So, Pivotal Games are back with yet another entry in their Conflict series of action games. Conflict Global Storm is the fourth in the series and while previous games have been set during a war, this time it's the war against terror. Jones, Bradley, Foley and Connors are back, and are joined by Sherman (sniper expert), and despite being a huge leap forward for the series in terms of presentation, it still suffers from the same old problems that have plagued the previous three games.
Global Storm plays out over ten to twelve hours and spans many countries and locations. There's a good variety of indoor and outdoor missions, plus some vehicles to drive - if you've played the previous games you'll know what to expect. Pivotal had claimed that this year's game would feature substantially improved AI for enemies, but that doesn't really seem to be the case. The enemies are still intent on running right at you, with no real thought to their safety. You're never going to be challenged in a one-on-one confrontation, but they do use their limited brain cells to realise this isn't a good idea, and usually come at you in large groups.
It's probably a bit too much to expect every game to have AI that matches that found in the Halo games, but given this is the fourth game in the series, I did expect something a little better than that what was delivered. Your team-mates generally do pretty well for themselves, taking out enemies on their own, but they once again don't know how to take cover. They've been a risk-taking lot since the first game, and nothing much has changed. Considering that their survival is vital to mission success (in that you simply won't make it through by yourself), this is a flaw that is hard to overlook.
Had it not been for these AI problems Pivotal would have had a really great game on their hands. The squad control has been tweaked from the last game and works brilliantly well, as does almost every aspect of the control system. If you're new to the series you'll feel somewhat overwhelmed at first as there are so many controls mapped to a relatively small number of buttons, but the in-game tutorials are excellent and do a great job at showing you how the various button combos work. It won't take long before you're able to coordinate a planned attack or tell a team-mate to heal an injured comrade.
Compared to the recently released Rainbow Six Lockdown, the squad-control element is vastly superior, but the game doesn't make the most of it. Yes, you can coordinate timed attacks, but it's rare that a situation occurs to make use of this. The enemy is so intent on running mindlessly at you that tactics fly out the window in favour of relentless shooting. It's often best to simply tell your team-mates to follow you and fire at will, and then hope for the best, which is a real shame.
Nice touches like being able to point exactly where a grenade is going to land show that the game has been developed with some care and with the reaction to previous games in mind. The save system also helps keep tension high during missions by limiting you to a set number of saves per mission. You can't save at every corner, so you often enter new areas with more to risk than you're happy with. Of course, if you use saves unwisely you can be left with an incredibly tricky stint with no saves remaining, but the mission can be restarted if need be.
Desert Storm (1 and 2) and Vietnam were hardly stunning to look at with drab textures and relatively simple environments, but Global Storm has moved the series on significantly. It's not jaw dropping stuff, but it at least competes with other games in the genre. Character models and environments are vastly more detailed than before, and lighting has improved dramatically. The PlayStation 2 version doesn't have the most stable frame rate, but you'll be used to that if you've played the previous games on that platform.
Elsewhere presentation is equally as solid, with some impressive CG cutscenes, a good soundtrack and plenty of voice samples for your team-mates to use in general chatter throughout the game. You're obviously meant to like these five guys, but it doesn't feel quite as forced as in Rainbow Six Lockdown, which is a good thing. When someone dies you're not going to be brought to tears, but you're not going to be glad they died either.
Playing alone has never been the best way to play the Conflict games and Global Storm continues the tradition of four-player co-op play. The big difference is that the co-op experience can be enjoyed online. Obviously it's not as much fun as when all four of you are sat in the same room (within distance of oral and physical abuse when making a mistake), but it does open up the experience to more people. A few other multiplayer options are available, but none match playing through the main campaign with friends.
Conflict Global Storm does a lot well, but irritates in equal measure. Pivotal Games' inability to create intelligent enemies negates so much of what they have done really well. If you're a fan of the previous games (and considering how well this series sells, there are a lot of you out there) none of this will be new to you, and you'll enjoy what is easily the best game in the series. For everyone else, the single-player campaign is a frustrating one, made significantly more enjoyable when played cooperatively.