Phantom Ops takes third person gaming to a new and unique level that had such potential but wound up being one of those games that you play just to see how bad things can be.
Graphics & Audio: 12/25,
As hard as it is to review things that are bad at the very least you have some hope that they will get better, thus is the life of a reviewer, plus we get to play with stuff others are warned away from. Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops starts out fairly well and falls downhill from the start, I should have been warned by the name.
Taking its cue from the jumble of words stuck together for the title Phantom Ops starts out as a third person shooter in the typical vein of others but falls far short. Phantom Ops is a single player only third person shooter played as one of two characters in a combined stealth and regular run and gun shooter.
Starting off as soldier Aron Alvarez and later playing as Myra Lee you follow the very linear design attempting to fight your way through the enemy and the story. You start by getting orders to assassinate a Somali warlord as both characters switching between them to get across the maps.
Alvarez is your typical soldier with special ops tendencies and Myra is your stealth assassin type with sneaking weapons that you play at first separately and then switching between the two at will. Once through the tutorial area you get to switch between each character when you want but the gameplay is often not designed well enough for either to make the choice better for one over the other.
The soldier can pick up and use various weapons while the sniper can only use her wits and crossbow along with a few other special techniques. Mostly you have to figure out how to get from point A to point B in each section with your characters alive which is easy in some parts and impossible in others.
Problems include save points too far away, AI that is either stupid or impossibly accurate, a really bad cover system that sticks you to stuff without letting go and more. I played through a good portion of the game and finally gave up because the game is just not that fun or interesting, pretty bad when the game is not fun enough or interesting enough for a reviewer.
The story is not all that important but it is nice when a game keeps you interested in what is going on enough to listen to the cutscenes. The cutscenes and the rest of the graphics is a smeared kind of look that does not do justice to a current game, the scenes have a muddled look like your looking through a haze filter.
Gameplay is a mix with both characters having their advantages and the stealth would have worked well except that the scenes are either not setup for them or the AI is so bad that it is useless to use the stealth tactics. One of the first scenes has you sneaking through some tunnels that are bright as daylight with half the tunnels having absolutely no cover.
The cover system sticks you to any surface you get near when facing toward it so even if you don’t want to use the cover system it sticks you to things when you get close enough. Getting out of the cover system means moving away from the object your Velcro’d to but this sometimes takes a few tries, while the AI is shooting at you all the time.
Both the gameplay styles would work well with a better well rounded design that enhances both styles instead of just giving you the choice without consideration for the gameplay types. It seemed like a group of people designed the levels and then decided to use the two gameplay styles later and just left the levels as they were.
A few times the game does break above average and things work well but these moments are few and far between without much fun in between. Mostly you have sequences of AI that stands in the open to be shot down or is so tough that you spend hours trying to get up to the next save point so you can save the progress and try to move on.
Audio is also very hit and miss with some sections either missing the music and theme songs or they are so uninspiring that I don’t remember they were there. Other areas have good music that is fitting for the game but often the voice acting and script is just so terrible that is the stuff that stands out.
Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops is kind of like that statement, the bad stuff is so bad it stands out when you think about the game and your gameplay. With an uninspiring gameplay style for the most part, graphics and sound effects that are bland along with an AI that is wishy washy to say the least you have a game that is best left alone.
I also had problems with the frame rates on my very good system with its two GTX 460 graphics cards in SLI but with the rest being as bad as it was the frame rates didn’t hurt the game all that much. I hate to say it but Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops is best left for those lists of the worst games of the year and the poor reviewers who have to play them.