Not a bad game and some of its weaknesses could be fixed with a patch or two or three ...
GENERAL/STORY: The story is nothing remarkable or unusual, but a very few game stories are: Graves and Lang are, to quote James Nicholls of Pivotal Games, "members of the Special Activities Division, which is a detached branch of the CIA that the US government officially denies all knowledge of. Therefore the agents are freed from the regular constraints of military rules of engagement, but this comes at the price of being on their own – if they go missing in action, no one is coming to rescue them, and the US government will deny all knowledge of their existence. As such they are highly trained in all areas of warfare, which has allowed us to create 2 distinct characters with unique skill sets and opposing personalities!" As for the gameplay "the key to Conflict Denied Ops' combat lies in creating crossfire situations and flanking the enemy. There are numerous opportunities to do this throughout the game, with most levels featuring two routes into skirmish situations, or open spaces that allow flanking to be effective." If you spend some time with this game you'll pretty much see that this statement regarding the gameplay is actually correctly described by the developer. Tho the game could be perceived as a Rambo-like combat, there are certainly a great deal of situations where more tactical approach works exceedingly well. In the SP campaign, for example, selecting your primary mission character will depend on the situation -- sometimes Graves' sniper and in general more quiet approach will work better, but sometimes Lang's LMG will do better when enemies are rushing you. Also, sometimes is useful to leave one of the characters a way back if you think that the survival chance is minimal at the first try and you need a safe place to switch to the other character if you die. Anyways, the co-op aspect is well done ... not perfect, but good enough for enjoyable play.
GAMEPLAY: The FPS part is also well done. Everything that should be in is in: reasonable upgrades to your weaponry as you progress through the levels (for example, upgrades for the LMG: bigger mag, recoil reduction, rate of fire increase), a variety of rather attractive maps, a pretty good teammate and enemy AI, and very importantly the FPS-desired movement (climb, lean left or right, crouch, prone etc), and lots of shooting. Nicely implemented damage model where a headshot is an instant kill, while body shots are usually not. Blood splatter is also plentiful. Weapons feel is slightly above the average and some features are very nicely done. A few weaknesses in the FPS part include a lack of a variety of weapons, the ability to pick up enemy weapons from the ground, and the unlimited primary ammo (the spread out supply crates will replenish grenades but you don't have to worry about running out of bullets). To me it was very refreshing to see the "prone stance" implemented -- it makes sense with the sniper being one of the major weapons plus the accuracy goes way up while crouching or being prone. Keyboard/mouse operation is very easy to adjust to and the only thing I changed was moving the pre-programmed right click to the keyboard and moving ironsights/scope zoom to the right click. In general, you can play this game (SP campaign) in three ways. One is Rambo-like approach that works well in some parts of the 10 provided maps especially if you leave one of the characters in a safe plays so you can transition safely if you die while gunning and running. The other way is to keep tactically positioning the other character to provide either suppressive fire or to flank the enemy -- this works most of the time very well. The third way is to order the other character to go forward and take the brunt of enemy fire while you provide some support from a safer distance -- this does work OK but you need to be ready to keep "reviving" your teammate quite often. The environment is also pretty cool since a lot of it is destructible. The game is definitively less linear than it appears at first and there are usually multiple paths to an objective.
GRAPHICS/VIDEO/SOUND: In general, the graphics/video is very good ... not the top notch as in CoD4, but nevertheless very good and the video setting options are appropriate. The graphics quality seems to improve after the first or second map. The developer obviously spent lots of time on the destructible environment and pyrotechnics and Pivotal Games' proprietary Puncture Tech engine does shine in this area. The sound is of an average to below the average quality leaving some room for improvements.
- some people will have problems starting the game because of the video incompatibility. Sound problems with some sound cards also reported
- while I didn't have any problems running this game at the highest quality settings, the requirements for smooth running are quite high (especially reported with the Demo version)
- sound quality could be easily better
- unlimited primary ammo
- rag-doll physics are exaggerated and could be better
- no ability to pick up enemies' weapons
- lame/cheesy dialogs
CONCLUSION: Conflict Denied Ops is not a masterpiece, but it's a solid first person shooter that runs smoothly and looks very good if you have quite a power-rig. This game is likely to provoke two quite opposite responses depending on the FPS orientation and likes of the player: either very negative or super positive. In fact, the game overall quality is somewhere in between. Given the relative rarity of FPS coop games, this is a gem for those who love coop FPS. For other FPS gamers who don't care about coop, it will be more like a flawed gem, but still playable. And, for those who consider a game like Bioshock an FPS game, this will be an undesirable experience. Anyways, there are many things done right in this full length game (and not a 5-hour rip off) and the weaknesses could be corrected with a patch or two. In short, more things to like than to dislike about this game.