Thursday, 1 May 2003

Archive Review: Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising

(PC Review)

It has been a while since I last slapped on the face paint, jumped into a pair of magnum boots, and went paint balling. In fact, I've only been once. But one thing I have done to a level that surely slots me into the "veteran" category is multiplayer gaming, and virtually all of my early days on the e-battlefield were taken up in the classic Novalogic title of 1998, Delta Force.

Since then there were the infamous tours of Delta Force 2, where the first ever attempt at long grass as a 3d landscape feature was implemented. I enjoyed both these games online. I will go as far as to say that I have never played any multiplayer game since that had me so hooked and so eager to get the kill. Of course many giants hit the scene post these titles. We had the glory days of Counter Strike for instance and the giant that is Battlefield 1942 - and all it's mods and minions. I have enjoyed these immensely, still playing them on the odd occasion but not as much as I initially did upon their releases. A part of me just never left Novaworld and it's officially hosted game servers of anything up to 50 players.

I guess I missed the grass, the open landscape and the green face paint. I missed my Barrette 50. sniper rifle and my l33t ability to get headshots at 1200 metres (or was that fluke?). I missed sniping on a hill far away and having some sneaky player crawl up to me from behind, in the hope of getting a knife kill, only to get blown to bits by my well positioned claymore mine as it covered my rear. My mind still looked back on the days where tracers shot across the sky and you could fire a grenade from your M203 grenade launched high into the sky, wait 30 seconds, and watch as it flies back down and gives you a fatal headache.

Novalogic seemed to have lost it. Land Warrior was nothing special and lacked the edge of the first titles. Then came Black Hawk Down. This was simply a weak game with a bad single player mode due to some pretty odd level design decisions and a real lack of depth for multiplayer - there were only a few maps to play and all the aspects that made the DF titles so cool were absent, such as long range sniping, and large outdoor maps.

Then, suddenly, like a flash from a M82 50. sniper rifle 1200 metres from you, it came... Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising was released. I was swift to try it. I felt like some old pro putting back on the kit for one last time, or was this to be an entirely new war, a fresh chapter? I found my old ghillie suit, a camouflage netting wrapped around your entire body which makes you look like one big moving bush, and blew away the dust from my trusty Barrette 50. I logged into the new and improved Novaworld, Novalogic's unique multiplayer server system, and entered the busiest, largest, server currently on the large list of games.

Enough of the sentimental's. This is Novalogic's latest offering and one which they really have put the effort into. It is an online only first-person shooter based on realistic military combat. I have always digged the simple touches Novalogic throw into games. With Joints Ops, like in previous titles, they throw in a keyboard template that you can put on your keyboard for easy reference to the controls. Once it's all installed and ready you can select to play as an elite soldier from Britain, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, France, Australia or, of course, the US. Each Country has one or more categories of player model to select from, each category based on a specific unit in that Countries armed forces, e.g. for the US the categories include Seals, Delta Force, etc etc - you get me. The other side to this two way battle is the Rebel team, Indonesian rebels to be precise. There are just as many guns and player models to choose from here. It all depends on which is your preference, Ak-47 or M4 assault rifle?

The goal to the game on the most popular game type, attack and secure, is to secure key points on the map; the larger the attacking force, the more quickly the area is converted to your side. But while you’re advancing and securing enemy territory, the enemy is doing the same, leading to a bullet-riddled, high-octane tug-of-war. Again, it's straight out of Battlefield, but Joint Ops does more than a few things differently.

Take the five character classes: engineer, medic, rifleman, sniper and gunner. Each has specific weapons and functions on the battlefield, creating a nice variety of play styles. Snipers, for example, will play a slow, methodical game to take out key opposition and paint targets for air strikes and mortar fire. Engineers man mortars, explosives and essential surface-to-air artillery to take down airborne threats. Medics travel light, zipping around the battlefield answering the call placed by their wounded buddies, while gunners and riflemen get down and dirty using all kinds of guns to take down enemy soldiers and vehicles.

