Conflict: Desert Storm is a military-themed tactical third-person shooter set in the Middle East during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the resulting Operation: Desert Storm. It puts you in charge of up to four troops at once, and while the squad element opens up some interesting strategic possibilities, the game fails to compete with other, similar PC games. Its problematic gameplay and run-of-the-mill presentation keep it from succeeding on any level.
You'll meet and command four teammates in Conflict: Desert Storm.
Desert Storm starts out with a brief optional tutorial segment. This training sequence teaches you the intricacies of movement, combat, and commanding your squad. From there, you're given control of one man and are sent on your first mission. Halfway through, you'll rescue the second member of your squad. As the game proceeds, you'll work your way up to four troops, each with different specialties. Some are better medics than others and some are better marksmen, and each starts with a different set of weaponry, including an M16, a sniper rifle, and other real-world weaponry. As you move from mission to mission, your troops gain experience. If one soldier uses a lot of medikits in a mission, he might become more proficient at healing. Other actions will improve your other stats, such as marksmanship, which is key considering how awful the game's auto-aim is at taking enemies out quickly.
Each level has a series of objectives that you must accomplish to move to the next level. Almost every mission suggests that you take a stealthy approach, but the game's definition of stealth is pretty loose. While you might think you've approached an enemy without being spotted, or even fired off a stealthy shot or two with a silenced pistol, most enemies automatically spot you as soon as you're in visual range, even if you're lying prone or ducking. Getting spotted will eventually cause the base you're infiltrating to raise the alarm, bringing more troops and other enemies to your location. Once your squad is at the four-soldier limit, however, dealing with enemy assaults isn't terribly difficult. Most objectives are usually as simple as escorting a diplomat through a dangerous area, destroying targets of military importance, and so on. Once you've completed your objectives, you simply need to get to the landing zone for extraction.
Everything about Desert Storm's gameplay is really, really clunky. The soldiers move in a very jerky way, and the mouse-based aiming control is never as smooth as you need it to be to make accurate shots. The interface used to order your other troops around is weird and unintuitive. There is neither a point-and-click interface to assign orders nor a first-person-shooter-styled inventory control system; instead, you need to hold down an item select button and use your movement keys to scroll through your list of items. Your entire inventory is accessed from one list of equippable items, and you must equip items in real time. So, if you're taking heavy fire and need to heal immediately, you'll have to hold the inventory button to bring up the list, scroll through the list until you find the medikit, use it, and then scroll back to your weapon. The same goes for planting explosives, using binoculars, or doing just about anything else. Breaking up weapons and other items into different categories or including the ability to set up quick access to important items would have been a much more straightforward way of dealing with the game's inventory. Instead, you'll find yourself fumbling for your detonator, wondering which soldier is holding the antitank rockets, or wasting medikits in the heat of battle.
While the single-player campaign is pretty straightforward, Desert Storm does feature a multiplayer option that lets you play a few different games over a LAN or the Internet. There are six different gameplay modes, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, and other team-based missions, such as assault/defend, VIP assassination, and recovery. The game lacks any sort of in-game player matching, so you'll have to seek out other players and server information on your own. The multiplayer options are nice, in theory, but they do little to make the game more entertaining, and they don't solve any of the game's interface and gameplay troubles.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't really stand out from other tactical shooters.
The presentation of Conflict: Desert Storm fails to distinguish itself in any way. It has a generic style to it that delivers a smooth frame rate but not much else. The game's textures seem realistic, but they're a little too blurry. Also, it's worth noting that your soldiers never really die from gunfire--getting another soldier over to the wounded guy with a medikit will fix up the fallen comrade quickly and easily. The game's voice work is all over the place. The in-game stuff is decently done, but the drill sergeants who train you in the beginning of the game are pretty awful. If you're going to spend time basing your drill sergeants on Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, you might as well just go to the source and hire R. Lee Ermey to do it.
Conflict: Desert Storm has a couple of decent ideas, but fans of realistic tactical combat games would be better off with Ghost Recon, Operation Flashpoint, America's Army: Operations, or, if you're new to the genre and looking for something a little less complicated, The Sum of All Fears. The competition in this genre simply squeezes games like Conflict: Desert Storm right out of the picture.