To be honest it is a very simple game. There’s no upgrades, perks or item rewards system. As with the single player, there aren’t any fancy visual effects but everything that is present serves a purpose. It is a very functional game. There are typically two kinds of maps; open and urban. Within the official cycles about half the maps were very exposed, leading to plenty snipers as well as locations for your CQB players to fight over. The other half tended to be based within a more urban environment where rooftops were camped but action was mainly fought at close range. Regardless of the map, it was always possible to vary your playing style so those who couldn’t bare to part from their sniper rifle weren’t left disappointed.
The four classes complimented this quite well. The gunner was the king of holding a specific spot with their high fire power and for the more mobile players you had CQB and medics. Medics were the fastest class and of course capabilities to heal and revive team mates but had a more limited weapon choice. Then of course there are snipers, which were great for covering key locations and pinning opponents down. In all there was a great balance of classes and each served a purpose with scope for players to adapt. Gung ho players and the reserved campers were equally catered for.
As for the game modes, it was a little limited. The basics were there; deathmatch, team deathmatch, team king of the hill along with capture the flag. There was also a flagball mode where players fought over one flag in a tug of war manner. Each mode worked very well and provided a solid gameplay style.
There was a very limited supply of weapons and I imagine a lot of modern FPS players would scoff at the selection. However they were pretty well balanced. You had the burst fire rifle, automatic rifle, silenced submachine gun, two machine guns and a small selection of sniper rifles with a couple of pistols and shotgun for side arms. With some classes such as medic this was further selection. Each felt unique and players were able to become comfortable with their weapon of choice.
Unlike many more recent titles, everything is available from the start so you can quickly learn how they feel and become skilled with it. In games such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 you are still unlocking new guns after substantial play time. This does beg the question, how do you familiarise yourself with it? Especially when up against people who’ve had a chance to experiment with all weapons. Getting to grips with a new gun in combat can always be a challenge so providing the full selection from the start reduces this somewhat, but not completely as existing players will have even more playtime with a particular weapon.
Unfortunately in the expansion pack “Team Sabre”, Novalogic added an extremely unbalanced weapon. With the firepower of a machine gun and accuracy at range of a sniper rifle, the G3 quickly became the noob gun. The other two weapons were weaker than their most similar . Personally I think this substantially contribute to my feeling on weapons in games. I like every weapon to be unique with distinct differences between them. Like rock, paper, scissors each weapon should have an advantage over another but lose elsewhere. It should also be easy to identify which suits you the most as experimenting with different weapons usually means dying… lots.
Ah yes, dying. This of course means that you need to respawn and spawning systems can make or break a game. Delta Force: Black Hawk Down does employ any particularly sophisticated devices, but what they do have works well and helps build a solid combat experience. After a few seconds you can respawn at the starting area or you can wait a few seconds more and select one of the “PSPs” (Progressive Spawn Points) within the map. Players can fight over ownership of these spawn points, giving an excellent tactical advantage. Medics are also able to revive dead.
Fans of the Battlefield series will find this spawning system very familiar and whilst it isn’t quite as well done as Bad Company 2, the principles and theory are just as sound and successful. These spawn points provide a focus for combat and allow you get get quickly get back and stuck into the action. It can also lead to high kill counts within games, much higher than any of the competing titles that I’ve played.
Where the game greatly differs from the Battlefield series is the lack of vehicles. Some maps have humvees and/or helicopters going on a set path where players can attach themselves to the minigun or 50cal, but nothing is drivable. Given the level design of the BHD maps, along with the rest of the Delta Force series, vehicles don’t really have a place. With Delta Force: Xtreme (and to some degree Novalogic did try combining the classic Delta Force gameplay with the vehicles to try and keep up with their competitors but it didn’t work. Just because one game employs a feature very well, it doesn’t mean that it can fit into another game of a similar ilk. Level design, class and game modes may require changing and soon you’ll find the game is completely transformed. Not that this is always a bad thing, especially for new IP.
Earlier I mentioned that there were no items to unlock, which I quite liked. There was still a series of ranks, levels and awards to earn and progress through. They didn’t provide any real value other than the sense of achievement and good feeling when the sound effect went off to signal a level up etc. It still provided the replay value and I never felt that I wasn’t being rewarded for my endevours. After all, I was playing a game… its hardly a chore! Personally I think people, both players and designers, put too much emphasis on rewards and giving players goodies for just playing the game. Games, especially FPS titles, should be played for enjoyment, not to progress a character.
The final thing that I wish to cover is probably what made me not just love playing the game but become obsessed with it. I quickly grew to knew many other players and there was friendly banter. Within other games I’ve not really been able to experience this as chat is quickly hidden away. You don’t hear people saying “nice shot” or congratulating each other on levelling up any more. Its a shame. There was plenty of whining as well and as the years grew on the level of cheat accusations and bitching grew. Still the forums and various fan sites still had a good bond.
If a developer is able to facilitate this within their games, encouraging players to interact with one and other, write guides. If players have a sense of belonging within a community, build friendships, join clans and so forth then you can guarentee that they will return and not just to the current game but future titles. Left4Dead seems to be pretty successful here, even if they have very poor clan support. This no doubt is due to their support for community content, which is something BHD also had.
In all, the online action for Delta Force: Black Hawk Down doesn’t have any stand out features. However everything has a strong sense of purpose and works well within the game. I don’t need sophisticated upgrade systems, a massive selection of weapons or every game mode thinkable. Give me a well balanced game that gets the fundamentals spot on that you can play in a variety of styles and I’m happy.
There are a host of frag videos from the Delta Force: Black Hawk Down multiplayer available on the DF:BHD page, or check out the one below.