Imagine for a second there is a game where players control a commander of special operatives. Missions revolve around barking orders at those operatives to complete objectives in specific missions. Sounds simple, right? How about if controlling these spies is all done through the eyes of the commander, while looking at a series of television monitors? Now it’s starting to get tricky. Well, Signal Ops is exactly that, plus a whole lot more.
Signal Ops takes place in an underground bunker. Everything gives off a 1960’s feel, from the way the characters act and dress to the propaganda and low tech equipment on the desks. The experience is all in first person, and the commander uses a clipboard to hold objectives, a real-time map to show where his squad is located and other helpful information. This clipboard will be used many times throughout a mission.
Taking on a mission will give the player a special briefing detailing everything that needs to be done. Afterwards, the player moves your character to the command center, in front of a large wall full of monitors. Each one represents an operative on the mission. I could take control of a certain team member with one press of a button and then move just like the commander in first-person. Specific characters can give orders to others, activate mission details and even shoot at enemies.
The important thing to remember is the one crucial member: the radio carrier. Everyone is transmitting a signal back to headquarters. If one operative leaves the circular area that represents the signal, his monitor will turn to static. This is not good when trying to be stealthy or in a firefight. Not only that, but the radio runs on a battery that lasts all of about 20 seconds. Because of this, I was forced to move my radio and then my other units. Luckily, it can be charged and have its signal boosted at power sources. So, commanding a radio carrier to a power source and guarding that area is crucial for success.
Signal Ops has a rather unique art style. It almost has a watercolor look to it, where everything is not as much about detail as it is about the colors themselves. It is not the best looking game in the world, in fact it looks downright blocky at times, but the details aren’t in the graphics, but rather in the game play. The voice acting is hit and miss, but there were a few pieces of dialog that had me cracking a smile.
Signal Ops offers controller support, but it is not optimized by any means. Most of the time, I just used the mouse and keyboard to keep the game going. During the tutorial, it would try to show me what buttons did what actions, but I left it feeling a bit confused when things weren’t working exactly the way the tutorial explained.
That would probably be my biggest complaint; there are just too many inconsistencies. The controls seem to have a mind of their own sometimes, while other times they never work the way they are supposed to. It is a shame, because the game has a very unique concept.
The game requires a lot of patience. There are a few mechanics that aid the player when stranded. Team members can die rather easily, but a simple command can bring in reinforcements. Granted the new crew will be unarmed and have to scavenge for weapons, but backup is always appreciated. If the batteries run out on the radio transmitter, there is a simple key to have the radio carrier run back to the last power supply. This happens often during a mission and every time it did occur, it made me feel like my progression was being hindered.
It is a unique concept that was very interesting and had me invested until I had to try to control my squad. That is when the mechanics and controls got in my way. If a person takes their time and plays the game safe, they can get a lot out of Signal Ops Players wanting a unique challenge can have some fun as well, but keep in mind, there are going to be many things that hinder this experience.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.