In 2004, EA Games’ Battlefield 1942 had finally met its match in the form of NovaLogic’s Joint Operations Typhoon Rising. NovaLogic is the same enterprise that brought us the sleeper hit Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. For those that are not familiar with Joint Operations, let me give you a quick rundown. Joint Operations Typhoon Rising is the second game ever created that has been donned the title of MMOFPS (Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter); Planetside was the first. Just like its cousin, the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), Joint Ops offers gameplay on a massive scale. Unprecedented 150 person battles online at a time, with massive environments and modern weapons and vehicles at players’ disposal. Unlike its competition, Joint Ops‘ emphasis is on teamwork and coordination. Another added plus is the game offers online co-op mission based gameplay, which for some retarded reason is a rarity in video games today. This game offers a lot of treats, right? Well those treats come bittersweet. JOTR had more bugs than Windows 95. Random exploding vehicles, God-awful collision detection, and poor Vehicle mechanics took some of the enjoyment out of the game. If that was not bad enough, character classes seemed unbalanced. The only two classes of soldier you would see online were the Rifleman and Medic. There were FIVE classes. The Gunner, Sniper, and Engineer classes were weak and had little use. But enough of the history lesson because now the long awaited Joint Operations expansion titled Joint Operation Escalation is here, and modern combat has never looked so good!
What will probably be the first thing you will notice is different in JOE is its music. When you are in game there is no music, which is a good thing because you are going to need all your senses ready when the battle ensues. The music I am talking about is the Introduction and Menu music. In JOTR, to put it quite frankly, the music is like they let a ten year old with an audio mixer do the score. It was bland. It was a poor choice for a music score. It was just plain garbage. Well it looks like a second try was a charm as the menu score is now enjoyable. They ditched the melodramatic Vietnam-ish score for a more action-oriented score, which goes better with the type of game JOE is. The sound effects are still top notch. Realistic weapons fire, nice vehicle sound effects, all that you would expect from veteran pro, NovaLogic. Sound effects are especially gratifying when combat starts to really heat up. You actually feel like you are in a war. Graphically, the game is still in the A list. Lovely enormous maps, decent character models, and spectacular explosions are the standard they set with JOTR, and they keep the punches coming in JOE.
The Tour de Grace is the many upgrades they have done in the gameplay. The random destruction of your vehicles is gone. The collision detection has vastly improved: when you run into something (ex. A building), you will actually hit the object instead of going through it. The class system has also been fixed as well. With all new attack helicopters and tanks, the vehicle destruction expertise of the Engineer is needed now more than ever. Larger maps with better cover allow snipers the edge against gunho riflemen in a long distance firefight. And the new bullet system allows Gunners to reign supreme in almost any close combat skirmish. Newer vehicles in the game include attack choppers – the T-80 and the Abrahams – and a few new tanks. Both vehicles require teamwork, especially the choppers, since the pilot cannot fire weapons. You will have to have at least one other person to man the ol spitfire.
The most fun and controversial new vehicle in the game is definitely the motorcycle. Why the controversy? Well, in a game that is supposed to be all about realism and teamwork, the motorcycle can and usually does upset that balance. The motorcycle is the fastest vehicle in the entire game. It’s loud and it leaves a big dust trail wherever it goes – those are supposed to be the weaknesses of the motorcycle. I cannot see how, considering that nothing can seem to catch you and it is extremely hard to shoot the ones on the motorcycles. What the motorcycle ends up doing is allowing players to get to a certain waypoint with almost little resistance. The vehicle can be a little difficult to control once it’s at top speeds. If you run into a tree or a building, you might as well tuck your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye, because you will be flying in the air. But, like I said earlier, the motorcycles are fun. There is nothing cooler than being in the middle of a firefight and taking a motorcycle and jumping over all your enemies below. The motorcycles really bring a needed arcade aspect into a highly realistic game.
The game still has its problems though. Some of the new maps have lag issues. Maps like Sulawa Spaceport have lots of detail and things to destroy, but once a battle gets heated and when the mortar shells hit, the game lags. Even with a 2.0 GHz computer, 1gb of ram, a Radeon 9800 pro, and cable modem, the lag is almost to the point of being unplayable. If you have not played the previous installment of Joint Operations, it is very wise to do the tutorials, because if you do not and you jump right into multiplayer you will have absolutely no idea what to do. Although collision detection has vastly improved, it could still be a lot better. I am also disappointed that there still aren’t any single player missions; it would be an amazing spectacle to see a hundred or so AI in a massive battle. One more thing – I have not, for the lives of me, been able to figure out what in the world Exp points are for!
Joint Operations Typhoon Rising was very ambitious in its goal, but fell just shy of revolutionary. Joint Operations Escalation not only addresses the problems of the previous game, but also makes extra advancements in the gameplay. But even those advancements have their problems, mainly the maps and motorcycle. Those, however, can easily be fixed with patches and maybe another expansion. All in all, despite its problems, JOE is fun and innovative. It’s the closest thing to an actual war gamers can get to date!