangers Lead the Way last year. This time the focus has shifted to the most exclusive organization in the U.S. Army–the Green Berets. The Green Berets are arguably the elite of the elite–they’ve been hand selected and trained with all the latest combat techniques, and are experts in all available weaponry. Can you handle this assignment soldier?
One of the best additions to this sequel is the set of four training missions–firing range, obstacle course, tire house and shoot house. The firing range focuses on your shooting skills by requiring you to take out all the pop-up targets from any firing position. The timed obstacle course has you firing at targets while climbing, crawling and running. The final two training missions involve close combat tactics. The tire house focuses on individual objectives while the shoot house focuses on team tactics in close combat. Of all, I found the shoot house to be the most beneficial in preparing me for the game as it involved learning and using the command options, which is essential for success.
You won’t want to start the actual missions until you’re familiar with all the facets of training, which include climbing, crouching, sniping, jumping, and avoiding and returning fire. When you feel able, start a new game and choose a difficulty setting. The difficulty settings differ in the amount of damage you can take and inflict. “Private” allows you to take the highest number of hits and your enemy the fewest number of hits. This is the setting I recommend playing on, even if you’re a veteran of the series or this style of game. Spec Ops 2 is unique in many ways and will require most folks to learn its quirks before they’ll have much success. Other than the training missions, there are five campaigns set in various parts of the world that make up the single-player experience. These include Antarctica, Korea, Pakistan, Thailand and Germany.
Spec Ops 2′s gameplay occurs within a series of unrelated missions, and while each campaign is focussed on a specific region, the missions themselves have very little to do with one another. Each campaign has between four and six individual missions that can also be played in any order. This is both a series of blessings and a curse. The blessings are that you’re neither held hostage from seeing the entire product nor stuck playing the same scenario over and over again and finally giving up because you’re unable to progress beyond a certain point. You can quit a mission, and while you will fail it in the process, you can start a new mission in the same or a different campaign without any true penalty. Unfortunately, there is the aforementioned curse. Spec Ops 2 is significantly less cohesive than its competition. There is no common thread running through the length of the game and no real sense of ownership or interest in the overall atmosphere. Granted, you can still play the campaigns and missions in their intended order, but even then things still don’t feel like they were developed as a whole.
Once you’ve chosen a campaign and a mission, it’s time to equip your squad. Depending on the mission, you may have two or four soldiers in your squad. Starting out, there are four available members–Wright, Williamson, Starr and Palma. You can change their names, weaponry and even personality. The type of unit you choose controls the personality aspect. For example, a sniper reacts differently to a situation than does a grenadier. While on the surface this seems like a really cool feature, I found no discernible differences in the ways the soldiers reacted other than the obvious ones related to the items they were carrying. Still, equipping your squad correctly is material to success, so you’ll want to spend an appropriate amount of time deciding how to outfit your soldiers. I’ve had to play missions multiple times to get a feel for the gear I needed, and though this is somewhat annoying, I didn’t mind it all that much because it gave me an opportunity to play with all the weapons–something Spec Ops 2 has a lot of.
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