Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops – An Indie Game Review

Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops – An Indie Game Review
1.5

Platforms:

PC, Steam

Game Name:

Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops

Publisher(s):

Viva Media

Developer(s):

Black Lion Studios

Genre(s):

Action

Release Date:

April 5, 2011

Developer Summary:

  • Based on the operations of the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), with missions ranging from gathering critical intelligence data to covert direct action operations. The existence of the ISA has never been officially confirmed by the US government.
  • Two completely different characters; each with very specific and fully fleshed out sets of skills, preferences and abilities. Cooperatively complete covert operations. Players may switch between each character at any time, using either Aron’s combat abilities or Myra’s stealth skills to solve the situation.
  • Players choose from a vast array of weapons and technologies that enhance both characters strengths. Employ mechanized weapons to boldly attack enemies from head-on or an invisibility shield to creep through enemy territory undetected. Take advantage of refined game mechanics that take the traditional shoot-to-kill approach to a new level.

What We Think:

Shadow Harvest: Phantoms Ops is a mouthful to utter in conversation and I found it just as troublesome to play due to a myriad bugs and implementation issues identified as problems by the gaming industry a decade ago.

The first of these is more of a design issue in that the developer opted for a check-point based save system that can’t be activated more than once; this is an easy-to-solve problem as demonstrated in Borderlands, wherein save check-points are built directly into the game by way of big beacons that scream, “Need a save?”

Smaller irks include bad lighting and bloom issues and broken gameplay elements which I will describe in greater detail below.

Shadow Harvest game review screenshot 1

Where most games grant NPCs immortality or a magical invisible shield around them, this game gives you a ‘Don’t shoot this guy’ crosshair. Strangely, all the NPCs can be killed with friendly fire without any consequence. For example in Chapter 6, I was loading into the level pointed directly at the NPC and started automatically shooting without having touched the left mouse button. Thus before the “safety” crosshairs loaded, I ended up shooting and killing an irrecoverable NPC.

In some areas of certain maps the bloom dies down nicely and the graphics seem to shine a bit. Unfortunately this moderation didn’t persist as the bloom and graphical overindulgence kicked up again, rekindling my dismay.

In fact the graphics can be summed up with the following: they are very nice when they work but when they don’t they can be worse than waking up still half-drunk and seeing a vomit-covered pig next to you. [Sure hope the reviewer isn’t speaking from personal experience here – ED]

These are just the surface bugs mind you, there are many I have not listed. Simply put: you may end up spending more time retracing your steps because of a glitch or bug than actually playing and enjoying the story, and here one is reminded why there are two separate words for “play” and “work.”

Shadow Harvest game review screenshot 2

Bugs aside, I wanted to review this game in two major areas: storyline and gameplay.

Though initially, the storyline drew me in, it became rather bland within a few chapters. There are few surprises and it became downright snore-worthy beyond the fourth chapter. The only thing that raised my eyelids was when Myra Lee, the rather sexy special ops stealth agent got almost completely naked and started dancing around pretending to be a stripper to gain information. Even that was short-lived when I noticed, rather quickly, the flaws in the modeling.

As far as the gameplay is concerned: in concept the title sounds great but its execution is mediocre at best. The game environment doesn’t help much either, with the bloom intrusive to the point where shooting once blinds a good portion of the screen for half a second. The sneak-or-shoot choice doesn’t really pay off either; the game is more likely to direct you to shoot here and sneak there, and any other way is unacceptable.

The dynamic gameplay promised doesn’t really show up through the levels and chapters provided; everything is rather fixed, even to the point that killing one enemy with the wrong character can cause you to restart from the last check point, which as I mentioned before is usually at the beginning of the level.

Shadow Harvest game review screenshot 3

Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops isn’t terrible but it certainly isn’t near par. I must admit when I first saw this game I thought it would be great, and I even forged ahead in spite of all the negative reviews that began surfacing. I thought “Well I bet it’s not as bad as everyone says and has a case of Alpha Protocol,” which I thought was decent.

Sadly, after playing this game I must admit it’s rather shoddy. A good polish to all elements would help it a lot, but alas, this can be said about a lot of games currently on the market.

Think twice about buying Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops on Steam

Think twice about buying Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops on GamersGate

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Michael Brune

I love programming, writing and gaming. I always am working on several things at once and am very ambitious but I usually have www.mjbrune.org up to date.

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