Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops

Secrets and lights.

The year is 2025. As Hideo Kojima would say, war has changed. It's no longer about nations, ideologies or ethnicity... Well, actually it probably is still about those things - Shadow Harvest developer Black Lion hasn't explained exactly what's going on with the story yet, so we're not sure - but one thing is certain: war is still about crouching behind walls and firing at people over the top of them.

Crouchers-in-chief this time are Aron Alvarez and Myra Lee, operatives with US "military intervention unit" the ISA. They're on the trail of an evil dictator in the continually war-torn Somalian capital of Mogadishu - and on that trail they encounter a lot of concrete blocks and low walls to crouch behind using the game's third-person cover system.

Aron is the usual blunt instrument. He's got an assault rifle and he can attach explosives to walls to blow them out of the way. He also likes blowing up explosive barrels (yes, they're still helpfully positioned next to enemies in 2025), which often then precipitate the collapse of nearby structures that tumble dustily and realistically into the street.

Myra's the stealth option. She has a Predator-style cloaking shield, which she can use for as long as she has shield energy indicated on the HUD, dashing through mazes of shelving units past bad guys who hear her footsteps but can't catch sight of her. She also has one-hit-kill darts in a small crossbow, a retractable BloodRayne-style metal knife on one of her wrist-straps for close-up kills, and a range of other quiet skills like lock-picking and climbing.

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This is not an official way to fly a helicopter.

At the start of the game Aron is heading out into Mogadishu with local rebels when his convoy is ambushed and he has to fight through the streets to reach his destination. He soon runs into Myra and they join forces.

Across the 10-hour campaign some levels will focus on Aron's bulldozing military muscle, while others opt for Myra's lighter touch. Black Lion says the dialogue (none of which we hear, sadly) will be a bit like a buddy cop movie. Hopefully not Cop Out.

There are other levels where you can switch between the two characters at will, giving you the broadest possible range of options for any situation. For example, when pinned down by snipers and their telltale laser sights, Aron can do some crouching behind walls and try to pick them off out of cover, or Myra can use her darts from distance. But it's also possible to equip the cloak and scamper over the open ground, work your way up to the snipers' vantage points and snap their necks.

The game is ostensibly linear but Black Lion tells us the environments will generally offer a few routes around particular set-piece battles. At one point Aron's rebel friends are under fire from an M60 on top of a personnel carrier, so he blasts his way through a building and exits behind them, where he's able to shoot them happily in the back. Elsewhere, tanks threaten to pin him down until he works his way to a rooftop to retrieve one of the locals' spare RPG tubes.

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