No, it can't be... Can it? After a wait longer than Kylie Minogue's for a decent song, we've finally got a complete finished copy of Navy Seals. The question is, will it be worth the wait in the same way as Kylie's 'Better The Devil You Know' or, um, not. (Predictable Opening Gambi Follow-Ups No. 2).
THE SAME OLD SONG AND DANCE
I don't know, you'd think after taking such a long time over it, Ocean would have made sure that this was a damn good product, but it hasn't happened. Navy Seals is the kind of game that software houses used to churn out by the barrow-load a couple of years ago - a runny-jumpy-shooty platform thing with no real innovations but lots of straightforward action to keep the punter happy just long enough to the next one to come out. (Cynical old sod, am I not?)
It was all very well at the time, but most of us saw through this rather obvious ploy a couple of years back, forcing game's companies to come up more original releases every now and again. Now though, and rather worryingly, Ocean seem to have decided that the market is ready for an encore performance. First came RoboCop 2, then Total Recall, and now this, the latest in a disturbing line of remarkably similar games, all movie licences with resemblance to (or feel for) the respective films.
What really bothers me, though, is that they seem to be getting slowly worse. There was a time, very recently, when Ocean was a company that could be relied on for classy, polished products. Sadly, the days of , Pang, Plotting, Midnight Resistance, Battle Command, Batman and (of course) Rainbow Islands - all excellent games, and, indeed, nearly all of them fixtures in our All-Time Top 100 - seem behind us now and the standard has slipped alarmingly.
But before I get off the subject entirely, what about Navy Seals? Well, it's not that bad. Which is to say that it's pretty bad, just not altogether terrible. In its favour it's got some very nice animation and a decent level of challenge, but drawback include a lack of depth and some of the worst juddery scrolling seen on an Amiga for years. And that's it. Except that I've got another page to fill up yet, so I suppose 'd better expand on things a bit.
First off, all of you out there with runaway testosterone levels will lap up the scenario. The Navy Seals are the US equivalent of SAS, so there's plenty of scope for square-jawed, muscle-flexing, homo-erotic antics to thrill spotty inadequates everywhere. The plot, such as it is, involves massacring large numbers of unspecified 'terrorists' (although they all look suspiciously Arabic), rescuing weak and helpless hostages (a captured helicopter crew in this case), and then slaughtering your way subtly through downtown Beirut to destroy a stockpile of captured Stinger rockets. (Actually, that 'subtly' bit was a lie). Alternatively, of course, you could simply pretend that Beirut was Baghdad, the Stingers were Scuds, and the Arabs were Iraqis (no great leap of imagination called from there), and recreate Operation Desert Storm in the comfort of your own home, if you're sad enough.
BIG, HARD, CLEVER AND AQUATIC
So that's enough scenario. How about the actual gameplay? Well, as it happens, it's pretty much Navy Seals' strongest point. The platforms-and-ladders-and-shooting-things style isn't anything new, but here it's at least been fairly well executed, with lots of acrobatic moves both possible and necessary.
Navy Seals is the kind of game that software houses used to churn out by the barrow-load
Your performing Seals can certainly leap around with no little aplomb, although for the hardest men the US armed services have to offer they're surprisingly weedy when it comes to falling distances greater than about six feet. It's not perfect though - certain irritating bad guys shoot at you before they have the nerve to show their faces on screen, killing you nine times out of ten (of course) and making it necessary to learn where they are so you can be ready for them next time. As regular readers will know, this is one of my least favourite gameplay devices, and it's particularly unfortunate and lazy in a fast-reactions arcade game like this one.
Also indicative of lazy design is the extremely tight time limit on every level - something which usually feels artificial and intrusive, though in this case it actually works quite well in keeping the excitement going. (I'm not sure why, possibly because it distances the thing from its complete lame movie tie-in aspect and makes it feel more like a pure game).
Presentation? Well, yes, it's got some. Ahem. There's a strange kind of shizophrenia displayed here (well, no stranger than your everyday run-of-the-mill shizophrenia, but you know what I mean) - each level is preceded by a pretty little cameo screen, but on completing it there's nothing, nothing at all. You get a few bonus points and that's it, not even a 'well done' message. The ending is also utterly, utterly feeble.
Sound? No it isn't. The music is useless and the FX are perfunctory, to say the least. And that's all I can bring myself to tell you about them.
And finally, the graphics are... alright. The animation is lovely in some parts (climbing up crates, swinging along under platforms) and dire in others (running, climbing ladders, swinging up onto platforms), while the backdrops are fairly atmospheric but maybe a little on the formulaic side.
When it all comes down to it though, Navy Seals' biggest flaw is a lack of variety. The eight levels are all as near as makes no difference to being completely identical. The difficulty only increases in numerical terms (either more baddies or more rockets to destroy) and, while addictive in the short term, this rapidly leads to the onset of boredom. Technically the game looks like an ST port (I thought we'd seen the last of those) and generally the feeling is one of overwhelming indifference.