New World Order is the sort of game that reminds you to read reviews, play demos, ask your friends, check message boards, and force freckly bastard Virgin Megastore employees to take polygraph tests before you hand over your money. For that, and for that alone, it must be applauded.
Blow me up. Now.
From the very first line of the manual (which begins "In th enear future") to the very last level of the game (which cannot be completed for various reasons), New World Order is a total farce. You play this chap called Dobbs, part of the Global Assault Team - a poor man's Rainbow Six - who travels the world from one drearily decorated, uniformly overcast location to the next, unloading the free world's justice upon unsuspecting terrorists. But despite claiming to be a squad-based tactical shooter, Dobbs' only contact with his team is this commanding officer chap, who dispenses orders in an eerily abandoned base of operations before each mission.
Once in the field, Dobbs (or Parker, as the game occasionally claims) is forced to take on about a dozen enemies who can see through walls and whose secret weapon is the ability to hinder your machine's performance whatever the spec. Unfortunately all of Dobbs' weapons are jammed on full auto and sound like spud guns, and it's virtually impossible to advance without dying horribly before getting anywhere near the end of the level. As you might imagine, the developer hasn't included mid-game saves (not even rationed, Black Hawk Down-style), and doesn't let you interrupt reload animations to select other weapons when startled, but the good news is that you needn't bother accumulating intelligence documents or rescuing hostages, because none of these objectives apparently affect the mission outcome: the brass is quite happy enough if you just obliterate everybody.
In-between listening to anguished terrorist screams of "Take him down!" (whatever part of Eastern Europe he's infiltrating), Dobbs is free to admire his mediocre surroundings, from the badly aligned textures on most buildings and the pre-Quake 2 lighting effects, to the low-poly enemy models, the way they all lie dead facing in the same direction and the rather worrying way their blood seeps away like that black alien goop in The X-Files.
Uninstall or Exorcism?
There are some good ideas, but they're all badly implemented. You can only pick certain weapons between missions, and the quality of your arsenal depends on your rank, but once you've advanced beyond level two or three you can pick up pretty much anything you want. And, cleverly, the game forces you to think about how much your arsenal weighs, slowing you down in the field if you're carrying a lot of kit. And you'll have to think, because the game doesn't tell you how close you are to the 10kg limit. Then again, with the framerate leaping around like a startled wallaby with a coke addiction, you won't really notice the difference between a satchel full of Kalashnikovs and a couple of side arms anyway.
All the weapons seem pretty rubbish though, spewing bullets off-target as if Dobbs never made it through basic training, let alone through a spell in the Navy SEALs, and this counter-terrorist never bothers to pick up an enemy rifle if he already has one anyway, so when you're really low on ammo the best thing to do is empty the last remaining rounds and pick up another gun.
Of course New World Order's real attraction is supposedly its Counter-Strike-inspired multiplayer mode, which features familiar team deathmatch, bomb disposal and hostage rescue missions. Sadly the maps are all pretty basic, and we never found more than a couple of people playing the game online anyway - when we did, they seemed pretty surprised to see us, perhaps because the net code only favours those with direct Internet backbone connections. Some people have commented that NWO may mature with subsequent patches like CS did, but we doubt that.
To top it all off, the single player game (which is pretty much the only viable option in the absence of any online competition) can be wrapped up in less time than it takes my Gran to drive from Milton Keynes to York. About five hours. And it would have been over quicker if the AI couldn't see through walls, and my supposedly chipper gaming rig (1.8GHz Athlon XP, Radeon 9700 Pro, etc) hadn't been coughing its lungs up over the task of rendering each enemy encounter.
As we said at the outset, New World Order is horrendously bad. It makes you realise how spoilt we are with modern masterpieces like Raven Shield, which combine realistic counter-terrorism with addictive gameplay and produce enjoyable scenarios for single and multiple players. If you want to pretend you're fighting the war on terror, then buy that. Or download Counter-Strike. Whatever you do, don't buy New World Order.