Regardless of your class, the gameplay is very intuitive thanks to the clearly delineated icons and easily accessible world maps. Finding friends and enemies is no hassle at all and you can even customize your GUI to create more or less viewing space. You can also set certain player names to appear certain colours on your map and screen for easy finding and set up your own in-team squad with buddies.

So once you set your name, Country and player model category, it's time to select the guns and gadgets. This game does not disappoint with this aspect. There are a wide range of weapons all categorised into classes. You set your player class and select a gun choice from that class. This is really very well done since it does not restrict in any way for when on the battlefield you can just go to a team armoury and choose any gun you want. Classes are there to help teamwork but do not effect your avatars ability to shoot straight like some RPG - it's simply there to categorise players for the multiplayer gaming.

Joint Ops also expands on Battlefield with its potential for team-play afforded by the Commander system. You’ll find the option to form many smaller squads within your army, and at the click of a button, a request for squad members is sent out to all recruits. If you choose to join you will see new icons placed on the world map that represent your squad members. A squad commander can set waypoints for his squad mates including detailed descriptions at each point. Though it’s essentially a fragfest, if you want to get fancy and try to organize an elite task force, Joint Ops allows it.

It's a jungle out there

You play in huge Novaworld servers, many with up to 150 players in. You fight on huge maps, some 50km2. The graphics in this game are absolutely exceptional. They rival Far Cry in terms of the almost photo realistic landscapes. The real amazing feature here is the way that you actually feel like your in an outdoor environment - not some flat green field without real grass and hills that bend at 90 degrees angles like the rest. The sound is also totally awesome with some of the very best sound effects for gunfire, explosions, bullets whizzing by your head, and everything else I've heard in a game. Add to this the fact that all the magic of the old DF games is not only back, but better than ever, and vehicles. Now we have a large selection of helicopters, armoured land vehicles, boats and buggies to hop around in. For such huge maps these are vital for many reasons such as mobility, teamwork and logistics.

Imagine starting a round with 149 other players on one huge outdoor map, filled with dense grassy fields, rolling hills, caves, rivers and oceans, and all deploying in choppers, boats and trucks. It's not like Battlefield 1942, it's the next level. Ten players get in a truck which is driven by another player into the back of a Chinook chopper with another 15 players in and then this flies onto a huge hovercraft with even more players and vehicles in and suddenly you, along with your entire team (except the spawn campers and laggers) are on the move, heading for action.

I found myself soon remembering the old instincts. I took a quite look at the commanders screen, a big map showing all your teammates and waypoints, and made a move for the high ground away from the action. I soon found myself fighting alongside "GanGSt@_BiaTch KillA" and "Timothy" as we sniped from 500 metres towards the enemy rebels as they charged into the fray. Finally, that feeling was back.

It's hard to explain why this is such a good game, and definitely some of the most fun and excitement you can currently have in an online FPS. You just need to experience it. You need to see the graphics, hear the sounds of war, and realise that Novaworld's 150 player servers are actually reliable, lag free, and sweet-as. There is no single player to this game but this is not a big deal. The original DF games were all about the multiplayer, Novalogic know that. There are co-op maps though that allow you to play in objective-based scenarios with teams of other human players. This is a really good feature and one that I am very glad to see here. Co-op gaming is often overlooked in multiplayer FPS games. It was Raven Shield's best gametype and is a great inclusion here.

I am very excited about this title. With the latest patch there are no big or obvious bugs to it and the Lag factor really is no issue thanks to Novaworld. The game is fun, intense, large-scale, and a challenge. If you like online FPS games this is a must have title. I'll see you in the field, well I will see you that is, your just see a flash... my Barrette 50. again, another headshot :)



+awesome graphics +huge, reliable servers +many weapons/classes to play with +huge maps +downright addictive +co-op mode


-no single player -no free lollipop


Some of the very best of online gaming

by The Critical Alien
© 2003

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