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Spec Ops II

by Maurice Fitzgerald

 

  When Zombie released Spec Ops it lived up to its name, as Rangers did, leading the way for shooters to be based in reality instead of fantasy. In the wake of Spec Ops came Redstorm’s Rainbow Six, Eagle Watch and Rogue Spear which completely redefined the genre and set the new standard from which all other shooters will be judged.

Not to be left in the dust, Novalogic released Delta Force and most recently Delta Force 2. Likewise, Sierra stepped into the ring with their latest, SWAT 3 CQB.

Now Zombie has released the follow on, SOII: Green Berets almost 2 years after the original. While SO could be considered a ‘ground-breaker’ in the shooter genre by being the first realism based shooter, SOII does nothing to surpass its parent product and instead is ‘just another shooter.’ For all but the most loyal Spec Ops fans this title could easily be left on the shelf.

Green Berets

Following the same style as the original, Green Berets (GB) has you running through a series of missions in different locations such as; Antarctica, Germany, Thailand, Korea and Pakistan. You can run through the missions in any order as these are not rigid campaigns you must follow in exact order. This is nice for the gamer because it allows you to try another mission if you’ve gotten yourself stuck on a particularly hard one.

The one drawback to this style of gameplay is that there is no storyline to involve you in the game, such as the excellent Rainbow Six series has. After completing your missions you are just sent back to the main menu to choose another mission. This left me flat. A good storyline draws the gamer into the game, and to ignore this is to lose immersion.

Spec Ops II

As in the original, the intro ‘video’ is the same old simple slide show. The mission briefings (which also still use the slide show technique) are very ‘plain vanilla’. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it could have been spiced up a bit for the sequel.

The briefings cover the basics of the mission parameters, just as they would be in real life. But unlike real life there is no map for you to use to reconnoiter the objective. There’s a simple overhead view you can use during the game but it’s not the easiest to use. I found it disorienting at times and not something you can just glance at and know where you’re at.

However, you will need to use it to find your ‘buddies.’ More than once you’ll find at least one of them getting lost or hung up on some piece of terrain somewhere. Pathfinding is not the best here.

Spec Ops II

Once you get past the intro slide show you're into the game. The menus are very plain and simple to the point of being drab, as if they were added as an afterthought. But they serve their purpose well enough.

From here you can choose all your game options and the basic loadout you want for each of your troops: Sniper, Grenadier, Machine Gunner, CQB, Infantry loadouts are all there. Plus you can customize each loadout to your liking. SOII comes with a bevy of weapons to choose from, each modeled from its real world counterpart. Click to continue

 

Spec Ops II

Mission Structure

Once you’ve chosen your loadout it’s time to set foot into the missions and there are plenty of them to choose from. The beauty of the layout of SO II’s missions is also one that could be considered a downside; you can pick and choose the missions you want instead of just following a linear line of missions as in most other games.

Some people will be happy with that and others won’t be, it’s more a matter personal choice. But it does mean that there’s not much in the way of storyline in this title. There are the basic outlines of situations but nothing that really grabs you and makes you feel a part of a bigger picture.

The one thing that bewilders me about this game is why you must choose your screen resolution before each and every mission you run. I mean it’s not like I’m going to change my resolution more than once during a game? I hope this can be addressed in a patch because this gets very annoying after a while.

Graphical Improvement

The first thing you’ll notice is the graphics; they’ve been ramped up quite a bit in this second version and are done nicely. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of problems getting TNT cards to run right. Luckily, Zombie has included drivers for updating your card and things seem to smooth out after installing these.

Graphically the game is much improved over the original, with crisper, more vibrant graphics to enjoy at just about every resolution, and in both 16 and 32 bit formats. There are, however, still some clipping issues and the character animations have some quirks of their own. All the graphical beauty comes at a high price - the game gets choppy on a PII 300 and I even ran into some severe slowdowns on my 550.

Spec Ops II

First Person Singular

I was happy to hear that SOII would incorporate a first person perspective. Although the 3rd person perspective worked fine for the first version I was expecting a more enjoyable experience in the sequel with first person. Let me tell ya, it just ain’t so.

The first person perspective seems to point out the faults of Spec Ops’ intent for realism. The clunky, bounding movements of your soldiers in 3rd person makes for an unsettling experience in the first person view. While this may be considered ‘realism’ by some, I found it to be far from real and more of a hindrance than a feature people will embrace.

While moving you cannot bring your gun to bear on a threat. You must stop to bring up your aiming marker and fire. While I understand Zombie’s intent on bringing more realism to this game I find it infuriating that they would force you to stop to fire.

Standing still makes you an easy target for the enemy AI, which has much better aim than your own AI squadmates. And bringing your aiming marker to bear becomes a chore. In the real world troops do fire on the move, not necessarily accurately but lay enough lead down and you’ll at minimum keep the enemy’s head down.

Go to Part II

 

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Last Updated December 7th, 1999

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