Trying to bring Contra into 3-D doesn’t work. It’s not a style of game that is easily transferred. That didn’t prevent Torus games from loosely trying to mimic a classic in Operation Shadow, a far too typical 3rd-person action title.
Using the standard one-man army shtick, players control the muscle bound hero taking on a border war single handedly. Using a standard array of weapons, the on-foot sections offer precise control and simplistic action. Targeting is automatic, not to mention generous. Shooting in the general area of an object or enemy should be enough. This large hit radius keeps things from becoming too frustrating since the available control setup on the handheld doesn’t allow for manual aiming.
Unfortunately, the in-vehicle portions are rough. With the exception of the helicopter, these clunky vehicles are tough to maneuver. The vertical nature of the screen and ridiculous size of the models makes viewing upcoming hazards difficult to spot.
The game is obviously developed with the N-Gage in mind (as well it should be since it’s exclusive) as the linear levels offer gameplay buried inside valleys. This works well for the console since rarely are there hazards or enemies spread out across the map. It’s all straight ahead and in-line with the screen. However, it confines the game too, and it leads to generic, uninteresting, and flat out boring gameplay.
Things seem decent at first. Running around taking out stationary soldiers seems fine for a game played in short bursts. Mission objectives usually revolve around destroying things in the semi-destructible environments, and taking down these objects is rarely fun. The intuitive controls use both the 4 and 6 keys for strafing (5 fires a weapon). Taking down anything involves strafing and shooting. Operation Shadow rarely deviates from this basic style of play.
Graphics pose a problem too. Instead of everything sapping the console’s 3-D capabilities from a distance, objects appear as chunky, pixilated sprites before the player reaches them. That distance is far too close, and the sprite-based objects are impossible to decipher. This could make the difference between targeting a mission objective or a cactus (yes, it’s that bad).
There’s little doubt Operation Shadow tries, but it’s too limiting. Each level feels the same, and dying at any point in a mission means you’ll be sent all the way back to the start. If it wasn’t repetitive before, it will be once you find yourself trapped in a section you can’t get past. Operation Shadow isn’t good enough to warrant the replaying of any of its missions.
Operation Shadow is a rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Violence and Mild Language.
(** out of *****)