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Spec Ops Stealth Patrol

The best $10 you'll ever spend.
Blowing up things is cool. Blowing up things with C4 while under enemy fire is the coolest.
A harsh, brutal game of stealth and tactics, Spec Ops will surprise gamers with its high production values and solid gameplay. Army Rangers take on a series of missions ever increasing in difficulty and danger with realistic weapons and equipment. The game engine is clean and well designed, the action is tense and violent, and the ability to have a second ranger backing up the player allows for some nice basic strategies. Having a friend play the second ranger makes the game even more fun, as two people attempt to coordinate their actions. Spec Ops has a sharp learning curve, though, and even at its lowest difficulty, will be too much for some players.

Spec Ops Stealth Patrol

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One of the first games to take advantage of the new lower licensing fees on PlayStation, Spec Ops comes to retail at a more than reasonable $9.99; it would have been a good buy at three times that price. Taking control of a group of elite Army Rangers, players are challenged to take on a series of difficult missions that require stealth, planning and incredible awareness. All of the rangers have their own skill sets and equipment preferences, and learning who to take on which mission is a major part of the game's strategy. Snipers are mostly useless in rural areas at night, grenadiers can't hold their own in wide-open spaces, and machine gunners are good all-around troops. There's no reason to go at the missions solo, though, when a buddy makes the killing so much more rewarding. With a series of simple commands that can be used to control the secondary ranger (wait, hold, follow, shoot) and the ability to switch between the two at will, it's possible to use basic flanking and distraction tactics to surprise enemies. A close-combat ranger equipped with a shotgun and grenades, teamed up with an extremely accurate sniper, can quickly make a mess out of some low-life terrorist scum.

The production value for this bargain title is surprisingly good and begins with a solid gameplay engine. Players can control their characters from a third- or first-person view as well as using various scopes, night vision goggles and motion sensors. The characters themselves have a number of physical movements. They can crawl, crouch, duck, roll and run for their lives when under fire. Most of the time all these gymnastics won't help a lick when faced with heavy machinegun fire, but they're invaluable for stealth operations.

Missions in the game are goal-oriented and often have several stages that must be completed to successfully finish. If one of the rangers on a player's team is killed, the mission continues. If both are killed, or the time window for the op runs out, it's all over. Missions vary in both location and scope, from tight close-quarters ops in the jungle to wide-open desert environments, from simple kill-everything-in-sight missions to careful destruction of key equipment.

When the developers at Runecraft designed Spec Ops, they were obviously shooting for a harshly realistic game, and that's exactly what they produced. A brutal death toll and head shots that often kill in one hit combine to make Spec Ops harder than most action games. Add in a steep learning curve and a control scheme that, while well designed, assigns multiple uses to many of the buttons, and the result is one of the hardest games we've played in years. It's not cheap "What the hell were they thinking?" hard, but painstakingly "What the hell was I thinking?" hard. Blink or hesitate for an instant, and there are a few less rangers on the screen. While this level of difficulty will satisfy hardcore fans, it may turn off the casual gamer that these cheaper titles are primarily aimed at.

The Bottom Line: Far better that Rainbow Six on PSX. At $39.99 Spec Ops would be a solid buy; at $9.99 it's an absolute steal.

- Daniel Erickson

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"There's no reason to go at the missions solo when a buddy makes the killing so much more rewarding."


Choose wisely. These guys will make or break you.

Bring along a friend and cause twice the damage.

Sniping someone from a few hundred yards away is strangely gratifying.

Developer Take 2 Interactive
Publisher Take 2 Interactive
Genre Action

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