Oh videogame industry, you are so illusively vain, grabbing our old favourites and pumping them full of virtual botox and digital silicone until they shimmer and shine like the sticky mucous-membrane enveloping a newborn calf. What was once an ugly WWII mod for Half-Life has gone under the knife and under the hammer, and after peeling away the bloodied bandages of a lengthy surgery, the beautiful new face and modest price tag of Day Of Defeat: Source has finally been revealed.
And what a pretty face it is too: the Source engine's slick presentation and solid feel seeps from every brick, sandbag and disassembled church. Valve's much-touted HDR lighting effects are out in force too, and while in theory HDR makes for a far more realistic depiction of the effect light has on our pupils and how the inner workings of our retinas coagulate in turn with global warming (or something), in practice it's really just a subtly attractive effect which more than anything looks like a cloud passing overhead on a sunny day.
The locales in which you fight the good fight consist of four maps from the original mod which read a bit like Santa's back row of sleigh-tuggers - Anzio, Avalanche, Donner and Flash. If you're a newcomer, you'll quickly learn them by their descriptive names of Beach, Wrecked Town, Other Wrecked Town and Village, and if you're a veteran you'll quickly relearn your once forgotten habits and tactics.
ALL LAID OUT
The maps are expertly crafted, channeling the two opposing forces into pre-determined flashpoints and allowing tense standoffs. Snipers are offered vantage points, creating no-man's-lands and forcing do-or-die dashes across vacant town squares. Support classes offer covering fire, allowing other soldiers opportunities to manoeuvre into position,
while machine-gunners can set up gun emplacements in broken window frames or sandbag barriers, delivering a powerful (yet easily flanked) offensive force capable of suppressing an advancing enemy.
Each class may only differ in its weapon loadout, but it's the type of weapon in your
hand that truly affects the role you play in your team. Indeed, depending on which class you choose, the game swings wildly between different playing styles: snipers must depend on assistance in order to hold and maintain the best sniping spots; support troops will spend a lot of time covering the infantry, who must push forward and generally sacrifice themselves for the good of the team; and the guys with the rockets... Well, they clear rooms. With explosions.
SEEN IT BEFORE
With semi-realistic weapon properties, such as not being able to fire a machine gun (well, not without a semblance of accuracy) without first deploying it; having to hoist a bazooka up to your shoulder before firing a rocket; the ability to pick up and throw live grenades back at the enemy; and of course the infamous M1 'can't reload in the middle of a clip' Garand, the game carries a modicum of authenticity. However, by still clinging to the small-scale skirmish atmosphere of the original, Day Of Defeat: Source doesn't make much of departure from Counter-Strike. What's more, with Valve planning to release additional maps from the original game at no extra charge, it's clear that the intention is simply to take the much-loved mod and give it a significant facelift before making us pay for it again.
You see, that's the gripe with Day Of Defeat: Source: it's the same game we were playing only a few years ago, with graphical bells on. They say beauty is only skin deep, that it's the inside that counts, that money can't buy you love. They lie, though. Just like when the the gameplay that made its predecessor arguably the best Half-Life mod Since original Day Of Defeat went on sale, it's hard to justify spending money on something that used to be free. Granted, this is only a fair criticism if you've played the game before. In addition though, in light of recent additions to the genre such as Battlefield 2, there's not much innovation here.