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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: October 26, 1998
I imagine that earlier this year when Zombie released Spec Ops: Rangers Lead the Way they knew they had something special, but I don’t think they knew it would spawn an entirely new spin-off of the 3D action genre. Spec Ops: Rangers Lead the Way was the first single-player game to incorporate squad-level tactical strategy within a 3D action game, and did a marvelous job of it as noted in our review last March. However, as noted in the review, a few annoying bugs, some poor artificial intelligence, and lack of a promised multiplayer feature kept it from being a classic. I, like the rest of you am appalled at the recent trends developers are taking. Releasing buggy games with the intention to patch them afterwards doesn’t set well with me, but I don’t expect perfect games either, and when a company stands by their product I take notice. Zombie has done just that, and has not only offered numerous patches, but upgraded the original game over the last several months as well. Unfortunately if you want to participate in multiplayer Spec Ops, you’ll have to pay for it.
Ranger Team Bravo is the new add-on for Spec Ops: Rangers Lead the Way, and according to Zombie, its features list includes three new highly improved single-player campaigns, better artificial intelligence, and an extensive multiplayer game. I’m happy to report that Zombie has delivered true on two of the three promised features, as I have been entrenched with company team Bravo for several weeks.
The new single-player campaigns are a definite step up from the old ones. The first, Pale Bosnia, is a set of three major objectives including seizing a Serbian military base, capturing the base commander alive, and taking control of a captured U.N. headquarters. These missions take place in the Bosnian mountains during harsh winter conditions. The new graphics in Ranger Team Bravo are really nice, especially the snow effects. The terrain and landscapes are wonderfully designed, and rolling hills and brush provide excellent cover for you and your Bravo teammate; this allows for missions to be complex and very believable. One of the biggest strengths in the Spec Ops series is its feeling of authenticity. Zombie has brought in very knowledgeable military personnel to assist in the data gathering and mission creation. The Bosnian missions are based on real data obtained from these experts and simulate what real Rangers went through a couple of years ago in the Serbian gorilla wars. In order to be successful in these Bosnian missions you’ll want to utilize stealth and speed as much as possible. Bases are heavily defended and the enemy is on alert.
The second new campaign, Thon An Thai: Vietnam 1968, is by far the best set of missions in the entire game. The first mission has your Ranger compliment taking out a weapons cache deep within the jungle, just south of Quang Tri. The second mission is really tough, as you are outnumbered and surrounded by Viet Cong, and must get out alive. The last mission is my favorite. You and your buddy have to locate a downed B-52 bomber, rescue all survivors, and escape. All of these missions really make you feel like you’re deep within a treacherous jungle. There is a huge amount of foliage to use for cover, but that is also the enemy’s favorite place to use the ambush tactic. Sporadic use of traps will also hamper your chances for success.
The last set of missions is not based on factual data, but rather a potential situation using the current dilemma in Iraq. Your mission here deals with locating a secret chemical weapons facility, gathering the evidence and escaping. I would have preferred the chance to sabotage an Iraqi headquarters, or lay the groundwork for an air strike, but nonetheless these missions are fun, even if they do take place in the dark and dreary desert.
The meat of this add-on, though, is the multiplayer portion, and here the game really shines. Support has been added for six players, and yes you can play cooperatively. All of the single-player levels from the first game and the add-on are playable in deathmatch and coop mode. Zombie has also included team deathmatch and the ability to use computer opponents. Seven new deathmatch levels have been added, and they are all beauties if you have four to six people. Most of the levels are so large that playing with just two can lead to a lot of searching, and nothing to do. I enjoyed playing through Ranger Team Bravo, and while it’s not everything I had hoped for, for owners of the original this is a no brainer.
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