Written By Shaun McCracken

Tactical action games seem to be the rage these days since Metal Gear Solid, MGS 2 and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. Rogue Ops tries to fit in with that said crowd, and attempt to do some things they haven't. But there's a few faults that make this game fall short of the premiere espionage titles, but that doesn't make it neccessairly a bad game. Rogue Ops does have a lot going for it, provided if you can tolerate its annoyances.

Rogue Ops puts you in control of Nikki Connors, an ex-member of the Green Barret that has suffered the loss of her husband and daughter by a terrorist organization known as Omega 19. Vowing only revenge, she joins Phoenix, a covert agency dedicated to counter-terrorism. The game will place you through 8 large and varied levels from all over the globe, pitting you right in the center of danger. You'll need to use all of your covert skills and specialties you learn through training if you wish to succeed at completing your mission, and saving the world.

All of this must sound exciting and tempting, but when it comes to the actual game itself, some issues arise that lead to frustration. First of all, you'll need to get used to the controls. The main analog stick will move Nikki forward and back, and strafe side to side. You'll need to use the C-Stick to look up and down, or shift the view if you want to turn. That in itself isn't too troubling, I'm pretty used to it by now, and it's fairly intuitive. Then there are your "functions". "A" button will open doors and search people and documents , "B" button will enable you to crouch. "X" button will arm your selected weapon (weapon selection is don by cycling up or down with the D-pad). "Y" will enable you to use your secondary item (which can be cycled by using left or right on the D-pad). "Z" button enlarges your map and "L" button is used for aiming. So far, this isn't very confusing. Until we get to how the weapon was mapped. How you use your weapon is by far one of the stupidest executions ever done in a game, and has resulted in quite a few missed shots. You see, the developers decided to use the pressure sensitivity of the "R" button for two functions. If you lightly press on R, you'll draw your weapon. If you press R until it clicks, you fire a shot. The problem is that if you try to rapidly shoot something, you may end up putting the gun back in your holster. Not good if you are in danger.

Then there's the design of the game itself. Each level has set missions, but how you achieve them is up to you. Unfortunately, you need a push to know exactally what to do and where. For example, on the first stage, you need to find a person. One of the team members tell you he's upstairs, but doesn't go into detail how you get there. I go up the stairs, but the door is locked. Oh, yeah, you only have about 2 minutes to find him. I had to look around on the Internet to find where this guy was. Apparently, you don't take the stairs, but have to go outside, scale on a ledge that wasn't visible to me at the time (I have a TV that displays a bit too dark) and climb through a window. Why didn't the guy just say that? Tell me that the door was locked, and that you need to go outside. A lot of the game is like that, where you're told to do something and it isn't clear on how you do it. At least there is a lot of covert stuff to do, such as sneak behind guards and pick their pocket, dodge cameras, hide dead bodies and more. If the mission design was a little more clear, the game would have been more fun and less frustrating.

You don't have much in terms of weapons. I think the only weapons I have come across is a silenced pistol, a sniper rifle, a crossbow, some grenades, some shurikens and a stun gun. If you run out of ammo, or would like to use your hands, you can sneak up behind a guard, and a meter will appear. The more the meter fills, the less amount of directions you'll have to input to make your stealth kill. It's a neat concept, but you can miss, and your planned sneak attack will backfire on you. You also have some special items such as the V.I.S.E.R. that allows you to see guards through walls, a fly cam, thermal optical camoflauge, a retina scanner and an adrenaline boost. Perhaps the developers tried to keep this game as real as possible by not including 20 or so guns like the Bond games, but why can't you snag a down guards machine gun?

The game is a bit mixed on it's logic. Such as sneaking past guards. You can be right behind them, and they won't hear you, but if you're behind a wall, crouch-walking, they somehow see you. Also, they can sometimes go through doors, or act as if they aren't there. Then you wonder how they can see where you are when you can't see them. But then there are some things that make sense. One thing you had to do in the game was run into the freezer, reduce your body temperature, and run past two rooms that had thermal detecting cameras. I wouldn't have thought up of something like that, and for a brief moment, that was a smart thing the developers included.

The graphics are mixed in Rogue Ops. On the one hand, there are some great and sharp textures to be seen, and does sport some good lighting. The character models (especially Nikki) look pretty good. But then there's the frame rate. It's always infrequent, and stutters quite a bit. It doesn't make the game unplayable, but you do notice that the game can slow down at times. Some character models seem a bit like charectures than actual people, either having a little too much exaggeration in facial features or what-not. Some textures are not so great up-close.

The sound is also a mixed bag. The music is pretty good, and fits the mood of the game. The sound effects are pretty much right on par of what they should be. But then there's the voice acting. It's too comical at times for a game like this, whether it be in it's delivery, scripting, or both. The sound in the video portions are way to tinny, and case in point why developers should STOP USING BINK VIDEO for their compression. It may preserve the video a little better, but in a lot of games I've played that use this tool, the audio sounds like crap. Just look at Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, RoadKill, Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer and this on the GC. You know what I'm talking about if you've played those games.

Final Thought

Rogue Ops needed a little more tightening up in it's design to be a game that could go shoulder to shoulder with MGS and Splinter Cell. There are just too many instances in the game where I was confused on what to do next, and too much trial and error was involved in completing the mission. Even though the game is only 8 levels long, each stage will take at least an hour to complete. They're pretty long, even if you know what you're doing. At a lower price, Ops may be worth looking into. It's not a highly polished game, but it does make some bold attempts to be a worthwhile covert action game. If you enjoy these types of games, give it a shot. For those unfamiliar withe these kind of games, maybe just a rental would do for you. Interesting and involving at points, but also has some noticeable flaws.




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ESRB Rating:
MATURE [17+]



If the game would have tightened up the frame rate and gameplay problems, it could have been a decent action title. Sadly, there's too many flaws that really hurt the game.


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