Delta Force: Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre Review

The PS2 version of this military shooter addresses some of the issues that hampered its 2-year-old PC counterpart, but it introduces far more problems than it fixes.

OK, try this idea on: Take a nearly 2-year-old PC expansion pack for a nearly 3-year-old middling shooter that's very loosely based on a 5-year-old movie and port it to a more than 6-year-old system. If your immediate reaction was "No, that wouldn't be good at all...just, no," then you would be correct. Unfortunately, not everyone shares that seemingly self-evident wisdom, so Delta Force: Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre from developer Rebellion has been unleashed upon the masses. And though this PlayStation 2 version does address some of the issues that hampered its PC counterpart, it introduces far more problems than it fixes and clips out a significant amount of content. What you're left with is an equally frustrating, slightly incoherent, borderline busted, impedingly ugly-looking game.

There is a Black Hawk, and it does go down.
There is a Black Hawk, and it does go down.

The PS2 version of Team Sabre is very similar to the PC version, but it does have a few distinct differences, most of which are for the worse. You'll still be hacking your way through missions set in the jungles of Colombia and the scrub lands of Iran, though portions of these missions have been cut in the PS2 version, and other portions have been considerably downsized. For instance, in the first mission, you'll begin by traveling down a river in a boat to clean out a local cartel-infested village. However, in the PC version, you begin by being air-dropped in by a Black Hawk helicopter, and then you must secure the boat to take down the river to the village. In the PS2 version, the village you arrive at isn't nearly as impressive because there are far fewer mercs, and their placement is less logical, as far as fortified villages go. This makes some of the transitions between objectives rougher than they should be, and you'll more than occasionally be furtively searching for that one last mercenary or other objective because of the lack of direction. Further aggravating this disjointed feel is the dialogue, which received even more substantial cuts. In the PC version, you get a fair amount of banter and exposition between the leader and the squad that worked well to fill in the story and provide a moderately entertaining backdrop to the action. In the PS2 version, the dialogue is reduced to annoying and poorly voiced catchphrases, so you never get a clear sense of what your purpose is--other than to frag some bad guys.

Several other changes were made to the PS2 version of Team Sabre with varying degrees of success. Most substantial among these is the greater emphasis placed on your squad. In the PC version, your squadmates were mostly brain-dead, serving no other purpose than to squeeze off a few rounds and look baffled when you took a rocket to the head and slowly crumpled to the ground. The artificial intelligence has exponentially improved for the PS2 version so much so that it makes your squadmates almost too efficient. On occasion, you'll be able to squat back with your head between your knees while the squad eradicates an entire host of mercenaries or insurgents. You'll also be able to receive a limited number of health kits and ammo from them, direct them to a flanking position, or alter their battle readiness. And it's good that your squadmates are more useful, because the enemies have been upgraded to be more aggressive and more prone to react when under attack as well.

Team Sabre was an excessively frustrating game on the PC, and it's equally frustrating on the PS2, though for different reasons. The PS2 game doesn't include a rigorous save system; instead, you'll hit checkpoints along the way, which you'll revert back to when you die. However, checkpoints are far too sparse. So in effect, they play out like mandatory saves, and you'll still end up having to repeatedly replay large chunks of the levels. Though weapons aren't quite as damaging when directed at you--and you'll have a limited number of health kits--being killed often feels extremely cheap for a number of reasons. First, enemy combatants are ridiculously accurate from long range with automatic rifles and rocket launchers. Granted, so are you, but the enemy will at least be able to see you coming, which leads to the second reason. Because of the muddy textures, abysmal world lighting, and severe lack of detail on just about everything, you'll never know there are enemies about until yellowish-orange streaks start flying around, or they're in a readily obvious post. This is especially bad in the Colombian jungle missions. And because the game doesn't help you out by displaying targets on your radar or equipping you with a color-changing reticle, you'll be relying on your squad far more than you'd probably like. Speaking of the radar, it isn't very detailed, but it will direct you to supply depots. And you'll need to hit these up often because, like children on the first day of school, your elite squad of specialists have forgotten most of their supplies at home.

When it comes to the actual shooting mechanics, the game surprisingly performs quite well. Aiming is accurate and responsive, and you have a fairly large repertoire of weapons that range from realistic rifles, pistols, and sniper rifles to satchel and other grenades. Calling for "a heal" and other squad commands is also unobtrusively and intuitively mapped out with a menu system that is initiated with the triangle button. Also, the actual feel of shooting is pretty decent, thanks mostly to the kick of the weapons and the force feedback in the Dual Shock. It's a shame that these controls are buried among the refuse that is the rest of the game.

Who's to say how many mercenaries are actually in this shot.
Who's to say how many mercenaries are actually in this shot.

The game isn't nearly as graphically impressive as the PC version was two years ago. And the poor graphics hinder gameplay in a big way. As mentioned above, it's a veritable "Where's Waldo?" trying to find mercs in the Colombian jungles. At least the Iranian insurgents aren't shrouded in foliage; they're just ethereal silhouettes off in the distance. The audio is also a total mess because the voice work and dialogue are extremely low quality, the weapons have a tinny, weak sound, and the background soundtrack is nearly inaudible, which is probably a blessing, judging from the rest of the presentation.

Team Sabre offers a fully featured multiplayer mode, which will probably be the primary draw for most people to this game. Online, you'll be able to shoot it out in a large variety of maps that support up to 32 players in the standard battle modes of deathmatch, capture the flag, and so on. You can also undertake a short campaign in split-screen cooperative mode. These options do add some value to the package, but you're still playing in the same ugly environments, which really sucks the enjoyment out of the experience. The game is currently enjoying some player support, but with so many better, more technically impressive options out there, it stands to reason that the player base won't be sticking around for too much longer.

It's typically a good indication that something isn't quite right when you have to strip down a two-year-old expansion pack. Among the horrendous presentation, frustrating gameplay, and nonsensical story, you'll find very few redeeming qualities here. And because the first-person shooter genre isn't exactly lacking in variety or depth, you'll be far better off skipping this one and picking up a more enjoyable and rewarding game.

The Good
Vastly improved squad and enemy AI over PC version
controls fairly well
large multiplayer games
The Bad
Terrible presentation hampers gameplay
frustratingly difficult checkpoint system
stripped-down version of PC game leaves many plot holes
unrealistic and overly punishing enemy accuracy
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Delta Force: Black Hawk Down More Info

  • First Released Mar 23, 2003
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 2
    • Xbox
    Black Hawk Down is a deeply flawed shooter that has a moment of disappointment or frustration for every moment of fun.
    Average Rating5112 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    NovaLogic, Ritual Entertainment, Rebellion, Climax Group
    Published by:
    Aspyr, NovaLogic, MicroMouse, Electronic Arts, Global Software Publishing (GSP), Ubisoft
    Action, First-Person, Shooter, Tactical
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Blood, Violence