Elite Forces: Unit 77 DS
There’s a certain smell that, as gamers, we associate with opening a new game for the first time. I’m not quite sure what it is, or if I’m supposed to like it, but damn it all I do like it. It brings back good memories. The first thing I smelt when opening Elite Forces wasn’t that lovely scent. Instead, I caught a strong whiff of generic army related game.
The plot of EF is introduced via a ‘cutscene’ which is essentially just a series of pictures with text on them, and the dodgy delivery is just as poor as the plot itself. Unsurprisingly, there’s a form of terrorist group doing evil things for their own evil purposes. It then becomes the task of Unit 77 to rescue some people and ultimately stop the villains from carrying out their plans. It’s all very ho-hum and the kind of plot that has been done so many times in games and films. There is nothing really surprising and hardly enough to compel players throughout.
As the player, you must control the 4 members of Unit 77 as they shoot their way towards goals and objectives. Most missions follow the same format; shoot some guys, rescue some people, the kind of objectives you’d expect from a game with a premise such as this. Combat is a little on the dull side. In fact, it’s a lot on the dull side. The weapons feel weak and underpowered, and the enemies rarely try any tactics more advanced than ‘stand still and shoot’. There’s no satisfaction in killing any number of the regular enemies, they simply make your job too easy. Harder to kill enemies, including heavily armed soldiers and helicopters, make for more of a challenge. You won’t get away with standing still and tapping on them until they die (as you can with the regular enemies), a more strategic approach is required. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re any more intelligent than the fodder enemies, quite the opposite. The stronger enemies are like the regular ones in spirit, just with stronger guns and more health.
Most objectives and battles boil down to selecting the right character for specific actions, then tapping stuff repeatedly until the objective completes or all the baddies are dead. Tap somewhere else to move to the next area then do the exact same thing again. It isn’t very inspiring.
As well as being pretty good shots with a machine gun, the characters all have a variety of individual talents. For example, one is pretty handy with a sniper rifle, whilst another is a tech expert. Predictable traits, but there’s a reason it’s always this way in these situations – that’s what works best. I highly doubt a group of 4 machine gunners would have any luck in battling a terrorist organisation. They’d probably be fine until they reached a locked door and unfortunately, there tend to be quite a few of those dotted around top secret HQ’s of evil villains.
Using these individual skills isn’t done terribly well. The special weapons are just as disappointing as regular weapons. Using the sniper rifle barely even changes the screen, you just scroll around from your viewpoint above and tap on targets. The highlight of the game was probably carefully picking your way through a minefield, with a special character disarming the hidden bombs. Even this quickly became a mundane chore.
What a game like this needs is some intense combat, interspersed with character specific activities that require some thought. The enemies need to look as if they have some clue what they’re doing, instead of being spread around like the world’s worst mercenaries. Using each soldier’s special ability should be far more thrilling than tapping things in the exact same way as before. Between the hackneyed plot and dull gameplay, there isn’t really much to justify a second play, or even going beyond the second mission. At most, Elite Forces will last you a couple of hours, if you really have that level of dedication.
No-one ever expects much from the DS visually. Some games really push the limits and raise the bar, most just settle for being good in other areas. Elite Forces, it seems, is good in no areas. The environments are the visual high point, with some varied scenery and areas. The handy map helps prevent getting lost in areas that look same-y. The character models are blurry and, to be honest, I had a hard time distinguishing between the 4 characters.
The DS touch screen is perfectly suited to this style of controlling troops, but Elite Forces: Unit 77 fails to capitalise on that potential. It’s poorly executed and ends up being a boring, generic title that can’t justify a place for itself in your DS collection.