Signal Ops: This mission needed better planning

April 18, 2013

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Signal Ops just doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tries to be far too many things, and struggles to do even one of them correctly.

Inconsistent aim

The nuts and bolts of Signal Ops are a mess. Several times during my stint in the game I fired using iron sights, only to see the impact of the bullet nowhere near where I was pointing my weapon. Combine that with awkward, sluggish movement and the entire experience is a struggle. - Lucas White

Signal Ops claims to be a first-person shooter, though feels more like strategy. There is far more micromanagement of squad members than I really want in a shooter, especially one that employs a heavy use of stealth. Generally, I am used to squadmates smart enough to look after themselves in a squad game, yet in Signal Ops I feel like I am constantly having to check on them. This aspect is normal in a strategy game, where you have either the luxury of time in a turn-based game, or omniscient vision in a real-time system. Signal Ops offers neither of these, yet expects the player to manage a whole squad at once.

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Stick to the keyboard

Controller compatibility is visibly advertised, but don’t bother; the default mapping is bizarre and leaves many functions out, and navigating the options menu is a nightmare! - Lucas White

The most prominent flaw lies in the game’s main draw: the whole aspect of multiple perspectives. The end result is a confusing array of inefficiently-used screen space that simply feels restrictive. It is a shame the game doesn’t take advantage of multiple screens, as I feel that might have made the idea feel more immersive without the restricted desktop real-estate. Add to that an awkward camera that simply refuses to behave at times, and it’s difficult to have much fun.

The micromanagement aspect stems from looking after the transmitter, a battery-operated radio that is providing the video that the player sees. The squad must be within range of it for the player to see their viewpoint. This transmitter must remain powered through points in the game world, and must be moved between points without running out of battery. This turns progression into an awkward game of back and forth. If anyone has played Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles on the GameCube, you may find this familiar to its chalice mechanic, though that game had the sense to give you an AI-controlled character to manage this in single-player. It really feels like trying to play three games at once, and the constant back-and-forth begins to feel a bit monotonous after a while.

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So doors are weird

Signal Ops is home to the weirdest door-opening mechanic I have ever encountered in a game. You press a button to grab the door, doing terrible things to the camera in the process, then have to pull or push it open while you sort of are and aren’t attached to it. I don’t even know. - Lucas White

Finally, software issues are pretty constant. I frequently found myself unable to load saved games, and had unexplained crashes on several occasions. At first the game simply refused to function with a controller plugged in, even though I was not using it to play.

There’s a great idea in Signal Ops — especially for co-op — but poor implementation and game-ending bugs stop it from showing itself.

This game was provided for review by GOG.com.

Pros: Good concept, interesting art direction
Cons: Poor implementation, restricted view, instability

Score: 1/5

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