Conflict: Denied Ops
In what is one of the most withering reviews I've read in recent times, Ellie Gibson exposes the unfortunate Conflict: Denied Ops for the lazy, predictable and completely unsuccessful release that it truly is. It's seemingly a victim of a developer's aim to 'reach out' and 'expand its audience' by savagely dumbing down the game's core dynamics, replacing lost content and diminished feature-set with a misjudged attempt at co-op gameplay and a narrative so poor it makes Janet and John look like The Godfather.
Like Army of Two and to a lesser extent Rainbow Six Vegas 2, this is a game that's clearly designed for two players. However, while the other titles generally work fine for solo gamers, Conflict fails abysmally due to an AI system that is fundamentally broken. It's a co-op game that basically forces you to swap between both characters and do all the dirty work yourself because the intelligence of your computer-controlled partner is too inept to give you any kind of meaningful help whatsoever. That's if he's even in the same area as you, as the 'AI' player does have an annoying tendency simply to stand still and do nothing unless given specific instructions to the contrary.
In what has exploded into one of the most competitive genres in the market, Conflict: Denied Ops underperforms in every category, and that is most immediately apparent in the visuals. No Unreal Engine foundations here (for a change); developer Pivotal Games has used its own technology, producing a game that is some way off the pace set by the competition. The graphics basically do the job, but for the most part they're unspectacular, devoid of the eye candy we've come to expect from a premier league first-person shooter. Serviceable, but wholly unremarkable.
To its credit, the game definitely shows some promise in multiplayer mode and is much more enjoyable when you don't have to babysit your vegetative CPU partner. The mechanics of the different missions show that a lot of effort went into designing a game that offers simultaneous challenges far more rewarding when human minds working together overcome them. But gamers have every right to expect a complete package from a full-price release: that means a decent single-player experience, state-of-the-art audio and visuals, and excellent online gameplay. Conflict: Denied Ops simply doesn't compete.
Also, perhaps rather predictably, it's a game whose development has clearly led on Xbox 360, with a substandard PlayStation 3 conversion. The frame-rate takes a noticeable hit, but by and large it gets by. However, there's clear evidence that the visuals have been pared down on PS3, whether you're talking about texture detail or special effects. Anti-aliasing on 360 is replaced on PS3 with an indistinct blur. The fact that I couldn't really care less about this says more about what the two versions of the game sadly have in common - the same disappointing gameplay.
The subpar PS3 performance also extends to the support for 1080p displays. No problems with 360 as per usual thanks to the built-in hardware scaler, but the frame-rate of PS3 Conflict: Denied Ops takes another hit should your XMB be set to 1080p - and that's with no graphical improvement over the 720p game whatsoever. Once again, PS3 owners are better off running their systems at 720p even if they have a 'full HD' display.