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REVIEW: Delta Force 2 (1999, PC, Novalogic)

Thursday, 2 February 2012


Prologue

Before there was Counter Strike, there was Delta Force. I'm about to review the sequel Delta Force 2 released at 1999, because that's the game I actually played before Delta Force 1. It's also one of those rare games that kept me hooked almost a decade with great multiplayer action -- until servers "ran dry". The second part was also released same year than Counter Strike mod, which had it's retail version coming out year 2000. Delta Force 2 was developed by Novalogic, previously known for Comanche arcade helicopter shooters and the Delta Force 1, released a year before. Many may argue about this, but to me DF2 was the pinnacle of the series, with DF1 coming close. The series took turn to worse after this.

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Yes it’s true, company like Novalogic, more recently known of publishing cheap quite trashy games, actually created few great PC games back then! I’m actually only counting Delta Force 1 and 2 amongst those, while part three: Land Warrior was decent and Joint Operations games (although I’ve not played the series) are said to be decent also. I lost my interest after Task Force Dagger hit the stores (sequel to Land Warrior). Anyway, enough history lesson! Why was Delta Force 2 so great? Well it wasn't all that great actually, as a full game. To understand this games greatness and failure we must break it into two separate segments: single player and multiplayer.




Delta Force - Isn't that Chuck Norris movie?

But first we’re going to check what’s this game about. It was a tactical first person shooter using Novalogic’s “voxel graphics engine”, already presented in the first game of the series. The graphics in comparison were not that hugely updated in part two. If I recall correctly, higher resolutions were supported and also 3D cards were supported, although especially considering multiplayer games, the 3D support failed for having several glitches that gave disadvantage of spotting enemy soldiers on the field while 3D filtering was turned on and it was buggy too. It was better playing without the 3D card support on, and Voxel engine also didn’t seem to take any sort of advantage in terms of better frame rate with 3D card support. But looking the graphics without 3D support back then, they were still quite pleasant if one had decent computer that is, supporting resolutions up from 640x480. The game required quite much power from the computer hardware for any bigger resolution, especially upwards from 800x600. Despite pixelation, graphics look all right, with vast landscape of valleys and hills, snow, desert, sand and grass.


("Voxel engine" was decent for it's time at looks, although required much hardware power, however it provided great environments game play wise)

This game played out fairly simple, but had good elements in it's game play. There were only a few guns mainly with regular and suppressed pistol, M249 Saw and M4 with or without grenade launcher, scoped long range gun Barrett and M50 Sniper rifle (If I remember correctly) – and then MP5 which was hard to detect, but was practically useless for it’s short range and low firepower. It was made mainly only for fooling around and to annoy others in multiplayer game by making them ashamed getting killed by a poor gun such as MP5 – and lets not forget a knife either, the king of humiliating enemies. Also regular Grenades, Satchel charges and Laws (sort of a mini-missile) were included. One could also go for better armor (which didn’t matter much since usually you’d die with one shot anyway), Ghillie suit (very slightly better for making one harder to see in some maps for multiplayer mode) and Scuba diving gear (proved to be effective on land instead of water, with maps that had dark areas on ground as the great is black).

Delta Force 2 was basically revolved around Saw versus M4 dominating the field, but also taking advantage of grenades and grenade launcher of the M4. Both of these guns were effective from close range to medium range, with Saw obviously having advantage on close but M4 having advantage on medium and possibility to hit far with it’s scope that Saw didn’t have. Skillful player could shoot far with either of guns. Both sniper rifles definitely had their place on very large maps, bringing tactical element to the maps with vast open fields. While grenades came handy in rushing, laws were handy also taking out long range targets who were sitting still, for example in towers. Satchel charges were used mainly in some single-player missions to take out certain objectives, as well as in multiplayer game types of Search & Destroy and Attack & Defense. Binoculars became a crucial help to spot enemies in this voxel engine running environments, and as perhaps slightly stupid thing, you could switch them on and off while jumping on the air dodging bullets, but it was hectic. Limited ammo made sure that one could not just spray and pray infinitely.


