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A book by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden, on the events of the October 3, 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. About a hundred Army Rangers and Delta Force troops were dropped into a part of the city in broad daylight to attempt a daring, lightning-quick abduction of two lieutenants of the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, and shuttle them back to the US Base only 3 miles away.

A variety of logistic and intelligence miscalculations turned the operation into a shitstorm of major proportions, as two of the helicopters carrying the troops were shot down, and 3 more were immobilized, stranding the soldiers in the middle of a hostile city for several hours. At the end of the operation, about a third of the soldiers had taken serious casualties, including 9 dead and one captured. The troops had also killed several hundred Somalis, many of whom were civilians.

Bowden interviewed many of the participating soldiers, and even some of the Somalis they fought against, to create a detailed Rashomon-esque picture of the firefight. The result is a gripping story of a cocky, elite fighting force that starts to lose it as most of its members are plunged into combat for the first time against what seems to be an entire city. Several times thoughout the book, one finds descriptions of soldiers who start out shooting only at Somalis with guns, and end up emptying magazines of ammunition into crowds as the fight wears on.

This is an excellent book, and a must-read for anyone who is interested in military history, Army Rangers, Delta Force, or the biggest real reason the US stood aside as genocide was committed in Rwanda. However, I had three problems with it. First of all, Bowden's wealth of sources works against him. His list of interviews in the appendix runs into the hundreds, including about half the task force that was involved. He seems to insist on telling the story of every source he used, creating a very fragmented account that jumps around the city. The reader is also expected to remember the names, functions, and locations of all the officers involved in the affair. Worst of all, the accounts are coming from people who were themselves disoriented and confused on the ground, so that referencing the maps provided is almost useless. Eventually I gave up on the maps, and just read the book as a series of vignettes in a huge firefight.

My second complaint is that there is not much of an attempt to put our presence in Somalia in context. We are told that US forces are fighting against General Aidid as part of a UN attempt to establish democracy in Somalia, but the series of steps between "Helping starving people" and "Performing military operations against starving people" is never laid out to my satisfaction.

My final complaint is that there were not enough pictures in the book. The mighty Blackhawk helicopters that are used for transport and air support are only shown in part, or as small smudges in picture insets. Given the number of times they are mentioned, I would have appreciated labelled photos of a SAW, CAR, LAW, RPG and launcher, and other weapons, just to see what the heck these troops were carrying.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
The Cinema comes to the computer once again, how does this film rate?

Released early 2003 by Novalogic, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down places the player in the first Gulf War with an elite team of American commandos. Building on the success of other realistic First Person Shooters, it looks pretty much the same as any other on the surface. Still the setting is interesting, and the game shows promise. But how does it stand up in the game-movie genre?

There has been a slew of movie related games of late, such as Spiderman - The Movie (which is actually Spiderman - the game), Enter the Matrix and the soon to be released The Hulk. Its not a new concept, but of late the idea has been to try and integrate a new storyline into the game that intertwines with the movie. Black Hawk Down attempts this, and rather poorly. The various missions you embark upon are, at first, seemingly random. Occasionally a mission will parallel with the movie when you are asked to escort someone to, or rescue them from, a location that happened to be in the movie, but its not great. The rest is all just various missions based during the crisis in mogadishu, somalia, 1993. The game would really be better off titled Delta Force: Mogadishu Crisis, because that's all it's really about for the majority of the game. The name is seemingly a gimick to try and boost sales.

But that doesn't mean it can't be a good game. Graphics are better than average, but not the greatest out there, and popup is a bone of contention I have with the game. It is quite bad, and sometimes it looks like there is a light fog, despite the fact you are in the desert beneath a blazing sun. The engine itself is somewhat flawed, and it turns out rather bad framerates. With a Pentium 4 2.4 GHz, 512 MB DDR DRAM and a GeForce FX 5600, frame rates drop noticeably between 1024x768x32 and 1280x1024x32; and if you don't want everything to look like it just came out of Wolfenstein 3D, 1600x1200x32 is out of the question.

There's not too much wrong with sound, it sounds good, works well in surround sound, but like the graphics, it is flawed. With some sound cards, sound will suddenly drop out and won't kick back in until you restart the program. Since you can only save the game twice, and it will drop out constantly, this is a severe irritance. Sound is vital, especially if you have surround sound, to hear where an attack is coming from. Even fully patched, I have this problem as does one of my friends.

Thus, playability is severly reduced, and it keeps getting worse. The Novalogic Multiplayer client is the worst I have seen since Tribes 2. But at least Tribes 2's client still looked as if it was produced in 2001, not 1985! The Novalogic client looks as if it could run in DOS, but its not just aesthetic devices that ruin this client, its how terribly bugged it is, like everything else so far. Even with a broadband connection load times are invariably slow, and the point and click interface, rather than a tabbed interface that is common in most games these days, often decides not to respond to your click, thus trapping you in a section you don't want to be in and forcing you to restart the client. Even once you do get the game list to load and manage to join a game, its pretty laggy, and here's where you ask yourself "why did I even bother?"

Why might you ask yourself that? Because there is nothing new here, it has all been done before, and done much better, in better games. It will be done many more times, and some of them will be good, but this one is not. There are games such as Rainbow Six and America's Army that have done it much better, and if you want to stick with the movie genre, Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears is a prime example. Of course, its not just the buggy engines, but the gameplay itself just isn't as good as other realistic First Person Shooters.

One of the key draw cards with this genre is realism, hence why they are known as realistic First Person Shooters. Therefore, you would expect that a shot to the head would be fatal, or that being shot in the leg would cause you to limp, or even that if you blow up one ammo crate surrounded by hundreds others, they would all blow up... right? Well Novalogic doesn't, because there are no zones of damage, meaning being shot in the head, leg, arm or chest is all the same, its simply three strikes and your out. Zones also don't exist elsewhere either, such as with crates: Crate A is hit, therefore Crate A explodes; Crate A does not cause collateral damage to any other zone, for they do not exist. The same applies to cars and trucks, no matter where you hit it just takes a certain amount of damage before it explodes; but if you were simply filling the tray of a ute with bullets, or aiming at the tires, you wouldn't expect that would you?

Finally, the missions are tried and true, boring and repetetive. As mentioned before, they are random, apart from the underlying tone of the mogadishu crisis, and occasional interjections of the movie, there is no cohesive, central storyline. Also, while the guns available are what was more or less available to the Delta Force teams, as described in the book by Mark Bowden, again they are not realistic. If you were carrying a gun almost as large as yourself, that had a pedestal attached to it, thus it was intended to be fired while laying on the ground, would you be able to fire it while standing? Furthermore, would you be able to run at full speed with it? No, but you can in this game. Kick back is also utterly unrealistic, as even the biggest guns only make your aim waver slightly.

Overall, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down is a very poor game. Shoddy programming and poor implementation have ruined what could have otherwise been a decent game. Fans of the movie won't find anything here for them, and fans of the genre will be disappointed. I really can't reccommend this game to anyone.

Final Verdict:

Graphics: 2/5
Sound: 2/5
Gameplay: 1.5/5
Playability: 1.5/5
Overall: 1.5/5

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