Tactical Intervention First Look
By John Shadle (Sephorus), OnRPG Journalist
Tactical Intervention is an upcoming free-to-play lobby-based first person shooter slated for publication in North America by OGPlanet. Featuring Terrorists versus Counter-Terrorists in a variety of scenarios from hostage rescues to VIP escorts to highway chases, TI draws a lot of parallels to the 1999 smash hit, Counter-Strike – and considering that CS's co-creator, Minh “Gooseman” Le, is the creative mind behind Tactical Intervention, it's no surprise why this is the case. With Counter-Strike being considered a cult classic, I figured that TI would be equally as great – if not better. Sadly, what I took away from my play time could be summarized as “great idea, poor execution”.
Tactical Intervention's basic gameplay mechanics should be pretty easy to grasp for anyone who's played an FPS title before – WASD to shoot, mouse to aim, left-click to fire. There's some interesting things to leverage as well, like the ability to roll, lean and aim around corners, or blind fire from behind cover. Several maps also give you the ability to rappel down the exterior of a building, which is kind of nifty. There's also movable and throwable gas tanks and fire extinguishers, which you can use as impromptu smoke screens or bombs. Frustratingly, though, the only way to learn about these features in-game is to either take a look through the keybinds or catch a few tips during the loading screen, as there's nothing akin to a training room or practice mode. This also means (and meant, in my case) that the first few matches you play will probably equate to “try and figure out new and interesting mechanics and die before you get a handle on things”. It's not exactly a deal-breaker of an issue, but it makes for a less-than-welcoming start to things.
Weapons and equipment are kind of a mixed bag in terms of overall feel. TI allows you to choose one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, and two grenade types, and you can have up to three configurations saved for swapping between matches. There are some extra bits of useful gear, like riot shields, breaching charges, and even trained attack dogs, so there's no shortage of things to bring along for a firefight. The guns felt pretty powerful, if a bit inaccurate at times (more on this later!), and were pretty enjoyable to use overall. Grenades, on the other hand, were a different story – mainly because having them is contingent on how many requisition points you earned through matches. It's not a bad way to slowly have things escalate as matches go on, but the kicker here is that earning enough points for a grenade would give it to you for a single round, meaning that it's entirely possible to earn one for the next match, die before using it, and have it go to waste. Also, dogs and sniper rifles aren't a guaranteed thing if you equip them, as teams are limited to two of each per round; given how vicious attack dogs can be, though, it's not necessarily a bad thing – just odd at times.
The audible presentation, similarly, is a mixed bag. Weaponry, as mentioned earlier, felt powerful. Each gun I tried out sounded like it was going to hurt – a lot. Grenades, too, gave off a sizable oomph upon detonating, which was nice. The voice work, however, came across as horrendous and terribly overdone. Anyone who'd taken some pretty serious damage would spout wonderful one-liners like, “I'm bleeeediiing,” or, “I'm dyyyiiiiiing,” which sounded less like the cries of a man who'd just been shot several times and more like something you'd find lodged as a soundbite in Blatantly Stereotypical Emo Rock. Hostages would run around in fear (as, admittedly, they should) uttering, “JESUS CHRISE” - that's not a typo, by the way – and would get rescued by your character beckoning them over and saying, “Hey, come here!” It gets the point across, sure, but always feels either incredibly flat or forced. The music is at least easy to classify – there isn't any. This isn't noteworthy during matches, where most people would rather be able to hear everything going on, and it may not even be a detraction for some people, but its absence made the lobby screens eerily silent and slightly boring.
Visibly, Tactical Intervention risks making me sound like a broken record, because it's... kind of a mixed bag. The level design was pretty good – I wouldn't call it stellar, but considering the overall download size and choice of engine, it's quite impressive. Character models, however, felt a bit uninspired, as each team had a whopping one character model that felt overly generic, even though it got the point across. Animations felt a bit clunky as well, almost like there was an unnatural weight attached to each movement. It didn't look inaccurate – people wouldn't kick their legs out to the side while running, for example – but the timing of everything felt off somehow. It wasn't a huge issue, but worth mentioning.
Finally, there's the cash shop implementation. Different weapons and attachments, perks, and a variety of cosmetic gear can be bought – or rather, rented. Aside from your starter gear, which offers no ability to add attachments and has the lowest benefit in terms of strength, everything in the cash shop has to be contracted out for a period of your choosing and will expire unless you re-rent the item in question. Also making things somewhat awkward is that you don't rent specific attachments – there are separate rental options for an M4 rifle, an M4 with flashlight, an M4 with flashlight and silencer, etc, so if you rent the basic option of a gun and decide you like it enough to want to trick it out a bit, you have to essentially rent a second version of a firearm you already have. Bringing things more into sketchy-practice territory is the fact that the cash shop weaponry is superior to the starter gear, even if only a little, and all of the rentable cosmetic items offer bonuses to things like run speed, listen radius (IE: how far away you can hear things), and heal strength for when you try to keep your fellow team mates from bleeding – I'm sorry, bleeeediiing.
There are a lot of other little nagging things that individually weren't much to detract from the experience, but compounded to a pretty solid dislike of the game. Your weapon accuracy improved if you were close to your team mates, but you'd only know this if you caught the appropriate blurb during a loading screen or checked the incredibly brief 'Game Tips' section of the web site. Right-clicking gave you a basic melee smash with your weapon – unless your weapon had a scope, which makes it zoom in instead; this also meant that there wasn't an iron-sights option for weaponry without scopes. The one available map with vehicles had no relevant tutorial and made driving pretty much required for victory, making newbies not just a liability for themselves, but the entire team.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with Tactical Intervention, and I'm honestly a bit worried about its long-term success. While I feel the game would be a bit more accessible with some kind of a tutorial or primer on how Tactical Intervention differs from other shooters (no disrespect to the fans who stepped up here!), the rent-only cash shop and “paying for power” angle of the items is something that's been done in other games and been a bit of a polarizing subject. I also can't point to a feature that I feel is both done remarkably well and isn't present in other titles, which makes standing apart from any other first-person shooter title that much more difficult – and gives me no reason to suggest TI over anything you may already be playing. What I can say is this – if you're a fan of Counter-Strike, want to play an updated and slightly-expanded version, and can deal with a bit of a learning curve, then go ahead and leverage the free-to-play aspect to give it a spin for yourself. If these things don't apply to you, though, then the best advice I can offer is this – if you're looking for something new to play, look elsewhere.