Large outdoor maps, Gun ballistics and "Snake in grass"

Delta Force 2 had some good elements in it’s game play, that made the simple and flowing game play stand out in it’s time prime time, and it would still work today in case Novalogic servers had any players left anymore. Map screen was included to find out where you are at in the large map area and was much needed as the maps were quite huge at the best. Although there were only few guns, split mainly into shorter range Saw, mid-range M4 and longer range Sniper rifles, they were hugely different to play, rather than tons of guns which vary just slightly. And in multiplayer mode a good team would think what sorts of players they need for a certain map to have the most effective line-up, how many close combat and mid-range players, and was any snipers needed by this map? This brought tactical element to the game. Gun ballistics were also included, and I don’t remember any game previously doing this: when shooting at long range, bullet drops down, thus you’re going to have to aim higher the more far target you’re aiming at is located. Wind had an effect to the shots as well, and which way the wind blew from would define whether you should aim more left or right to make a hit. These may sound like little things, but it made big difference in the game, at least in my opinion, and was quite unheard of element in the days of Delta Force 2 initial release. Other than that, scope was very handy tool, since some maps were absolutely huge for it’s time.


(Night missions were not necessary, but were nice addition anyway)


Delta Force 2 (and it’s prequel DF1) were probably first games to present large outdoors areas as maps. They had few buildings here and there, but the main focus was on large terrain with hills and canyons running endlessly on it. I really enjoyed how the tactical game play focused around formation of the terrain and different paths and routes to reach a great sniping spot or get behind enemies unnoticed. This was phenomenal experience, and is still cool. Actually, not many other modern tactical shooters other than perhaps Battlefield and Joint Operations (also Novalogic game) remind me of this game. Delta Force 2 really combined simple elements into one great game: every gun had it’s different kind of use on large maps, where one had to plan his attack and escape routes.

Another thing that Delta Force 2 did bring into a shooter was, simply: “Grass”: Using the voxel engine's primitive grass was another thrilling element, adding additional cover for a sniper, a spot to lay down to if you’re ambushed, a place to hide in King of The Hill multiplayer game mode. Movement in Delta Force 2 included every necessary moves for a player: run, jump, kneel, lay down, crawl. Doesn’t sound much now, but not every game allowed you to lay down and crawl back then. Movement was also very fluid and fast, and creating fast paced hectic action. Not perhaps as hectic speed as in nowadays Call Of Duty games, but in my opinion faster than Battlefield 3. 

Talking about to the game's graphics, Delta Force 2 required sharp eyes, because seeing anyone far away would turn into total pixel hunting. Did something move over there? *Bang* -- cactus! Spotting enemies was frustrating task, but was also one of the games frills, that’s what I think at least. Delta Force 2 was “pixel hunting” from anything more than short range, which could piss off certain people. But it never bothered me, except perhaps against computer opponents where it just didn’t feel fair or realistic. Human eye versus human eye was a different story on multiplayer. Let me mention that also sound effects were quite nice for it’s time and they played huge part on spotting enemies and finding out direction whereabouts they were shooting from, especially those sneaky snipers: left, right, far, close, perhaps behind this hill?


Single-player zombie-soldiers

Well, lets get on with the single player side. Delta Force two has around 45 single player missions, of which ~25 are campaign missions and 20 are stand-alone scenarios. That is pretty much enough content-wise. But I never quite enjoyed much of single player. While game controls and game engine in this game are good in part of moving, shooting, and tactics work fine in Delta Force 2 maps: planning your route – and even missions were average to decent – enemy AI is just plain stupid. Shooting computer soldiers in single player was not much fun in my opinion. They didn’t have any interesting reactions or tactics when they spotted a player. They would walk most likely pre-planned route until they' notice you, and then just stop standing there like sitting ducks shooting at you with poor aim. But then again sometimes they were pain in the ass, since they could spot you through grass (cheat) that would not be possible with human eye.

Grinding single-player scenarios could be fun at first when you're learning the game, but after a while it just comes dull and boring, because they failed to execute anything that would make scenarios interesting -- and different scenarios in campaigns felt like they are not connected by any means. Also while these maps were like made for a tactical team strategy planning, it was not so much fun in single player where you were alone. It was far more interesting to have a squad match and discuss with your “team” about the tactics. Generally single player was under average experience because of the foolish and predictable AI. Missions felt quite repetitive grinding against stupid zombie enemies without much variation whatsoever.


(Enemies in single player mode were total zombies, but it was a good place to learn the game - also notice the grass)


Massive adrenaline rush-filled multiplayer battles

But multiplayer is what kept me hooked almost a decade to Delta Force 2, and I still would play it if there was any players, though I’m amazed to see that Novalogic actually still has it’s DF2 game lobby up with whopping ~30 players total. The server lobby and good bunch of the servers were (and still are) hosted by Novalogic themselves, with possibility for anyone owning Delta Force 2 to make up his own game and get it listed on Novalogic lobby thus making joining and hosting process very simple. Fluid gameplay of Delta Force 2 was like made for online gaming, and combined with a maps that did make you think your routes, how to remain unseen, where to ambush and so on combined to this fluid gameplay that required fast reflexes as well as much patience for longer shots made it totally awesome experience.

