Signal Ops is a First-Person tactical shooter mixed with some real time strategy, that holds a strong resemblance to the likes of SWAT: Global Strike Team (hipster gamer cred if you’ve played this game), Rainbow Six and other squad based shooters. What makes this game stand out though? First thing you’ll notice about this game is the visual style; colourful and very original that has hints of surrealist art and comic book colouring. What an interesting style!
That is, however, for the first few missions; about an hour in and the style begin to bother me with its abrasive colouring which resembles ‘paint by numbers’ paintings, not a bad one, but an obvious one. Some people may enjoy this style, but I had to take breaks; I could never play Signal Ops for more than 45 minutes. Which may have also contributed to some of the other problems I had.
When you first get into the gameplay, you play as a commander that get’s to order around troops from the safety of his control room.
You play the tutorial and learn the basics fine, but it became rather apparent that the controls would be rather clunky, especially for someone that wasn’t use to playing squad based shooters on the PC.
That complaint aside, you can actually plug in an Xbox 360 controller and go from there, but I wanted to prevail with the mouse and keyboard.
It’s also at this point you get a quick glance of the rather amusing comedy that takes place in Signal Ops; darkly comical that lightens the deaths of your soldiers and keeps the tone of the game.
After learning the basics, you’re sent into the abstract looking world of Signal Ops with a pat on the ass and a few objectives for each mission.
The control-room you command your troops from actually allows for coop, local multiplayer and LAN, which I imagine would be pretty fun! It’s also at this point you get to see how you’re going to be playing the majority of this game; in oddly shaped screens. Although an original idea, it is a massive pain in the ass.
One soldier gets a bigger screen, the other two get smaller ones, bearing in mind you can still part of the screen your character you’re looking at. Playing it on a 16inch screen did the visuals or the robotic animations no favours…
The animations are insanely stiff and remind me of when your limbs go numb and you’re left flailing and stiffly moving your extremities in simple staggered movements, trying to complete the simplest of tasks…
When you actually get involved with the missions though, you can feel either one of two very contradicting emotions. First off we get the frustration of trying to make the stealth elements of the game to work and at times they do, but for a game that feels like it needs stealth, it’s increasingly frustrating when it doesn’t.
The other feeling is the immense satisfaction, similar to that of the satisfaction you get in games like Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy. The feeling of total perseverance against insurmountable odds feels good after you’ve planted evidence, or framed someone or assassinated some unfortunate bugger, because it gives you that sense of achieving something against the odds; something that is sorely missed in video-games these days, unless, of course, you’re an indie game.
Why are the odds so against you? Because shooting is a mess, unless you have a rifle, sneaking is a real problem, unless you’re… Well, it’s just a problem.
These sorts of things can really detract from the experience of the game, which is a shame, because this game does have a fun experience in it. You just have to peel back the layers of strenuous game design.
That’s not to say that this game is bad, it’s just real difficult to get fully involved with a game that feels, looks and plays rather painfully at times.
Signal Ops has a great sense of humour that has you giggling at very inappropriate times. The comedy really helps take away from the immersion breaking game mechanics.
Thankfully, as you get further into the game, it does get more interesting: with increasingly involved scenarios andmore options which increases the amount of ways you can complete a mission. The majority of the time though, it is just a case of being sneaky, and getting the drop on enemies, which is all well and good, but I miss being able to go through games, not killing people. You know Dishonored or Metal Gear Solid style?
Thinking about those games, you can non-lethally deal with enemies by holding them up in a very Metal Gear Solid manner, they stay out of any fights until someone tags them back in. Now this is cool, but this can also happen to your troops, which is frustrating when you almost perfectly execute a plan and then you get held up.
Signal Ops is a game that feels like it could have done with some more time in development, maybe a few different executions with some of the ideas such as the shooting and the sneaking. However, thanks to its charms, dark humour, originality, occasional feelings extreme perseverance and beautiful satisfaction, the game is saved from being just another run of the mill indie title that get’s eaten alive by the already saturated market.
Is it worth your time?
Yes. If you have time to invest patience into this type of title, then do so and enjoy the extremely satisfying, but flawed experience that is Signal Ops.