First let me start out by saying that I'm not a Counter-Strike player, but I am a Quake3 and now Urban Terror player, so some of my views may be biased to the game types and styles that I'm used to.

I saw the announcement over at the Shack that this "navy seals" thing was coming out.... checking out the screen shots it looked very cool. It, like Urban Terror, is a total conversion of Quake III Arena into a modern and realistic game where the player can play as a Navy Seal or "Tango" and fight it out First Person Shooter style. It looked similar to UT, but... different, which is what I was looking for. Different weapons, models, and maps you know? After a wait, and a download of a 189mb .zip file, I finally got it all installed and going. A known issue is the "com_hunkmem" setting, which I set to 512 and restarted, as per many discussions in the forum and IRC channel.

First the good....

The game is nice looking. The interface is slick, with every aspect of the non-gameplay part of the game re-done (menus, options, intro movie, etc). The interface is mostly intuitive, and similar in layout and idea to that of UT. The "training" menu option on the main page is not working though, which is unfortunate. The player models and weapons are nice as well, definitely up to snuff both visually and audibly. Model animations get high marks as well. Climbing, shooting, dying, crouching, all look very good, even better than UT. A couple of times the shorter weapons didn't match up with the model arms, and it looked like the player was carrying the weapon in his back hand, and the other hand was out in front of the weapon, holding a non-existent longer barrel.

One un-anticipated, but great feature was when you get hit and injured, you not only feel it but see it as well. Your speed and movement are affected as expected, but so is your vision! You vision will dim, or it will just go "wonky" as if you were drunk from some wh00p-ass Rum on Fire. When you bandage, the attributes get better in turn, but are never returned to original. Very cool.

There is also objective based gameplay (but only, but more on that below), so it's no longer a simple matter of "kill everyone that's on the other team" or "grab a flag". The missions range from finding/keeping briefcases, holding an area, and others. A nice change.

Now the bad...

The main thing that bothered me is not so much to do with the game, but the game architecture. One of the reasons that I don't like Counter-Strike is it's not just a frag-fest. UT gives me a nice median between the fast paced and non-realistic Quake3, and something ultra-realistic but slow, Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six. The fact that I can't play CS on my Linux system sucks as well :) I did play a bit of it however, and the one thing that I didn't like was that a good round gives you money to get better weapons. As Engel or Fozbaca pointed out, this means that a bad round basically means "sux0rs to be you, the guys that are owning j00 are going to get more and better weapons now".

NS doesn't use the CS money system. They use the NS experience point system. You start out with 10 XP or so and can distribute it between different attributes.

After each round you get a number of XP to distribute between these attributes. To get additions to your weapons (silencer, grenade launcher, and so on) you have to have enough XP in a particular category to use it. For example, you have to have more than 6 XP in stealth or you can't choose the silencer.

So they don't use the CS money system.... no, really, they don't, not at all.

The other thing that bugged me, actually probably the most annoying thing actually, is that when you're dead, you're dead and stay in spectator mode until the round is over. And with the objective based rounds lasting about 2-3 minutes, you sit there following your team mates around or re-fitting your player for a while. Too long to be exact. Way. Too. Long. When I play online games I want to play. I don't want to sit around and watch other people play and twiddle my thumbs. Also, you don't get your XP until the end of the round, so you can't even distributed it around and re-fit yourself.

I understand why this was done, because if real life when you're dead, you're dead. And as this game is training the killers of tomorrow (*duck*) it is realistic. However, IMO gameplay suffers.

Bots aren't working yet either. This completely sux0rs because you can't start up a game on a local system and just run around the maps or experiment with the weapons. The game is set up to need a certain number of players to start, so the map just sits there saying "waiting for players." Experimenting and running around is something that you don't want to do online, with people shooting at you. Combine this with the complaints about sitting in spectator mode for 2-3 min due to being shot because I got capped in the noggin by a stray round, and this leads to a very frustrating game.

There are Objective based games and Deathmatch games that you can choose, but from what I've heard and can see, the DM option isn't actually there. Of course, as I can't add bots, so I can't really tell.

One final point against Navy SEALs - Covert Operations (which is a beta 1 remember) is that when you join a server you're a spectator, and when a new round starts you have to hit the player->join team option really fast, or you'll be stuck (you guessed it), in spectator mode. Easy to get around once you realize this, but something to frustrate new users.

Conclusion

This game gets a 5 out of 10.... visually appealing, but the gameplay aspects, at least for this UT guy (who likes jumping into a realistic environment but still being able to run around and kill things), are too much. I do plan to play this at work on the LAN with the rest of the guys, but I don't see this replacing UT for me any time soon. I definitely will be watching this game though, and if they break away from the CS model a little, and fix a few of the problems, I do see myself playing this more.


Update
After some extensive erhm..... "testing" over the weekend, I have changed my mind. I'll give this a 7/10 instead of 5/10, as with play the game becomes addictive. The lack of a respawn until the end of a round, and non-working bots that prevent you from just running around the maps on your own are still a PITA, but you can get used to them. Some of the weapon options were what won me over though, the ability to outfit your guns with (some of) silencer, scope, under-mounted grenade launcher, bayonette, and laser sight. The ability not to be able to identify friend or foe is also more "real" for those who want that side of it. A person has to come close before the screen will pop up "mate: bob" or "enemy", or you can tell by seeing what they are dressed in (seals have backpacks, tangos do not) or their weapon. Tracer fire rocks as well.

The other thing I really like was the realism of needing to sneak around and work as a team, because no one wants to sit and wait for a respawn :) Seeing a team of 4 or 5 guys slowing working through an area, watching each others backs, talking to each other (lots of chatter via hotkeys is good), was very cool to participate in.

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