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Delta Force: Black Hawk Down

Requirements:
  • Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
  • Pentium 3 733Mhz or greater with 256MB RAM
  • DirectX compatible 32MB video accelerator or greater
  • DirectX compatible sound card and 4x CD-ROM drive
  • 750MB hard disk space

  • Official website: http://www.novalogic.com/games/DFBHD/

From late 1970, Somali dictator Siad Barre maintained an increasingly authoritarian regime in Somalia, Eastern Africa. Up until his removal from power in 1991, thousands of civilians died under this regime, and Somali clans were forced to declare independance to prevent further persecution from the government. A campaign by Barre to play these Somali clans against each other was to follow, all designed to keep himself in power. Since the United States had been providing arms to Somalia since the early 70's in exchange for a military presence nearby, they felt obliged to intervene in a humanitarian capacity in 1992, after Siad Barre's overthrow. November 1992 saw the arrival of 30,000 U.S. troops, the majority of which were Army Rangers and marines, to assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid deliveries that were being intercepted by armed Somali militia.

This is where you step in; as an Army Ranger operating in Somalia during the height of the conflict in the early 90's, you are ordered on varying missions across the country to assault (and at times rescue and/or capture), defend, and perform reconnaissance duties. At your disposal are weapons to fill every requirement and vehicles to infiltrate and evacuate you and your squad.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is no doubt influenced by the movie of the same name, a film that portrayed the real conditions that the soldiers dealt with every mission. Needless to say, the game is not this brutal, but there is an adjustable level of violence available. Nothing more than a spray of blood is visible at the highest setting, and as for friendly fire and civilian casualties, you are punished for inducing both. It's not easy distinguishing between civilian and militia, but these were the exact problems that the Rangers faced in Mogadishu and the surrounding towns.

More difficult that it looks
Playing with fireworks
I love that detail on the rifle!

Black Hawk Down (abbreviated from now on as BHD) doesn't totally fail to deliver in immersiveness, although at times it does feel as though you're in a city all by yourself. When combat dropping into a hostile situation it can be quite harrowing as you dash for cover and search for viable targets, but once everything's calmed down, it all seems eerily quiet. Granted the enemy is plenty and suitably poorly trained, but I was expecting more. I can't explain it well without showing you, but urban missions are a little lacking in atmosphere.

However, the attention to detail makes up for that. The built up areas are exactly as you would expect - run down, sand-colured buildings with craters, burning oil drums and worn-out vehicles just waiting to fall apart from rust. Sparse foilage and minimal cover forces you to seek shelter in alleyways and behind trucks, forcing you to use those ever-useful lean keys. Urban combat in BHD is enjoyable and to a certain level, quite realistic.

Missions that take place in the outskirts of the city and surrounding towns are reminiscent of previous Delta Force games, where you could pick off a target 700 metres away with an assault rifle and no zoom. This has thankfully been adjusted, and with the improved graphics (the Commanche 4 engine, no less) it's now almost impossible to conduct long range battles without a sniper rifle.

This takes us nicely onto the weapons, and what a lovely selection there is! If your thing is close combat then a simple M16 will do nicely. Want an M203 attachment? No problem! If like me you prefer to eliminate from a distance, then an M24 Magnum or a Barrett .50 BMG (yes, the anti-tank rifle) should be your weapon of choice. To compliment these there are a few secondary weapons, including a Colt, Beretta and a standard shotgun. To round things off, AT4 anti-tank rockets, satchel charges and claymore mines are available for those tougher targets, along with grenades for those 'round the corner' moments. All in all, a fairly devastating arsenal is at your disposal. Using them correctly and in accordance with the rules of engagement however, is up to you entirely. I warn you, too many friendly casualties and you're back to base for another try. I expected a little more than a "mission failed" screen after killing innocents; perhaps America's Army has rubbed off on me.

Small, but powerful
All is quiet..
Air support, Blackhawk style

As for the graphics, sound and feel of the game, they all live up to my standards for this genre. The graphics are scalable (visible in the screenshots if you compare a few), the sound is high quality and WDM 5.1 compatible, making the sound of a near-miss by a rocket-propelled grenade all the more alarming. The feel of the game, perhaps the most important aspect in my opinion, is just right. The controls are totally customisable and the layout of the menu system for the above is so simple it makes configuration a matter of seconds rather than minutes. The physics in-game all feel about right, and your trooper doesn't feel sluggish or Doom 2 style quick, he's a human, and he'll let you know it when you waltz into the sights of a somali machinegun nest.

Overall, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is an improvement in the Delta Force series of games, not only in looks but also in feel and immersion. While not perfect, it does go a long way to convey what it was like to be in Somalia during the humanitarian crisis of the early 90's. It's up to you in the majority of missions to make the difference - the A.I. is only there to cover your back, which gives you a lot to do. With the only criminal omission being the lack of multiplayer cooperative support, Black Hawk Down will entertain you for quite a while.