Delta Force: Black Hawk Down Preview

The next Delta Force game will feature missions in Somalia.

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In 1993, a mission involving US forces in Somalia ran into an unexpected complication. An operation that should have taken no more than 30 minutes to complete became a grueling overnight campaign after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over the streets of Mogadishu. The events were chronicled in journalist Mark Bowden's 1999 book Black Hawk Down, and the book was later used as the inspiration for Ridley Scott's critically acclaimed 2001 motion picture of the same name. Novalogic is using both this and other conflicts in the area as inspiration for the next game in its long-running Delta Force tactical shooter series. In the developer's next squad-based tactical shooter, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, players will begin their careers as part of the US Army's 10th Mounted Division, then take on the duties of Task Force Ranger, and finally join the elite squad known simply as Delta Force.

You'll fight in the streets of Mogadishu.
You'll fight in the streets of Mogadishu.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down will have about 20 different missions, all of which will take place on different (and huge) maps. For instance, one of the game's later missions, Sweet Irene, will take place in a reproduction of the sprawling Mogadishu city block in which the events in Black Hawk Down took place. Delta Force: Black Hawk Down will feature a good mix of both indoor and outdoor missions, as well as night missions in which you'll have to use night-vision goggles to make your way around. And the missions won't be straightforward run-and-gun jaunts--Black Hawk Down's single-player missions will have multiple objectives such as capturing enemy VIPs, escorting allied troops, and defending an area for a certain amount of time.

Novalogic is taking great pains to make sure that Black Hawk Down will look good. Judging from what we've seen of an early version of the game, we can say with some certainty that Black Hawk Down will probably be the best-looking game Novalogic has ever produced. The game's detailed character models will have all-new animation for running, walking, crouching, crawling prone, and rolling to the side. The game will also feature realistic lighting effects for muzzle flashes on guns, and in night missions, night-vision goggles will help outline your surroundings and cause any nearby light sources, like electric lamps or fires, to cast an eerie (and easy to locate) glow. Black Hawk Down will also improve upon the reflective water special effect that Novalogic first used in its latest attack-helicopter game, Comanche 4. Additionally, the game will make extensive use particle effects for vehicle engine smoke and weapon trails, particularly for the rocket-propelled grenade launchers that Somali soldiers will bring to bear against your vehicles.

This Black Hawk's mounted minigun is the only thing that can defend this UN convoy.
This Black Hawk's mounted minigun is the only thing that can defend this UN convoy.

Black Hawk Down will have highly detailed scenery, character models, and vehicles. You won't be able to drive any yourself, but you'll be able to hitch a ride in a jeep, a humvee, a technical, a littlebird, and a Black Hawk. All these vehicles will be modeled after their real-world counterparts, and some of them, like the Black Hawks and technicals, will have powerful automatic weapons mounted on the chassis that will make short work of enemy infantry. In one mission, Civil Society, you'll actually be flying in the back of a Black Hawk helicopter, armed with heavy miniguns on either side, on an escort mission to safely guide a convoy of humvees to its destination. You'll have to quickly switch back and forth between the two side-mounted guns to pick off enemy rocket launchers and vehicles that will pull up to the left and right of the convoy.

I've Been Training My Whole Life For This

Black Hawk Down will have plenty of real-world weapons, like this sniper rifle.
Black Hawk Down will have plenty of real-world weapons, like this sniper rifle.

To do the right job, you'll need the right tools. Delta Force: Black Hawk Down will model plenty of real-world firearms, including the M16A2 and M4A1 assault rifles, the MP5 submachine gun, and the extremely heavy-duty M-60 and M249 machine guns, which will limit your mobility because they're so heavy but will pack a terrifying wallop against enemy soldiers on foot and will even be effective against enemy vehicles, like the armed technicals you'll encounter in several of the game's missions. Black Hawk Down won't fully model vehicle damage--you won't be able to shoot out an enemy vehicle's tires, for instance--but different vehicles will have different armor ratings, and they can either be worn down with continuous fire or destroyed immediately with a well-placed shot to the engine block.

Even though the game primarily takes place in Somalia, Black Hawk Down will have a good amount of variety among its missions. One of the game's missions, River Raid, will be a fast-paced outdoor level that will take place on the banks of the Juba River. In it, you'll have to sneak through tall grass to reach a village full of hostiles, taking care to avoid snipers and crocodiles (which are actually a significant problem in real-life swamp missions). Another of the game's missions, Interception, is a night mission in which you must navigate the back alleys of Mogadishu in search of an enemy encampment. You'll find it easily enough, since the only people in the city wealthy enough to afford electricity for lights are the region's warlords. In another mission, Tranquilizer, you'll have to take your squadmates underground into a passage beneath the abandoned Russian embassy, which has been converted to the headquarters of a powerful Somalian warlord. You'll need to negotiate narrow, curvy passages and breach closed doors.

You can expect to go on day, night, and dusk missions like this.
You can expect to go on day, night, and dusk missions like this.

Fortunately, in this and other missions, you'll have the aid of the game's improved squad AI. According to Novalogic, Black Hawk Down will feature "node-based" AI--that is, your squadmates (and your enemies) will adopt different kinds of behavior automatically, depending on their immediate surroundings. For example, when faced with a balcony, the first member of your computer-controlled squad will always take point, cover the rest of his teammates until they safely hop over the ledge, and then follow at the end. When you're taking a room, your squadmates will immediately head for the corners and cover them, and when you're breaching a door, your squadmates will surround you and be ready to neutralize any enemies waiting on the other side. Even when you're out in the open, your squadmates will stand back-to-back to make sure they can collectively spot any enemy from any side. These and other tactics and details have been provided by military consultant Colonel Lee Van Arsdale, an Army officer who saw real duty in Mogadishu and who also acted as technical advisor to Ridley Scott during the filming of Black Hawk Down. Van Arsdale mentioned to us that he pointed out several minor details to the developers over the course of the game's development in the game. For instance, weapons are normally held off to the side of the screen in a first-person shooter (so as not to obscure your view while you're playing), which is completely unrealistic--most firearms are held squarely in front of the soldiers using them to help quickly draw a bead on enemies. But according to Van Arsdale, the most important part of his own work on the game is "making sure that we honor the memories of the soldiers that fell" in Somalia--and according to Van Arsdale, Novalogic has succeeded on that count.

In addition to the lengthy single-player game, Black Hawk Down will feature multiplayer play on each of its 20 maps, including standard team deathmatch, capture the flag, king of the hill, and cooperative play against enemy troops. Black Hawk Down's multiplayer will feature the "progressive spawn points" featured in the multiplayer demo. The feature, which is similar to the spawning system in Battlefield 1942, lets players capture and hold spawn points that defeated teammates can respawn at, rather than having to reappear at the default spawn point all the way across the map. Judging from what we've seen so far, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down seems to be coming together well. The game is scheduled for release in October.

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