Elite Forces: Unit 77ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: Action Games
Publisher: Deep Silver/Gammick Entertainment
Elite forces: Unit 77 is an action-driven, squad based-shooter exclusively for the Nintendo DS. A series of mysterious disappearances of high profile personalities from the worlds of science, industry, and entertainment, reveal a horrific global terrorist threat. With the clock running and the lives of the hostages and millions of others in danger, the international community’s last hope lies with an extremely covert and highly specialized military team: Unit 77. Made up of four professionals who are the best in their respective fields, Unit 77 must combine their skills to stop massive world destruction by the hands of the terrorists.
From a purely visual aspect Elite Forces is a pretty good looking DS game. Yes it does have some of the traditional graphical hitches that are frequently seen on the DS. 3D games on the whole do push the hardware and Elite Forces is no different as there can be clipping and pop up issues in certain spots and the frame rate does take a hit now and then. Put these issues aside though and you will see a fairly nice looking title. Character animations are quite decent considering how small the characters are, and enemies even have various ways to attack and perish. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell your three male characters apart in the heat of battle but the menu system helps with that. Level designs feel a bit repeated as you will eventually see the same jungle background for several stages before it changes. Overall though the levels are large and fairly well lit giving the scale of the game enough to make up for the repetitive nature you may find.
The sound effects and music in Elite Forces are about as generic as you can get. Repeated effects and music tracks really stand out when you are playing with headphones on (as with any DS title). Everything simply feels commonplace and tired, it won't blow you away, but it isn't bad when you consider all of the other factors. The game’s theme music feels vaguely familiar but I wasn’t able to place it. The gun sounds are well done, enough so you could tell a difference between the sniper and machine gun. Overall the audio package iss nothing we haven’t heard a thousand times before.
As you can well imagine the storyline isn't where this game shines. The premise is about the same as any other game of its type. The world is under attack from a group of terrorists, and it is up to your elite unit of highly-trained soldiers to take them down. Each member of your squad has a specialty, and it will come into play throughout the game. Kendra Chase is the quintessential sniper, T.K. Richter is the demolition expert, Bill Matic is the IT guru, and what team would be complete without the prototypical weapons expert, whose name just happens to be Dag Hammer. The game’s narrative involves your team taking down various targets, and of course saving the world. Unfortunately the plot is somewhat forgettable and you will find yourself skipping the introductary sequences before the beginning of each of the levels.
If you can get past the over the top character names and the paint-by-numbers storyline, you are halfway to the point of finally enjoying the game. The action takes place from a top-down perspective, or an almost isometric view, and you can control your troops by tapping on the screen or the menu bar on the right hand side. I never used any buttons of the DS itself, which makes switching between characters and actions feel intuitive at first. You can simply point your stylus anywhere on the screen and your squad will move there. Attacking targets is as easy as tapping them with the stylus. You use the right hand menu to select individual characters, or to enable their special skills and heal. All of this sounds great in theory and it works surprisingly well through the first few levels, but once things become more complicated I found it can become a real pain.
As you can imagine tapping enemies to shoot at them and moving around would be simple enough, but what happens when you begin to face tougher enemies that require you to use your special skills. There are times in the game when you need to use Kendra to snipe out some enemies while the rest of your team covers your back, the problem lies in the fact that unless you tell them to fire, your squad AI mostly stands there while you take on a barrage of bullets. This quickly leads to a lot of scenarios becoming a trial and error affair, which works for games with generous checkpoints, something Elite Forces certainly does not have. In fact there is only one checkpoint per mission, and if you fail to make it there before dying you have to start the entire mission over again. This quickly became a frustrating deterrent, especially for a handheld game that is designed to offer game play in small bite sized portions. Bumbling over the controls is the culprit of most of the game's problems, and it really drags down the experience early on. Surprisingly I still found myself tapping away at the game, simply because there just isn't much else like it on the system. It also helps that there is quite a bit of content here for the price of admission.
There are twelve fairly sized missions and the ability to quick-play any of them once they have been completed in single-player. Sadly the biggest omission though is the ability to play co-op with friends using the DS’s wireless capabilities. The idea of having four squad members and only including single-player support is beyond my comprehension. The exclusion is really felt later in the game since Elite Forces ramps up the complication factor as you progress. I’m sure that with a co-op mode some of the clunkiness of the control scheme could be overcome as some of the responsibilities can be shared.
Elite Forces: Unit 77 is the type of game that you want to like despite its flaws. It brings a genre that is sorely overlooked in the handheld market, and for the most part it executes surprisingly well. If the small nuances could be ironed out, this title could really shine among other action/strategy titles. Unfortunately as it stands there is a lot of frustration buried in the DS card making this game hard to recommend outside of hardcore fans of the genre.