Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Terrorist Takedown 2 Review

Terrorist Takedown 2, developed and published by City Interactive on Gamer’s Gate.
The Good: Varied weaponry, in-game multiplayer browser
The Not So Good: Very difficult on normal settings, dumb heavily scripted AI, short single player campaign, standard multiplayer options with poorly placed spawn points and only three maps, mediocre voice acting
What say you? The very definition of a generic budget first person shooter: 4/8

Remember that whole Bin Laden thing? Yeah, me neither. But the one thing it did do was put a new face on the Enemy of America: replacing the Nazis of games past is the generic Middle Eastern terrorist. Ah yes, those wacky terrorists with their wacky AK-47s and wacky car bombs. Somebody has to take down those terrorists, and that’s the premise behind the appropriately-named Terrorist Takedown 2. Did you even know there was a Terrorist Takedown 1? This time around plays quite differently than before: a more traditional first person shooter rather than being restricted to vehicles or turrets. At least that’s what I can gather from reading some reviews, since I certainly did not play the original when it came out almost four years ago. This is another one of those F.E.A.R.-like Jupiter EX engine games, and it seems that City Interactive wants to milk every penny out of their purchased license (see Code of Honor 2).

Terrorist Takedown 2 makes good use out of the Jupiter EX engine, unlike some games of the recent past. The character models, especially the main characters, are detailed and look semi-realistic, although the rag doll physics result in a lot of crazy poses (especially when other objects are involved). The environments look like a stereotypical Middle Eastern setting: the outdoor urban areas benefit from a lot more interesting detail, but indoor areas are generic (though filled with some furniture) and rural areas are poor. The game would look a whole lot better if it weren’t for insanely dark shadows that populate the maps: it is difficult to see much of anything in an obstructed location as the transition between lightened and darkened areas is too drastic. The weapon models are poor with a very low level of detail on several of the weapons as seen in the first person view (where you will be spending almost all of the game). The weapon sound effects are eerily similar to F.E.A.R., which is a good thing: shell casings hit the ground and the weapons have a satisfying level of power behind them. Terrorist Takedown 2 has generally poor voice acting, especially for the natives, and I find the music to be bordering on offensive (it incorporates Arabian phrases and stereotypical music). In all, Terrorist Takedown 2 is a mixed bag both visually and aurally.

As with most budget first person shooters, Terrorist Takedown 2 is light on the features. The single player campaign only consists of seven missions of about twenty to thirty minutes each. Thanks to completely linear design and heavily scripted (and non-random) AI, playing through it again is unnecessary. The objectives almost consist entirely of “get here and shoot everything along the way:” not very exciting. The campaign certainly has the potential to be interesting, but the lack of objective variety and close parallels to higher-quality games hurts Terrorist Takedown 2. The maps occasionally have confusing layouts with frequent dead ends; although the objectives on the minimap try to point you in the right direction, the confusing maps sometimes get in the way of expeditious travel. The linear level designs also leave no room for tactical decisions, as there is only one way to go. Add in some backtracking with enemies that magically spawn in areas you’ve already cleared and you get a less than fulfilling single player experience. Luckily, Terrorist Takedown 2 frequently saves your progress as death is a common occurrence.

On the multiplayer front, games are easy to join through the browser and you can choose from many different loadouts based on the weapons used by various countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spanish, America, and even the mercenaries and terrorists. Sadly, it’s all downhill from here as Terrorist Takedown 2 only has three (three!!) small maps to play on and the spawn points are horribly placed. You will commonly spawn right next to an enemy and live approximately two to three seconds. Fun. As with Code of Honor 2, you're just better off playing F.E.A.R. Combat for free.

Terrorist Takedown 2 alternates between fantasy and reality. While you can only receive two or three direct hits before dying, your health magically regenerates over time if you stand still (the wonders of modern science!). In most of the levels you are completely (some would say unfairly) outnumbered and the enemies are placed by the scenario designers in sneaky locations where it’s hard to see them until they kill you and you have to reload your game. Luckily, they will be in exactly the same spot next time (and come out at the same time when you cross an invisible trigger point) so the game is much easier the second time around. It’s a good thing that the enemies are placed in tricky locations, as when left out in the open they are hopelessly dumb. The tried-and-true strategy of running right towards your opponent is in full force here. It’s too bad that Terrorist Takedown 2 couldn’t get the quality AI from F.E.A.R. in addition to the graphics engine. The AI enemies can also receive a lot more hits than you can before dying, making enemy confrontations even more frustrating. This is doubly frustrating because you’ll have to use a lot of ammunition and you will frequently not rearm between missions. You can carry up to four weapons at a time, but if one weapon runs out of ammo, you cannot replace it with another since you can’t select it once it has run out of ammo. Nice. While you would think a good amount of ammunition would be available from all of the enemies you kill, finding it is hit-or-miss.

Terrorist Takedown 2 suffers from the same limitations as Code of Honor 2: it’s a slightly modified version of F.E.A.R. and you’re just better off paying the same (or less) money for that title. We do get a lot of weapons, but the fun stops there. Multiplayer is bare with only three maps and it’s far less interesting than what is already freely available thanks to poorly placed spawn points. The campaign is short and doesn’t offer much objective variety to keep you interested. Terrorist Takedown 2 doesn’t know if it wants to be realistic or arcade: you can take a reasonable amount of damage before dying, but health regenerates over time and your opponents are significantly sturdier than you are. The stupid AI that pops out in the same places each game is simply cannon fodder rather than a formidable opponent. Inconsistent graphics and poor sound design round out the disappointing package. While I may be focusing too much on the shortcomings for a game that is only $20, if you are a fan of first person shooters, you’ve done all this before in a better game, so there is really no reason to get Terrorist Takedown 2 unless price is an issue. A good campaign might have saved Terrorist Takedown 2, but the heavily scripted missions and unexciting objectives ruin what might have been.