With the goofy excellence of 9mm still fresh in our minds, can Silent Ops continue this more promising turn of fortune? Well, unfortunately not.
As I said in my preview last Wednesday, Silent Ops failed to impress at E3. Based on the limited timeframe from press previews to an AppStore release, this isn’t usually a good sign. The promotion wasn’t as strong as previous efforts either, so maybe Gameloft themselves were not feeling too confident with this one.
Firstly though, I must say that once again Gameloft are not short of ambition. In Silent ops that ambition manifests itself in trying to create a full console like action/adventure. However, in going for an epic storyline featuring big bangs, babes and bazookas they have almost completely forgotten about the gameplay. Sure, there is plenty of variety; including sneaking, sniping, climbing or just running and gunning it. But what point is any of that with absolutely zero challenge? Yes, that’s right, the game is almost entirely ruined by poor enemy AI.
Predictable and easy to take out, the AI is practically brain dead. Generally, the goons will run towards you, line up and stand there shooting. Any evasive maneuvers are limited to running to somewhere else and then repeating. It’s laughable really and removes any challenge or feeling of threat. Just take a look at this screenshot! “Dude, I’m right here!”
An element of gameplay that had great potential in Silent Ops was the Sniper rifle sections. Here you are tasked with clearing the area for your spy colleague before you fill their shoes, but these potentially awesome moments are killed flat, with the AI once again playing silly buggers. Gameloft may as well have changed the enemies into bottles, on a wall.
I say almost ruined, because there are other things that do more to hinder the experience other than the AI. For example, there are more than a few instances of bad collision detection, where your shots will not do any damage, despite you aiming accurately at your target. Objects that you’d expect to be able to shoot through, or over – such as railings – sometimes act as six-foot solid walls. With much of the game relying heavily on stealth, it really isn’t much good if you can’t actually shoot over a hedge, or when leaning out from behind a wall.
The ambitious story, which starts out very promising indeed, features the action being told through memories from a captured agent boss called the Cardinal. These are told through pre-rendered cut scenes, which feature both solid voice work and animation. However, the storyline completely falls apart, with many elements not matching up, and the whole memory thing seemingly forgotten by the end.
Like I said at the start of this review, the game features a lot of bangs and glitz, and the presentation of the cut scenes are genuinely well done. But, beyond this, the in-game graphics are a mixed bag. The environments are un-inspiring, looking like they’ve simply lifted many elements from previous games like Rainbow Six, Shadow Guardian, and Gangster 2. And the character models are low quality, particularly up-close, as well as having a distinct lack of variety that results in bands of cloned goons. In comparison to many recent games, Silent Ops actually looks decidedly old fashioned, more in line with what Gameloft were doing visually with games back on iPhone in 2009. The only thing I can really say that stood out to me was the sound design. The cinematic music, effects and even the multi-national cast of voice talent is pulled off with gusto and does well to support the otherwise lackluster action and story.
Releasing another third person shooter, when both of Gameloft’s own Rainbow Six and 9mm are still very much out there, seems like an odd choice that can only serve to dilute and saturate their own offerings. Every facet of Silent Ops – be it the action, controls, graphics and presentation, it’s online offering and most importantly it’s gameplay – they all have one thing in common, and that’s that they have all been done far better before.