Pivotal Games' Conflict series has been gracing our screens since 2002, when the first game, Desert Storm, exploded on PlayStation 2 with its popular mix of third-person team-based action and an emphasis on slightly skewed realism. Six years later and Pivotal has decided it's time for a little... squad shake-up.
Operation Subtlety: denied
Conflict: Denied Ops reduces the four-man line-up typical of the series to date into a team of two; agents Lincoln Graves and Reggie Lang. As members of a clandestine paramilitary unit within the CIA, it's their job to perform covert operations deep within enemy lines through use of guerrilla warfare, demolition and more. They carry nothing that would associate them with the CIA or the United States - in essence, if they get captured their existence is officially denied. Hence the title.
The paring down of four to two isn't the only big change, either. Now the game is seen from a first-person viewpoint rather than the series default of third-person, with the aim of putting you right in the action - and there's certainly a lot of action to be had.
While the mission objectives you're given sometimes rely on discretion, there's a lot more gung-ho firefights in Denied Ops compared to former Conflict games, with the realism dialled down a fair bit. Guns, explosions and adult language abound.
All these alterations to the series are designed to change Conflict from something of a modern day Saving Private Ryan analogue into something that would probably be more at home under the helm of film directors Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer - slam-bang-wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am carnage.
To compliment this change in design, Pivotal Games has ensured you get the most out of all this increased gunplay. Outdoor areas are large and expansive allowing for hugely dynamic battles where vehicles such as tanks and hovercrafts can be used to full effect. Mounted guns are an entertaining inclusion, and the mass of destructible scenery means most of this devastation has a visible effect on more than just the multitude of enemies imbued with ragdoll physics.
Naturally, the game has a number of set pieces to really ratchet up the combat. During the missions across locales such as South America, Africa and Siberia you'll sneak up on a bunch of undisciplined guards blasting cans around a campfire out of boredom, watch choppers rocket each other out of the air while you storm past in a tank, and escape a complex with armed prisoners, shooting exploding gas canisters and enemies rappelling down from the ceiling. It's all very Hollywood.
The conflict of co-operation
The ability to hot swap between Graves and Lang effectively gives you two different ways to play, as the former totes a sniper rifle for discretion while the latter's machine gun brings with it a large degree of noise - although regardless of who you choose there's always the option to order your computer controlled partner around.
However, should you have a friend to hand (either on or offline) then you can tackle terrorists co-operatively, which is where Conflict: Denied Ops shines. Its immediacy means anyone can join in without feeling intimidated by the controls or set-up, and there's a lot of fun to be had when two of you are dashing around blowing chunks from the environment and taking down a deluge of bad men shouting bad things at you.
Conflict: Denied Ops offers a nice change from the series' expected dynamics, differing enough to be an action packed accompaniment to the more tactics driven prequels, especially when you take into account the deathmatch mode for up to 16 players. Line it up in your sights and give it a shot.