Urgent state of affairs notwithstanding, the release of Global Storm (recently renamed from Global Terror to avoid upsetting anyone) has been pretty well timed. The last instalment of the series took us on a purple-hazed trip back to Vietnam, though it wasn't as well received as predicted, despite gaining an Elite status in OXM.
The new mandate of Global Storm, as the name suggests, doesn't limit the developer to one particular location, instead spreading the action over a wide range of locales from jungle to desert, and from nuclear processing plants to nipplehardening snowbound wastelands. So we've got a multitude of locations, anything else? Well, the squad's newest recruit (apart from sassy sniper Sherman - more on her later) is the massively improved multiplayer, via both System Link and Xbox Live. Then we've got the looks - check. Multiplayer? Check. Surely all that must make Global Storm the most accomplished and playable Conflict game yet? Well, sort of.
This jack-of-all-trades mentality is also translated over into the game itself, and here, if anywhere, is where the game's fundamental faults lie. But let's not start the day on a downer - GS has plenty of very cool stuff going for it first. Players
once again get to control four members of the Conflict squad; the original American wholesome foursome of Bradley, Jones, Connors and Foley. Parachuting onto enemy territory, the team is instantly ambushed and captured, and players must escape their hellish South American prison. The ensuing level acts as a kind of rough tutorial, but it's not as simple as other similar titles - there's definitely an assumption that you've played one of the previous Conflict titles.
It's nothing to worry about, however - the controls and interface have been streamlined to make moving and switching between squad members even easier, and newcomers will get to grips with the game quicker than a Velcro-covered tube of Loctite. The Left trigger now brings up a command list, and a quick tap of the A button toggles your entire squad to either follow you or hold position. The more individual movement commands have been scrapped after feedback from fans of the series, as everyone pretty much only used this command. However, you can still decide which way your team faces, plus the option of directing them to specific points in a stealthy manner or all-out charge. To direct your squad, simply move the reticule, hit B, and they'll run to the designated point. All credit to the developer for squeezing a complex series of commands and options into the humble Xbox pad all in a simple and intuitive way. If none of that makes sense, fear not - it's actually a lot easier than it sounds.
Each member of your team has specific skills (sharpshooter, demolitions and the like) which must be utilised accordingly. When it comes to blowing shit up, Jones is your resident Fred Dibnah - although the rest of the squad are capable of setting C4 charges, he'll get the job done twice as fast. Previously the sharing of equipment from your inventory was vital to get through the game, but now, thanks to the streamlined interface, this is less important. Approach a fallen comrade and you can instantly heal a player without cycling through an inventory to select the relevant equipment, and players can heal themselves with an instant tap of the Right trigger. Your team's AI can be a little rough around the edges, though. Granted, they always assume intelligent firing positions around you and watch each other's backs - they're fine looking after themselves. For the most part, your squad will pick up replacement ammo as and when they need it, right up until they run dry, at which point they should start using the discarded enemy weapons. Often they don't, though, and it's pretty annoying to find yourself cornered and outnumbered, cycling through your team to find them holding an empty pistol between them and using bad language to fend off the enemy.