Delta Force franchise did also bring large scale online battles in online shooters. Not only in terms of huge outdoors maps, but also in terms of players. while regular server had 8 vs 8 teams, there was also huge 16 vs 16 battles and support up to 50 players all together, with some of the maxed out servers coming online bit later. This was unseen in any shooters previous to year 1999. It made online battles quite hectic and totally fun. The game included various well working gametypes for online battling: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, King of The hill, Team King of The Hill, Capture the flag, Flagball, Search and destroy and Attack and defend. While most of these game types are regularly seen nowadays in online shooters, they were quite fresh back then and some of those worked better on Delta Force 2 maps than most games today!

Deathmatch was quite hectic running and shooting anything that moves, and was everyone versus everyone where player with most kills wins. Team deathmatch was the same but the most kills scored team wins, and due both teams having their own spawns instead of random spawning anywhere, it was a bit more tactical: do you invade enemy base or defend your own with long range weapons? “Attack and Defend” and “Search and Destroy” had two teams with both having a goal to destroy enemy objects around terrain with satchel charges or other explosives. They were pretty much related except in A&D both teams had their objects in their bases, thus focusing on base defence & attack. Both of the two game types worked fine, but the largest gaming community focused around other game types.

Personally I enjoyed the most of Team King of The Hill, Flagball and Capture the Flag. Team King of The Hill had a “zone” in middle of the map, and both teams in the zone would try to clock specific amount of time (5min, 10min etc) with at least one player resuming in zone whole time. If other team cleared out last player of the other team from zone, then the clock would start from zero again. This game type was pure fun with squad matches especially, and very tactical. Who would defend against enemy close range attackers, who would watch flankers getting behind own spawn, who could assault, who would try getting behind enemy zoner or base, who would snipe and counter-snipe? Totally awesome team game play in this game type that was place of hundreds of adrenaline filled matches for me.

In Capture The Flag, both teams had their base as a spawning point, with flags to get located on enemy territory. This was also about tactical knowledge (best paths to most important flags etc.) as well as ability to for properly armed team for each map, and then of course individual skills. But no one player could win the whole map for a team alone. Team would have to think which flags were easiest to get, which were the most important ones to get, which were essential to defend and what were the best spots for players to take down enemy runners and defenders. I remember dozen great matches, going in pairs with someone for a flag, trying my best to defend a flag runner with M4 while he has just got a hold of a flag, but enemy M4 has spotted him and he’s gotten stuck behind a hill, and only way out would be running in open field in front of enemy sniper. Flagball was quite similar but with one flag only at the time. The flag would respawn into middle of the map every time, to be grabbed and returned to home base of either team, where it was scored and returned to the middle-spawn again. The map would last for example ten successful scorings by either team


Online and cheaters

Only downside of the multiplayer game would be common cheaters running around servers, mostly freely, unless the server was well observed by the host, which means Novalogic servers and majority of free hosted ones let them run pretty much free anyway. There was such cheats, that would pretty much ruin tight game for anyone. The Delta Force 2 community came out with their own anti-cheat patches, since Novalogic could not be bothered with the issue after several years of the game's release date. It was, at least, slight way to prove that you were not cheating yourself yourself if suspected, as this patch disabled pretty much majority of known common cheat programs, and players that had anti-cheat (ACP) turned one would be listed on Internet site with the player name showing whether one had it turned on or off. This would get rid of those who were trying to cheat silently, but of course the clowns who just cheated anyway for the fun of it to ruin it for everyone else (flying, auto grenades from the sky etc.) didn't care much. 

Later on there were also servers that not only listed users of ACP, but also required this to be turned on or you'd get kicked out from the server automatically. The system was not perfect but it did indeed increase lifespan of the Delta Force 2 community at least to some extent. These anti-cheat patch thingies are most likely very outdated now though. But the thing was, that Novalogic was never very supportive to Delta Force 2 community for anti-cheat matters, so the community had to take steps themselves. I don't see this affecting my given "multiplayer rating" much though.


(Oh the memories of dozens multiplayer squad matches!)


