Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops


posted 5/6/2011 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC
So, there I was riding along in the car when the driver let slip an incredibly surprising piece of information: things were apparently not going well in the neighborhood and he felt it likely that violence would soon ensue. Really?? I was shocked! And here I thought smart diplomacy was going to be my secret to success, just as it has every place else that it’s been tried.

We reached the compound of a local warlord safely and I was soon reunited with my gun and odd little head-worn optical device that went entirely without explanation. It didn’t take long to realize that the little gadget could somehow determine the political leanings of everyone I looked at and outline their body in either red or green. It also seemed to provide an interlock on my gun to prevent me from shooting green people, which is a good thing because I felt that I really ought to see if I could figure out whether green was good and red bad, or vice-versa. Since, you know, no one had given me an operator’s manual for this intriguing piece of kit. I figured if I shot that green outlined guy and no one made a fuss over it, green was bad. I think it’s better to just get these things straight before the real fighting starts.

Having been weaponed up, I then went out back to shoot at some bottles. That was the extent of the tutorial.

Soon enough I was out of the compound and left to my own devices, although there was some irritating guy talking in my ear telling me things that didn’t make any sense. Well, they didn’t make any sense until I had finally gotten far enough down the street to get to where the developers should have put whatever trigger I had passed prematurely. Getting there took awhile, though, because there were people shooting at me. I could tell because the AI guys following along with me were shooting at, but not hitting, some other guys that were shooting at us. This all resulted in an odd sort of synchronized popping sound that I think was supposed to sound like a fire fight but actually sounded like well coordinated popcorn popping.

It also resulted in me getting killed. Repeatedly. There were a couple of factors working heavily against my survival. The first was that it was very hard to see the opponents. The odd thing about the Middle East is how overwhelming brown it is. Although it was lighter in color, I have to imagine that this landscape would make the inside of a UPS truck look positively vibrant in comparison. Luckily I had my little head device to outline the enemies for me, and my gun had a fantastic reticule that would turn red when I was positioned for a fatal head shot. The AI guys didn’t move around very much, so as soon as I could fix the location of one of them it was simply a matter of waiting for him to present enough of his head for me to remove it for him. There were no civilians or anything else to complicate the issue, either. The streets were completely deserted. I can’t blame them, really. I wouldn’t want to live in such a ceaselessly drab world either.

Another problem that I had was telling when I myself had been shot. I eventually learned to pay very close attention to the damage counter on the screen. Lengthy load times after each death encouraged me to not only keep a very close watch on the counter, but to explore each and every little hovel in the hopes of finding health packs. In fact, health pack gathering soon became the primary focus of the game for me.
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