Down in Texas, there's a saying that goes Too much ain't enough. After playing Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations, I think it's probably safe to say that this adage doesn't necessarily apply to computer games. In fact, Westwood Studio's add-on disk to last year's best-selling strategy title proves almost the opposite point: Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing.
It's important to understand that The Covert Operations is not a sequel to Command & Conquer, but merely a rehash of it. The graphics, weapons, sound effects, and interface have all been directly ported from the original game, with nary an enhancement in sight. And apart from the new ten multi-player maps and fifteen single player missions, the only significant additionsand it may be a stretch to call them significantare seven new music tracks, which can be listened to either during the game or on a standard CD player.
But as much as The Covert Operations resembles Command & Conquer, it's not nearly as much fun to play. The main problem lies with the missions themselves not only are they outrageously difficult, but their design makes then seem more like puzzles than tests of strategic skill. There are few, if any, players who will be able to complete any of the missions in a single session; in fact, most will quickly be reduced to move and save mode as they struggle to discover the one correct solution that will lead to victory. This rigid, linear mission design completely eliminate the raw edge that makes a real-time strategy game interesting, and it will make playing The Covert Operations a chore for all but the hardest of hardcore Command & Conquer fans.
A great story would have helped to compensate for these design flaws, but there is none to be found on the disk. Unlike Command & Conquer, which pulled you--ready or not--right into the fray and kept you there with a wicked blend of cinematic cut scenes and unpredictable plot twists, The Covert Operations takes an a la carte approach, allowing you to play any mission in any order. There's no greater purpose or goal to worry about, nothing to save, nothing to achieve. It's almost as if Westwood is saying Pick a mission, pick a side, play, quit, whatever we don't really care. If they don't care, why should we?
The one redeeming factor about The Covert Operations is that it's relatively cheap; you should be able to pick it up for about $28. But even at that price, it's really no bargain. Save your money for Command & Conquers true successor, Red Alert. You'll be glad you did.