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[personal profile] smtx030
Some video games try to be a bit more than just a shooter. This is one of them.

Dubai has been all but buried by a massive sandstorm, the US Army's gone in to evacuate civilians, and something has gone very wrong because the Army and the civilians are still in the city and no one's heard anything from them. So a Delta Force captain, the character played by the gamer, is sent in with two other Deltas to investigate. And things get ugly. And then they get strange. This is a war game that would rather be Apocalypse Now than a typical action movie.

I played the demo that was available on Xbox Live and had to get the game, even though from the demo it might as well have been a generic military shooter -- except for the setting. The half-buried city, with huge luxury skyscrapers, makes for a unique look and feel for the game.

As for the full game... the basic idea is that Army forces have gone rogue, the CIA is trying to sort things out, and the Deltas get stuck trying to figure out who's in the right. Along the way (SPOILER) they end up at times fighting fellow US troops, civilians, and others, and things get more morally confusing with each step. By the end, after a series of atrocities and hallucinations and revelations, it's still not clear who's in the right, but it's obvious that the protagonist has screwed up very very badly. And may have cracked earlier than you realized.

(One particular scene not suitable for playing with kids around: you need to clear out an area with a lot of soldiers. There's a laptop-controlled mortar that can launch white phosphorus mortars at key targets. It's almost a game within a game, using the laptop's infrared display to aim and fire the mortar; you can make out large vehicles but people are just white dots. When you're done, you leave the laptop and you see the horror you've just unleashed on dozens of American troops. And then you find out it's even worse than that. It's an interesting way to comment on the dehumanizing effect of video games, I suppose, but I didn't get the sense that the player can refuse to take this action without giving up on the game.)

There are a few different endings, including an epilogue after the credits (though I'm not sure there'll be an epilogue for all players, depending on the final choice the gamer makes). None really clarifies everything that happened. And the game gets to have things both ways -- it presents a character who's made some very bad decisions, but the gameplay tends not to give the gamer any real choice about what to do. Or does it? I want to play it again and see whether certain events can be avoided, and whether certain actions have real consequences. Anyway, this game is getting a lot less hype than games like the latest Call of Duty or Ghost Recon games, but it's well worth investigating.

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