|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Abylight||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Deep Silver / Gammick Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 28, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
It's always a little disappointing when a game that initially looks like it might hold at least some shred of potential turns out to be generic drivel. From the get-go, Elite Forces: Unit 77 seems to proudly channel all of the cheesiness of 80s action flicks, where big muscles, big guns, and big explosions attempt to make up for a canned plot and poor delivery. That may be just the ticket for some, but you just might find yourself bowled over by how much Unit 77 is staggeringly unremarkable.
Terrorist plots have long been fodder for action games, yet you'd think after scores of meathead military shooters revolving around a team of so-called special forces heroes dropped-in behind enemy lines to kick some ass the idea could be freshened up a bit. You'll find no such reprieve here. Evildoers of some sort or another have kidnapped more than 30 of the world's prominent citizens as part of a grand scheme that will ultimately jeopardize the safety of millions around the globe. How on earth can they be stopped? You guessed it: by a four person team of covert Elite Forces soldiers armed to the teeth. With a blank check to pump rounds of hot lead into endless waves of similarly adorned faceless combatants - all in the name of democracy, of course - it's time to get your war on.
The cliché 80s action hero comparison applies to more than just the game's plot and overall concept. Aside from atrocious names, each of the four members of Unit 77 possesses their own area of expertise that must be drawn upon at different times in the game to survive and complete your missions. The beefy Dag Hammer is a hulking brute who totes around a bazooka that proves useful for dispatching heavily armored nuisances. Kendra Chase is an Olympic shooter turned sniper who can take out enemies at long range using a touch-screen scope to target far-off areas of the map. T.K. Ritchter is the only member of the group who can detect and disarm mines and drive any vehicles you encounter in the field. Bill "The Drill" Matic is a bored, rich-kid hacker who joined the team to tackle electronic obstacles; he's needed to open gates and interface with other consoles. Each squad member has a primary gun and can use their limited secondary specialty whenever they've picked up enough ammo.
Smoking terrorists in each of the game's dozen moderately-sized levels involves moving your team throughout the maze-like locations to reach key points, taking out obstacles (human or otherwise) in your path, and completing various objectives. While much of the gameplay boils down to constantly mowing down generic enemy soldiers that irritatingly re-spawn constantly as you move back-and-forth to different locations on any given map, there are also mini-boss encounters (big machine-gunning guys, choppers, automated turrets, etc.) that change things up. Safely navigating the levels requires strategic use of each squad member's special skills and careful planning of your routes. Smashing open boxes to reveal health pickups and ammo to power your abilities is also the key to survival.
If any of your squad members kick the bucket, you're sent back to the last save point on the map. Unfortunately, you can't save your game just anywhere, and the predetermined spots are few and far between. This can be an unforgiving punishment in some levels that are more densely packed with dangerous obstacles - including mines, tanks, turrets, snipers, and worse. Being forced to methodically replay the same stretch of map over and over again will grind on even the most stalwart players. It's not that the game itself is overly tough, but endlessly swarming enemies and sporadic control problems will gradually whittle away at your squad's health and your patience.