|Delta Force: Black Hawk Down|
May 7, 2004 | Michael Yanovich
When you stop and consider the sheer amount of first-person shooters available on the Mac platform, there seems to be one common thread on an otherwise varied genre: most FPS games have serious problems with reality. Well, at least with present reality.
Let’s see. You can travel back in time a half century and assume the role of a WWII soldier in about four or five titles. Unreal and Quake III are competing for the futuristic SciFi reign. DOOM’s covering monsters, and between James Bond, NOLF and XIII the kitsch spy angle is well represented. Even Max Payne is torn between classic noir and a touch of time manipulation.
Notably absent are present day weapons and modern scenarios. The Vietnam war is just starting to pop its head into games on the PC side, but for anything remotely resembling a SWAT team or Gulf War unit, most Mac users have to resort to Mods for the Unreal engine.
Well, OK, there’s America's Army and the Tom Clancy series, too, but they tend to cross into first person tactical territory more than straight shooters. It’s a subtle but noticeable difference in gameplay styles.
Coming to fill up that realistic-but-still-a-shooter-in-the-present-world void is Aspyr’s latest FPS entry, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, a game based on a real-life incident that occurred in Somalia in 1993. Sure, it was 11 years ago now, but the ramifications are as current as events get. There’s a very clear relationship between the events in 1993 and the September 11th attacks on U.S. soil, so be prepared to swallow a dose of reality and relive the largest firefight American troops had been in since Vietnam (at least up till that time).
How big was the firefight? 19 American soldiers killed, over 1000 Somalis killed. That’s right... a stunning ratio of 50:1. All that because U.S. troops were sent in to capture a Somali warlord with ties to terrorism.
And by the way, in the game? You’re on the side that’s heavily outnumbered.
BackgroundFirst things first. The main incident the game is based on really happened. It’s fascinating history. There’s an amazing book written about the incident, and the book was even turned into a movie by Ridley Scott. But other than being based on the same incident, the game has nothing to do with the book or film. There are no tie-ins, no big name actors, no movie clips. Just lots and lots of action. In fact, the events in the game’s storyline start months before the incident when the two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. You arrive as part of a peacekeeping force intent on delivering supplies to refugees, and the carnage doesn’t end for another 15 missions, some of them factually based, others purely fictitious. (There are strong rumors of a secret 16th mission if you make it through the rest of the game.)
What makes this game stand out from the rest of the crowd is the combination of realism and modern weapons. There hasn’t been a particularly huge change in M16’s in the past decade, for example. Also, there are no powerups or adrenaline charges laying around for instant health or superspeed. You are but flesh and blood, and just a handful of well placed bullets will have you scrambling for the “restart mission” button.
What’s that? Not challenging enough? Okay, how about this then: no uniforms. Well, you and your teammates are clearly designated as living targets by your snazzy military outfits, so the badguys definitely know who to shoot at. But your enemies will be dressed in their daily street clothes, and they’ll be shooting at you while surrounded by unarmed civilians who are attired in a very similar manner. Take too many civilians out with the baddies and it’s game over.
And lastly, there’s the issue of the infamous motto: “Leave no man behind.” If one of your teammates takes too much damage, a medic will be flown in via chopper to your location. Until he arrives to take your wounded comrade back to safety, it’s up to you and the rest of your team to stay put and protect him. Can you say, “sitting, heavily-armed duck?”