Conflict: Global Terror Updated Impressions

We get a new look at Pivotal's latest entry in the long-running squad-action series, which will feature improvements on just about every level.

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After visiting such conspicuous wars as Desert Storm and Vietnam, the Conflict series has moved on to the worldwide stage with its latest entry, Conflict: Global Terror. But this may not be the face of terror that you're expecting. The game focuses on a group of Nazis that fled to South America after World War II and is using its vast wealth, the result of pilfered artwork and other riches, to fund global terrorism with the intent of destabilizing the Western world. It will once again be your job to take control of an elite four-man squad and take the fight way behind enemy lines to save the day.

If the enemy in Global Terror seems a little unlikely, you should at least feel right at home with the protagonists, since they're the same four salty soldiers that fans have come to know and love from past games. Well, with one exception--Foley, the sniper, goes missing early on in the game and is replaced by Sherman, the first female soldier to join the Conflict gang. At any rate, anyone who's played the past Conflict games should be pretty used to ordering these guys around by now.

Fortunately, it'll be easier than ever to do that, since Pivotal has further streamlined the command interface from past games. You'll now be able to order your teammates to cover each other, move to new positions, follow you, and so on with just a few quick button presses. The general shooting action has been tweaked and refined quite a bit, too. There's no more auto-aim, which made past games a little too easy at times; now it's more of a Halo-style aim assist that helps you to target enemies but doesn't do all the work for you. Finally, you'll now be able to lean out from behind cover and return enemy fire from relative safety.

Pivotal has gone to great lengths to beef up Global Terror's AI, as well. Enemy soldiers will now behave much more dynamically than in the past, seeking out cover when they're fired upon and retreating to find allies when they're injured. Your enemies will be able to communicate with each other, and purportedly they'll even perform such advanced maneuvers as circle-strafing. One section of the demo we saw had the player squaring off against a number of enemies who'd entered a stand of trees. From the player's perspective, the soldiers were good enough at seeking cover behind the trees that it was almost impossible to tell anyone was there

The new engine will make this easily the best-looking Conflict game yet.

The gameplay in Global Terror will also be more tactical than in the past thanks to the implementation of certain new features. For instance, you'll have access to thermal and night vision now, which will obviously help out in a variety of firefights. We saw one section where the player tossed some smoke grenades to create cover, then waded in with thermal vision to pick enemies off while they took blind potshots at him. Another interesting feature is the way grenades work now. Put simply, they'll go exactly where you aim them. That is to say, whatever your crosshair rests on is the point at which the grenade will impact, which should obviously make them a much more useful tool in battle.

Multiplayer has never really been the focus of the Conflict series, but the development team has made it a priority with Global Terror. The game will support full online multiplayer on the PS2, Xbox, and PC, letting you and up to three friends play all of the missions from the single-player campaign together. There will even be offline cooperative support--four players can play on the Xbox, and two can play on the PS2. On the upside for PS2 owners, playing in two-player cooperative means you'll each get control of two characters. Finally, you'll be able to host your own game in this mode and join it by yourself to essentially get a "lone wolf" version of the single-player missions, in which you'll have to complete an entire level controlling only one character. If you're skilled enough, that is.

Pivotal really seems to have beefed up every aspect of the Conflict series with Global Terror--it has rebuilt the game's engine from the ground up, resulting in vastly improved visuals. The environments and characters are a lot more detailed, for one thing. Apparently, one teammate's backpack in the new game contains more polygons than an entire character model in the previous games. Other graphical niceties, like in-game physics (rag doll and otherwise), will help enhance the visuals, which ought to please fans of the series.

Look for an array of multiplayer options--a first for the series--when Conflict: Global Terror ships in November.

The game's globetrotting setting should provide plenty of variety in mission objectives and settings--one mission we saw had the team trying to rescue a senator's kidnapped daughter, who was being held in a jungle location in South Korea. Another mission took the player to the Ukraine, where the team had to infiltrate and neutralize a Sarin gas factory. The variety of settings should make for some diverse gameplay when Conflict: Global Terror ships in November. Stay tuned for more.

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