Epilogue

A Short bio about myself as a Delta Force 2 player. It would show how much fun I had with this game online. When acquiring the game at 1999, I almost immediately moved into online playing as Single Player was only average, if not less, experience. This revealed truly flowing and great game mechanics of this game, and advantage of large hill-filled maps. I skipped many school mornings to be able to play late, and to be able to compete also with American players. I started my first squad =THE= (Thunderhawk Elite) somewhere at 2000 I think, and year after I joined *DEA where I played (excluding short breaks) perhaps until 2006 or 2007. Best online gaming time of my life perhaps. The servers started to be empty at this period of time and I then continued to play only rarely, but I still remember the once great community revolved around this game with great squads like *FF, tm, atv, *DEA, sub7, =KOH=, Mbn, Jag, -av-, :os:, -sin-... and so many I’ve forgotten. Doesn’t say much to most of the readers perhaps but what the hell!

"-Icehawk, u forgot -av- tm :os: -sin-.".
-outblast df2 

-That's true! Added.
-][ce)-(awK

To make it short, team play was very tactical and game types worked fantastically with big outdoor maps. Squad matches in Delta Force 2 were almost always very adrenaline filled events with lots of going on. This was also the heart and soul of Delta Force 2 in my opinion. Single player mode was average even for it's time, but multiplayer mode was fantastic back then, and would still be great it there was any players around. I’d give it a shot any day now!

Buy Delta Force 2 from Amazon.com


(Some single-player action provided by "katkid2405")


The GoodThe Bad

  • Adrenaline filled multiplayer game
  • Sounds work well in spotting where enemies are
  • Grassy terrain and large outdoor maps
  • Ballistics
  • Simple yet sharp controls





  • Single player campaigns are dull
  • AI soldiers are zombies (Singleplayer)
  • Graphics engine is rather grainy
  • 3d cards support is a joke
  • Not many different guns
  • Once great community is pretty much dead now and servers are quite empty
  • Novalogic's bad support against cheat programs


Single-player
Multi-player
Overall score
719284


System requirements: Intel Pentium II, 64MB RAM, Cd-rom drive (But in reality you should have something like decent computer from 2003-2004 to play high resolutions)




24 comments:

  1. Nice. I used to love this game, back when it came out. I missed it, so I decided to buy it again from Novalogic's site. Maybe I can still find a server to hop on every once in a while.

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  2. Well yea man, I didn't use to play single player that much, but multiplayer was awesome! Too bad that last time I checked there's only one server with decent amount of players really. Democlassics I think was the name and they are mostly all weird close combat maps, not really my preferration.

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  3. Hey nice read,

    Wonder who you were back then though, I was in =THE= back in the day and later was one for the leaders of *atv*

    You might remember me as *atv*Silver or s1. Talk about a flash from the past. Those were the good days =)

    Since way back then I lead a counterstrike steam went Cal main then to CPL got my ass handed to me. Started playing wow became a 3 time Glad and was in a top 100 progression guild.

    Now I'm working full time, and just help found a start up company called L2Ptv. Check it out if you get some time. If you ever want to talk about the old times or want to do an interview or something for your site let me know. My emails chris@l2ptv.com

    I'm really curious to see which player you were from =THE=

    -Silver (Chris)

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  4. Cool, sure I do remember you. I was one of the creators of =THE= with R@yden, which was then accompanied with Perfx and Scylla - who actually became rather inactive soon with new players taking bigger role.

    I then left =THE= at one point and joined to *DEA, which had some of ex-=KOH= guys in also if i remember correctly. I liked that since =THE= and =KOH= had pretty good relations, well at least on my part.

    In =THE= I was known as ][ce)-(awK, which was also partly my name in *DEA accompanied with )v(anticore at one point. I also used Spectre[*SAW*] - also known as "the other SAW", because we were formed about same time with another squad with the same tag, who obviously grew more known than us with larger roster.

    Grats with the company. :)

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  5. Oh wait, that above was almost correct. But not quite. The right order was =THE= -> [*SAW*] -> *DEA. Also played in some short-living squads of Crazy Joker and pals twice later on. Had great roster, but they didn't last.

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  6. I think "the good old days" even lasted to somewhere like 2004 after the game started dying. The amount of players and such. It's pretty good age for a fps game like this! Though I think that the "golden days" were always the first two years since the release, perhaps even three. *atv* had a very good roster no doubt about it.

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  7. Why would you buy 'abandonware' when it's available free? Anyways this game was indeed awesome back in its day...

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  8. It's free download now? Oh well I think it's time for reinstall at some day. Well, some people do like to own the good games physically - I know I like to own some personally.. not everything. For example Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall is available by free released by Bethesda, but I kinda enjoy owning the classic game's physical copy - crazy? I don't know :)

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  9. I actually owned Daggerfall back then, sold it, and recently bought it back even though it was released as free also.

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  10. I probably lost months out of my life due to DF2 onlineplay. Aside from the cheaters and hacks the game was great. I played for ~GH~ and I remember getting cleaned evertime by :TO: (Mostly former *FF). Great times, wish nova would launch an HD version with updated online support.

