Want stupid in a sesame bun? Come hither and feast. Black Hawk Down, the first Xbox incarnation of the famous Delta Force series is stoopid with extra "Oooo", a game unsure of its audience, firing off bullets every which way, hoping some of them at least hit their target. But you know what? Embrace part of this mucky pup, and as perverse as it may seem, it can be strangely enjoyable.
Artistic licence has been set high on the agenda for Black Hawk Down, namely because the hawk in question doesn't feature until a hefty swathe of the game has been beaten. If you're looking for the desperate, panicked atmosphere conjured by Ridley Scott in the movie, then go and rummage in a packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, for you've more chance of finding it there as a free gift. The majority of BHD is gung-ho to the hilt, a procession of shouting Americans blasting the shit out of Somalis in sticky situations that aren't half as sticky as they like to think they are. This, in part, is due to the AI. It's a wonder either side actually managed to load their weapons in the first place.
Your team often, but not always, consists of three other US Marines, all of whom, were it possible to do so, deserve a bullet between the eyes. Such a bunch of hapless Frank Spencers we have never clapped eyes on. If they're not standing in front of you wincing as they take bullets meant for an enemy, they're running randomly about the map, one minute charging a foe, an instant later spinning on their heels and firing into the air. You'd do well to ignore the presence of your idiotic assistants completely - it won't set you back much as the enemies are no better in this gaming world populated by stupids. However - and this is where the game see-saws seemingly at random - if a bullet does find its mark, you're as good as dead in an instant. The enemies are too daft for this to be an even remotely strategic experience, yet the hit-to-kill ratio is so off the scale it's certainly no arcade shooter either. We're truly puzzled.
Other random factors also come into play to stir up the mix a little further. It's fine to shoot an explosive barrel at your feet and survive, for instance, but stick a bullet in a radio transmitter and it's curtains. Radio killed the videogame star, if you will.
The campaign mode also suffers because it's just so damned dull-looking. Washed out environments, and badly detailed screen furniture do not an exciting war environment make. Sure, there seem to be plenty of cars and vehicles littered around which can be destroyed to add a little spice to an otherwise knuckle-chewing experience, but when a truck blows up in a ball of billowing flame after taking just one or two shots, the thrill soon wilts. Car explosions are just another example of baffling gameplay. Is this a strategy game or a Rambo movie? It sort of looks like a strategy game on the surface at any rate - the team orders, and various vision modes that come as standard with strategy games are here, but they're about as much use as the switches and buttons on a Fisher-Price toy steering wheel.
Team orders are accessed and given by pausing out of the game, then continuing, rather than via a quick menu system, and even when orders are given the squad react as if we'd just asked them to perform sex acts on monkeys. All running about, guns aloft, barking inappropriate nonsense to one another. Sigh.
And the night-vision goggles? We use to think these were meant to aid vision at night. Perhaps, once these were equipped, we'd be able to see people more clearly? Nope. Everything just turns green. We thought the tube in our TV had gone.