Novalogic's Delta Force was originally one of the foremost tactical shooter series in computer gaming. However, if last year's Task Force Dagger is any indication, the series is in decline. The newest game in the series, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, focuses on the UN intervention in Somalia in the 1990s, as portrayed in the popular novel and motion picture Black Hawk Down. The new Delta Force game makes some improvements to the series, but it's difficult to take seriously, especially considering some of the game's action sequences, which resemble old arcade games more than they do actual military operations.
One of Black Hawk Down's massive environments.
You'll wish that Black Hawk Down's gameplay were as dramatic as its visuals sometimes are.
Anyone looking for a realistic military simulation will be very disappointed with Black Hawk Down. But if you're looking for a simple, old-fashioned shooter, you may enjoy parts of it, assuming you can put up with some major problems. The single-player mission goals often seem contrived or repetitive, and the campaign as a whole seems disjointed and amateurish. It's poorly balanced too--most missions are far too easy, but a few require endless and endlessly frustrating retries. The missions are also unoriginal. Understandably, they lift ideas from the Black Hawk Down book and film, but without doing them any justice. One mission even attempts, however poorly, to re-create the Omaha Beach landing sequence from Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, of all things.
Still, Black Hawk Down at least tries to immerse you in the action and actually does a half-decent job of making you feel like you're in the middle of a war zone. Amid the mass starvation and clan fighting, you'll need to make your way through poverty-stricken towns filled with innocent civilians and gun-toting thugs alike. Some agitated civilians even hurl rocks and shout at you to leave them alone. The missions at least have some superficial variety, since you'll have to complete objectives like securing weapons caches, assaulting strongholds in towns, destroying bridges, and taking part in the climactic fighting of the Battle of Mogadishu--but once you actually play through them, you'll find that the missions are either too easy or too frustrating.
However, Black Hawk Down does look much better than any previous Delta Force game. Though it's no Unreal Tournament 2003, and it has some bizarre polygon clipping problems, Black Hawk Down does have very good outdoor lighting and good environments. Somali towns look believably run down, since they're full of rusted tin roofs, shattered windows, and other signs of damage and dilapidation. Bodies of water look impressive, reflecting the sun and frothing under helicopter prop wash. At times, Black Hawk Down's presentation actually excels, especially depicting chaotic combat in huge outdoor areas. Bullets kick up sand and tear leaves off palm trees, and vehicles erupt in brilliant explosions. Black Hawk helicopters come roaring in low, throwing up a cloud of dust and causing the trees to sway, while their minigun bullets spark off metal roofs. Also, the game's vehicles and weapons look decent enough, though the game's character models and animations could have used a lot more work. The Somalis look like armed circus performers, as they die a variety of comically acrobatic deaths.