It's only natural to think of Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising as an attempt to clone EA's successful multiplayer-focused team-based shooters, Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam. On the surface, Joint Operations looks like a modern-day Battlefield game: you participate as a member of a team as you attempt to seize a number of strategic objectives, and you can run around on foot or jump into a myriad of vehicles to get around the vast maps. But developer and publisher NovaLogic throws in a lot of new features to differentiate Joint Operations from the competition, and some of these features are quite innovative and exciting. There's the fact that the game can support up to 150 players per server, which is significantly greater than what the Battlefield games can support. Then there's the dynamic day/night cycle that actually models the time of day; no longer are you fighting in perpetual daylight or eternal dusk. Joint Operations is a genuinely exciting game, which makes it all the more difficult to admit that the retail version of the game also has a few notable flaws.
It's important to use cover and concealment to mask your location, otherwise you'll probably get your head taken off by a bullet.
Joint Operations is set in Indonesia, the sprawling archipelago nation that is one of world's largest democracies, but one that's flush with volatile religious and ethnic tensions. After a bloody insurgency erupts, the United States and other Western nations dispatch their special forces to the island. You can play as either a Joint Operations trooper or as a member of the insurgency in a number of multiplayer gameplay modes, including co-op, team deathmatch, team king of the hill, and "advance and secure," which resembles Battlefield's conquest mode where your team has to seize a number of control points on the map in order to win. Unlike Battlefield, there is no single-player option to play the team-versus-team maps with computer-controlled teammates, though the game does allow you to play the co-op missions solo against artificial intelligence bots. We wouldn't recommend trying it solo, though, as the bots possess uncanny marksmanship. Generally, the bots in co-op games are pretty passive--they wait for you to come into detection range before firing on you, so they're a letdown compared with actual human opponents.
As in most team-based shooters, in Joint Ops, you choose a character class to play, each with its own distinct weapons and equipment. The rifleman gets the rocket launcher, which is useful against vehicles, and he can also choose between a variety of assault rifles and grenades. The gunner has access to the heavy machine guns that can lay down suppressive fire. The engineer gets some basic rifle choices, but he can choose between the Stinger antiaircraft missile and the mortar, which can rain down a devastating barrage. The sniper gets the sniper rifles and the target designator; if a sniper designates a target for a mortar-equipped engineer, the mortar fire becomes devastatingly accurate. And then there's the medic class, which can heal teammates and also revive fallen allies on the battlefield. All the classes are designed to complement each other, and a well-balanced team is preferable to a team made up primarily of snipers, for instance.
You can also choose to forgo some of the secondary weapons and tweak your ammunition load in order to lighten your encumbrance. Joint Operations takes into account the amount of weight in weapons and ammunition that you carry, so a lightly encumbered player can run faster than a heavily encumbered one. It's an interesting trade-off, because there are moments in the game when it's useful to be able to run faster than everyone else--to make a sprint for the helicopter, for example--but there are other moments when you'd give your left arm for a Stinger to shoot down a helicopter dogging you, or to have a rocket-propelled grenade knock out the Stryker personnel carrier being used as a floating gun platform near your base.
This is the gunner's view from the gun turret of the Stryker armored personnel carrier, just one of the many vehicles in the game.
Once you start playing, the thing that strikes you about Joint Operations is that this is a huge game. There are approximately 30 maps, some measuring the equivalent of 50-square kilometers in size. Even with 150 players in a map, it's still possible to feel alone at times. Thankfully, the game's objective system ensures that the action is concentrated at several strategic points, so it's not just a bunch of players running around haphazardly. When everything is going on in Joint Operations, it's an amazing experience. You'll stand there as helicopters circle around and the buzz of the chain gun can be heard over the thrum of the rotors while a hail of bullets rain down. Meanwhile, mortar rounds scream overhead and bullet tracers fly by your head. Then an armored personnel carrier will roll up and a squad will dismount and scatter into the nearby tall grasses. It would be almost perfect if not for the fact that you die far too easily in this game, which can cause some frustration.
Don't get us wrong, we're not averse to realistic first-person shooters. But the simple fact is that it doesn't take much to kill you in Joint Operations, which may seem surprising given that the game makes any number of other concessions in the interest of being more fun to play at the expense of pure realism. You'll be standing there one second, and a second later, you're dead--or you'll be running around in the jungle and a sudden burst of gunfire will cut you down with no warning; there's no time to even figure out where the shot came from, let alone react to it. Though you do have a health bar, most bullet hits will kill you instantly. The few times that you are just wounded is usually caused by something falling on you or shrapnel hitting you from a nearby explosion.
Flying helicopters is simple in Joint Ops, and it's fun to zoom in quickly and drop a squad off in a hot landing zone.
The fact that you can die so quickly makes it important that you approach Joint Operations differently than you would Battlefield 1942 or any other comparable games. Instead of rushing brashly forward, taking a few hits, and then calling for a medic, you have to hang back and scout your target from afar. There's a very strong predator/prey dynamic going on where you have to stalk your victims, kill them, and then fall back lest you fall victim yourself (tracer fire and the little directional fire indicator in the corner minimap can draw a straight line back to you). The most success we've had was when we slowed down and took our time.
Even so, it still seems far too easy to die in this game, and that can be a pain, especially if you're playing on some of the larger maps. You can spend a minute or two just getting to where the action is and then be cut down almost instantly. To soften this a bit, you can make use of forward spawn points, rather than using the default instant spawn point far to the rear, although it may require waiting about 30 to 45 seconds.