Shadow Ops' split-screen and online multiplayer modes are better in theory than in practice.
The missions soon become a desperate struggle for health packs, which can be found tucked in the corners of the environments and will sometimes (mercifully) be dropped by killed foes. It's not exactly a perfect formula for fun, but Shadow Ops' tough, enemy-infested missions are loaded with screams and explosions and can certainly be tense as you inch your way to the next finish line. Some campaign missions let you fight alongside several other squad members, but they're mostly just for show--sometimes they'll get in your way, and sometimes they'll actually take out a target, but you'll mostly end up doing all the work, same as always. There's also a little bit of obligatory sneaking to be found at one point in the campaign, and on several other occasions, you'll have to blow stuff up by planting explosives, which happens automatically when you press and hold button A. So the campaign is pretty monotonous, but it's also the best part of Shadow Ops.
The game's multiplayer features feel pretty tacked on. As mentioned, there's a two-player co-op mode (playable only in a split-screen), which consists of a series of plotless scenarios that must be attempted in sequence. These are basically similar to the single-player missions, only without the scripting that gives them some flair and the story context to give them a sense of purpose. Furthermore, Shadow Ops just isn't well suited to co-op play, since the level design largely consists of rooms interconnected with hallways; one player will often have to do all the work in a given situation, and there's little cause or opportunity for collaboration. Yet the co-op mode is still more fun than the other multiplayer modes, which are just weak.
You've got your standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture-the-flag modes here, as well as a VIP escort mode, in which one team has a poorly equipped player that must be defended as he or she travels from one end of the level to the other. There aren't too many multiplayer maps to play on, but that's not the problem. Since the core shooting action itself is so underwhelming and even downright erratic in multiplayer--automatic weapons spray so wildly that they seem largely useless even at close range--Shadow Ops' online mode is a disappointing counterpart to the single-player portion. As such, it's only good in theory that the game supports as many multiplayer options as it does.
Shadow Ops often looks better than it plays, and sometimes plays better than it looks. The weapon models are probably the best aspect of the presentation, along with some of the effects and animations. Enemies actually look fairly convincing as they rush to and fro, and rag-doll physics are used sparingly to good effect as some foes get sent flying from explosions or go toppling off of rooftops or balconies. The environments look believable if you don't inspect them too closely. The levels themselves are quite small, and the character models are quite blocky and unremarkable. One strange effect is how enemy bodies vanish as soon as you look away; usually by the time you look back, it's as though nothing ever happened.
Shadow Ops is a fully featured game, but the underlying action is decent at best.
The audio is the highlight of Shadow Ops, which is a game that, at its best, convincingly sounds like a Hollywood war zone. Dolby Digital 5.1 support is included and helps convey the effect that gunfire and explosions are happening all around you. Yet, some subtle effects, such as empty shell casings ejecting onto the ground, manage to pass through the cacophony. There's decent voice acting throughout the game, which is notable especially in that your enemies will shout at you in their native languages. Even if you don't know the languages, though, you'll still notice how a lot of the enemies repeat the same lines. Meanwhile, there's a surprisingly diverse and intense soundtrack that plays during the campaign missions. Many of these rousing, militaristic compositions are very impressive, though the game's action doesn't quite hold up its end of the bargain, resulting in music that often sounds overblown. Outside of the single-player campaign, in the absence of that dynamic soundtrack, the game still sounds good but not remarkably so.
If only everything about Shadow Ops was as good as its audio. The game initially seems to offer everything you'd want out of an action-packed military-themed shooter. However, online multiplayer features are of little value when the action itself isn't good. Luckily, Shadow Ops' campaign can be worth the effort, if you're not easily frustrated and aren't expecting anything out of the ordinary.