STAFF REVIEW of Conflict: Desert Storm II : Back to Baghdad (Xbox)

Friday, October 31, 2003.
by Reclaimer

Conflict: Desert Storm II : Back to Baghdad Box art No rest for the weary. Our heroes from the first Desert Storm missions: Bradley ? Team Leader, Foley- Sniper, Connors-Heavy Weapons, Jones-Medic have been called into action once again. It?s time to head back to Iraq and get back to work.

Before there was Brute Force, last year?s Conflict Desert Storm was the first game to bring 4 player squad combat to the Xbox. A sleeper hit that didn?t bring very much attention, but still managed to sell a million copies. Conflict brought gamers into the first Gulf War and combined elements of arcade shooter with military squad tactics. The missions where based on real missions that took place during the war, and it put the gamer directly into the boots of either a US Army Delta Force squad or that of the British Special Air Service. The player took control of one character and had 3 others in his squad. Much like Brute Force, you could switch between any character at any time, and your squad would react as a team or independently, depending on the situation. Each member in your squad has a skill that is just as important as the next. The AI controlled teammates played themselves to be useful, and they where completely competent to handle combat duties while you fought alongside them. The game was touted as Xbox?s answer to the Playstation 2?s SOCOM Navy Seals. One of the main features of the Conflict series was that 4 players could play through the game as one squad. If you had less than 4 players, then the AI would control the extra man, though he would always be under command of player one for his orders.

Though in all, the first installment turned out to be a very good game, it was not without its various problems. Now that Conflict: Desert Storm 2 ? Back to Baghdad has been released, it?s time to see if the new game is worth the trip back into combat.

Within the first few seconds of playing the game, I knew immediately changes where made. Everything from the menu screens to the game?s graphics has been revamped. A new change is the introduction of the user profile. Now, you can create your own personal profile and save your settings. This is a great addition when you play this game with three other people on a regular basis. Once the game started, it felt familiar, but the changes where for the better. A new and better mission briefing cut scene has been done, and it looks great. Now it?s time to play the game, after you choose which Special Forces team you are going to play as. From the get-go, the action is fast, and it?s intense. The first mission kicks you off right, and you know for sure that this is a new improved game. You can certainly tell that this game is in the style of an arcade shooter, but that?s good right? There are already a few games that stray towards the military-sim variety, so this is a good thing if you just want to hop in and start killing everything quickly. New features to the combat system have been added, like the peek mode. Now you can peek around corners without risking getting shot first. A roll mode has been provided.

Now you can roll out of fire. Finally, a means to dodge incoming fire. The controls have been tightened up and there?s a lot more response than in the first game. I had no problem navigating my soldiers, and issuing squad orders. The squad order system remains unchanged from the first game, but at least it feels faster and more precise. So actually playing the game was a joy. It felt like a lot of things where improved over the first game. But sadly there is one flaw that carries from the first game. There had been a problem with sniping. You have a sniper with you, and it?s a vital function. But there seemed to have been a ?collision detection? problem when it came to sniping. Every now and then, if you had to make a precise shot that involved shooting near a piece of scenery, your bullet just doesn?t reach its target and it hits the environment near the target. Well, it was never fixed, and it?s very obvious. Meaning, I was trying to snipe a soldier on a rooftop from the street below. I was positioned down an alley, and my shot was clear. The trick was that I had to shoot through a crumbled hole in a wall. You could plainly see your target, and it was just a matter of flinging a bullet through a large hole. Well, it wouldn?t happen. The bullets would just hit the wall harmlessly. This problem persisted when trying to shoot over wrecked cars, or destroyed tank hulls. It was a nagging problem in the first game, and it persists in this game. What a shame, because the first game was good, and this one is so much better, but that one single problem is detrimental to a gamer who plays primarily as a sniper.

One interesting change from the first game is the introduction of the Xbox Live Service. Though not playable over Live servers, Desert Storm 2 boasts download abilities. This means in the future new missions could be acquired, maybe even new team members. It?s good to see more game companies looking to the future and incorporating Live into their product. This would actually add life to the game and open the opportunities for improvement.

The graphics of Conflict Desert Storm2 are good. They are not the best that the Xbox has ever seen, but they range from average to good throughout. It certainly looks better than the first game, but it still falls below what some hardened gamers would expect. There are some nice touches like shadows, and the explosions are very nice.

So there are some good aspects about the graphics department. But I will tell you that it?s good enough to keep you engaged. If you where a fan of the first game then you will continue to like this game. Just think about the graphics of the first game, and think that they where improved.

As always one of the greatest things about the first game was the sound. The sound was outstanding, and it does not disappoint with the new game. From the ambiance of the environment, the weapons, radios, and the background score, it?s all done very well. This game, like the last includes the custom soundtrack feature of the Xbox. Thus replacing the in game musical score with your own tunes. Like last time, I never felt the need to do that.

Even though I felt it was good that finally an action game gets the soundtrack mode, I felt that it was distracting in the game, and it took from the efforts to create the environment. Sound in very important when trying to recreate a location and trying to keep the authenticity alive. Especially when you make a series of games based on a real life event.

Though I like the game, I felt that a few things could be improved:

Fix the issue with sniping and bullets hitting the scenery instead of target.

Continue to improve the graphics.

Provide a squad command for ?Cover me!?

Let the players adjust the look sensitivity for their controls. I noticed that between 4 people playing, not everyone liked the how the sensitivity was.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.4 / 10


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