It doesn't bode well for any title when its reviewed hot off the heels of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. What game wouldn't look like hamburger compared to that sumptuous steak? But that's the nature of the reviewing biz, to wipe the slate clean and jump into the next game without any preconceived notions. Such is the case with Combat: Task Force 121, a budget-priced first-person shooter from Groove Games and developer Direct Action. So gear up soldier, the briefing is about to begin.
Combat: Task Force 121 is a military-themed first-person shooter where you take on the role of a member of Task Force 121, a covert unit comprised of Navy Seals, Green Berets and other military personnel. Over the course of the 10-mission single player campaign, you'll be tasked to rescue hostages, defuse bombs and generally thwart Marxist Rebels, but basically the missions boil down to such menial tasks as retrieving keys, security cards and other like-minded fetch quests in order to complete the objectives. The missions are extremely brief and sport ridiculous codenames, like "Operation Burning Justice" and "Operation Crazed Liberty."
The generic campaign is unaided by a meager selection of weaponry, not to mention poor weapon balance. There's a pistol, a shotgun, a couple of assault rifles, a machinegun and a sniper rifle. While the shotgun is a one-shot kill weapon, the assault rifle is oddly ineffective, often taking several shots before a target goes down. The sniper rifle gathers dust since there's hardly an opportunity to perch and pick-off an enemy from long range. There are also a few secondary items, including a combat knife, but you'll rarely get close enough to an enemy to use it before they spot you and open fire. Stealth is not this game's forte. And while the enemy AI is decent, it seems wasted on an otherwise lazy single player experience.
When you're done with the single player campaign, and believe me that won't be too long, a more complete multiplayer experience awaits. On- or off-line, there are 8 competitive game types to choose from, including Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and VIP Escort. Up to 16 players can choose from 5 classes, such as Soldier, Heavy Weapons and Demolitions, each equipped with different weapons. Unfortunately, this means the weapon balance issue once again rears its ugly head. The shotgun-wielding Close Quarters class has a distinct advantage in terms of weaponry while the Sniper class is relatively useless due to the cramped level design.
Combat: Task Force 121 is powered by Unreal technology, which is to say the graphics are serviceable. Simple textures give the levels a muddy look to them. There are only a handful of character skins, none of which look all that remarkable, and the character animations are jerky. There are no cutscnes to advance the storyline and even the briefing sessions lack visual appeal. Aurally, the game fairs a little better. More use of ambient noise would have helped create a tenser atmosphere but the weapon sounds are realistic and the dialogue is well-voiced.
There are plenty of good value-priced games available, Combat: Task Force 121 just isn't one of them. Simply put, it lacks innovation. The developers seemed satisfied creating a generic shooter with the most rudimentary gameplay. Unless you're new to the genre and are looking for a game that is neither too difficult nor too complicated, you're better off checking out any number of other first-person shooters on a console rich with choices. Dismissed.