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  11. Yeah I remember :TO: being very good squad. Aside from that I don't remember player names seperately as it was so long ago.. :) Didn't remember they were mostly formerly form *FF though. Thanks for comment.

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  12. I miss this game in those years my name was "Osama Bush" ...

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  13. Hah I just saw this from CrazyJoker on facebook. Sup Icehawk this is/was lucifer/offair from -sin-/syn. and such :)

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  14. Hehe. Yes, that name rings a bell! Fun times. :P I've never got the same kicks on other online shooter so far, not even of Battlefield 2 or 3.

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  15. Icehawk, u forgot -av- tm :os: -sin-..

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  16. outblast
    Devious
    MasterK
    Crazy Joker
    Icehawk
    El barto
    B0jang
    relic*
    demon

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    Replies
    1. Personally, if I had to pick my favorite, which I don't like to do really, it would go like this:

      Demon was my favorite since the rather early days (but post-*FF / tm reign - or at least the very end of that era). He was someone who could rise above other awesome players in many games we were underdogs, even - looking at the end-game scores. Problem was that he was always a bit hard to get in touch with. Early on, he played more, but it didn't last long 'till he played only very rarely and wasn't available that much. He probably lost interest in Df2 (how could that be, damnit!?) in a few years, maybe three.

      When Demon started fading off, Devious was pretty good. He went on then being perhaps the most awesome Df2 (at the time, not all times, perhaps) I ever know during two to three year period, or something like that.

      Great list, though! I think anyone on that list could had added that little "something extra" to a squads performance on one's best day, when it was match time.

      Delete
  17. Great article! You could also add that the game facilitated hours of great ICQ and mIRC conversations, making online friends, and hundreds of pages of online forums drama lol

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, I totally forgot about ICQ, mIRC, and their past existence. At times when I still went in school, I remember leaving ICQ on at nights with the sound, so often I would wake up in middle of the night when someone was firing up ICQ messages at me with rapid rate *Uh-Oh!* *Uh-Oh!* *Uh-Oh!*. "Oh, there must be an important DF2 game right now!"

      "Hey Ice u there? We have a match with *ATV* in 10 minutes. Wanna play?"

      "Yeah m8 sure!" Lets go."

      As European, I would say that best matches mostly happened in the middle of the night for me. "Stupid euro time!". Made me skip a lot of morning classes at school.

      Delete
    2. Sgt. Ivanov, reporting for duty!?! How ya doin old pal? How many other old FireFighters are still out there on patrol? Missing the good old days of endless pixelated fun with you guys.

      Nexus *FF

      Delete
    3. Now that's a name I haven't heard of in a while! Other old FFrs are still around. Not sure how many still play PC games though. RL got them all now. I have a few on them on FB. Mav got married, Legio has a daughter, Chun is an MD, DR unfortunately passed away. Dannyboy is a funny guy I met him in Chicago and had a beer with him. Steve, find me on FB or shoot me an email. rdemine@gmail.com

      Iv

      Delete
  18. Lol so many known name.
    DF2 is still maybe the best game i played.
    Shame E-Sport wasn't really a thing back then else a lot of us would have been pro. Ohh and dont forget -RiP- in your list (we played CTF)

    I am still waiting for a good open medium /small size map, small group vs group multiplayer shooter, without stupid vehicles, our running around shooting.(counter strike)
    But where you had to use the environment for cover like in delta force 2, where you used rocks/mountains to use to get into view for only a second and make that kill before getting back in cover again.
    Its a shame all new shooters all are kind of the same, with some different graphics, but they all miss the good game-play of delta force 2.

    Or does anybody knows of such a game i missed?

    Ares -RiP- or Tweety *Lt

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, you're completely right about the maps and using cover in DF2, and all. I like Battlefield games a bit; been playing BF2 some times since it's free now. But, it's not the same. Never really got into CS.

      Don't know how you feel about PUBG aka Battlegrounds? I'vent played it personally, but I've seen some live streams, and it looks kinda fun. It's more of a single player / team survival shooter, with a large map. It runs as "a last man / team standing", where you randomly find weapons and armors over the large map, and the area narrows all the time, until there's only little bit of area left where you don't take any damage and die.

      It looks interesting, but my computer cannot run it, unfortunately. Looks like improved version of H1Z1.

      Delete
    2. And too bad DF2 didn't come out at "E-sport" days. I really played a hell out of it, learned the maps, learned only one weapon, but really well. Those were the days, lol.

      -][ce)-(awK

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