Review: Code of Honor 2: Conspiracy Island (PC)

Code of Honor 2: Conspiracy Island
Developer: City Interactive
Publisher: City Interactive
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 7/29/2008

Some games look terribly bland. The packaging typically shows soldiers with guns and the back of the case describes a story that doesn’t really stand-out Thenwhen you stop to think about it, you realize that it’s the first time you have ever heard about the game, even though it’s the second one in the series. Code of Honor 2: Conspiracy Island is one of these games. I have played worse shooters in my time, but everything about this one is very, very bland. Even the title is as generic as it could be. I can see the “Code of Honor” reference but not everybody is familiar with its origin, so it might be seen as a simple Medal of Honor rip-off. While the whole thing does take place on an island, it’s more of an invasion than a conspiracy that is going on. It sounds like someone took his favourite action movies and simply pulled random words out of the titles to make a video game franchise.

The story shows some promises at the start, but it eventually falls flat. You play as a member of the French Foreign Legion (which is where the “Code of Honor” part comes from) named Sergeant Claude Boulet who is sent to a newly invaded island with his unit to stop the bad guys from extracting radioactive material from a nuclear reactor. The French Foreign Legion has rarely been portrayed in video games, and the island could have made for an interesting setting since it houses secret government facilities, but you soon realize that the Legion could be easily replaced by any armed force, and more than half of the game takes place in caves, which negates the potential of seeing the different parts of the island. There’s not even a funny accent to be found on the English voice acting despite the soldiers being either French or Foreigners. Still, kudos to the development team for coming up with the protagonist’s name. I’ve run “Sergeant Claude Boulet” past my friends (all of whom are native French speakers like me), and we have agreed that it is almost equal with “Max Power” as the best fictious name ever.

When you get deeper into the game, you’ll notice that the story starts to feel a bit contrived past your first mission. Your character is either having the worst day of his life or his boss just doesn’t like him. For example, one would expect a unit to stick together when it is going head-on against an entire battalion of terrorists, and that is exactly what your unit does, with one small exception: you. Your superior orders you to explore the cave by yourself to advance to a prison while they take the scenic route.Then he tells you to watch out for aggressive jumping snakes as if it was a usual happening. When you come face to face with dozens of enemy soldiers, he tells you to keep advancing while the rest of your unit tries to catch up from behind, going through the caves that you just spent an hour cleaning up. When your general still manages to get shot despite your best effort, you’re the one to save his ass. As a reward, he decides to send you all alone against the boss and his obviously well-armed guards. It just looks like the plot points are barely concealed excuses to make this into a standard tough-loner-hero FPS when the setting would have been better served by a squad-based shooter.

Another thing that you quickly realize pretty quickly is how mediocre the graphics are when compared to today’s standards. The characters look obviously fake and cartoony but I don’t think that it was a conscious style decision by the design team. There are jagged edges everywhere, and every once in a while, especially when changing scene or going to a cut-scene, the game stops abruptly without saying what’s going on, leading you to think that you have been the victim of a glitch. For example, I am still unsure about what really happened in an instance where the main character is ordered to clean the caves. As I was going up some stairs, the controls suddenly became unresponsive while I got shot into oblivion by dozens of enemies. I barely escaped with only the smallest bit of health remaining while the whole screen turned red. I thought I was simply walking into an ambush, but the when Boulet said, “That was a close one,” combined with the fact that I couldn’t control the character anymore leads me to think that it might have been a “cut-scene” showing how much back-up the terrorists called for. These things should really be better defined as it makes the whole experience look shaky and broken.

I also need to mention the enemies that seemingly appear and disappear at will behind rock formations or obstacles when you zoom in with your scope. It renders any attempt to use the sniping configuration of your FAMAS gun completely futile. Just run and gun. It’s much more efficient this way and less frustrating in the end.

All of these graphic mishaps are nothing when compared to the absurdity of the cut-scenes. The characters on screen are moving with the fluidity of rocks starring in a stop-motion animation. The lips are so out of sync with the voice acting that you would think you are watching an overdubbed Kung Fu flick. At least the voice actors gave it their all even though, as I mentioned before, they do not really fit with the characters themselves.

As for the sound department, the music is mostly absent throughout the game except when loading. This gives you the opportunity to hear someone instead of shouting your next orders over the orchestrated generic action movie soundtrack. There are also some small sections with more generic action music when you get ambushed by a lot of enemies to illustrate the urgency of the situation. The music is not memorable in any way, but it does the job well as by the time you finish the game, you are conditioned to take cover as soon as it kicks in.

The sound effects are competent if unspectacular. Most of the guns and enemies sound the same, but at least there’s nothing annoying about any of them. It’s just that hearing the exact same voice of a man that has been killed two minutes ago once again barking orders in Spanish makes it hard to immerse yourself in the game world, unless you try to pretend that you are fighting in an alternate version of The Clone Wars.

The controls fail to revolutionize the genre (not that it was trying to), but they do feel comfortable at least. This game uses the standard WASD keyboard configuration for movements while the mouse controls your gun. If you have ever played a first-person shooter before, you will feel right at home here, and if you don’t like it, then at least you have the option to customize the controls to your liking.

While the controls are nicely implemented, they are of little help when it comes to actually controlling Sergeant Boulet. For a start, you will often bump into rocks that are roughly the same size as others which you could easily climb over before. Some stairs can be walked into while others will require you to use the jump button, and there is no real way to tell which type you are facing. Swimming is incredibly awkward as simply maintaining your head above water seems to be an operation over which you have no control. There are times when you will need to crouch through openings which you could simply walk through previously. All of this screams of poor level design, which is a shame because it’s hard to enjoy yourself when simply moving around is a challenge. If navigating the map is a pain in the ass, it becomes hard to even bother with a game. That’s why attractive and original level design is usually half the fun in a First-Person Shooter.

The other half of the fun comes from actually shooting things, which this game didn’t quite get right either. In addition to the previously mentioned issue with the sniping configuration of the FAMAS gun, there is the fact that ithe normal configuration is so powerful that it’s the only gun you will ever need. Keep in mind that this is the first gun you are given when you start the game. The other guns are either too weak, needing a dozen bullets to put someone down, or too imprecise to be useful.

Take for example the shotgun, which has troubles stopping someone unless you are shooting at point blank. I may not have a lot of experience with guns, but I was under the impression that if I was to be shot in the legs with a shotgun, I would at least start crawling and not keep running like a madman. There’s also a gun that takes a one-second delay to start shooting when zooming, which leaves more than enough time for your target to move away. It defeats the purpose of its existence since it is the one with the best aim next to your sniper rifle.

Finally, there’s also the possibility to use melee attacks and grenades. The grenades look particularly weak with a small puff of smoke being the only visible effect, while the melee attack is completely useless, usually taking somewhere between five and ten hits to kill the intended target. In that case, just take a step back and shoot, things are going to get done much quicker.

With so many problems coming up when simply trying to kill someone, one would think that it makes the game nearly impossible to finish. Actually, the truth is that the game is still incredibly easy because of how stupid the A.I. is. The enemy’s reaction, if it is unable to get a clear shot, is to walk straight in front of you and your rifle. When they are actually taking cover, they will intermittently stand up and crouch, without waiting for you to stop firing. Basically, picking soldiers from afar is just like shooting rubber ducks at a carnival.

If these computer-controlled opponents fail to pose a challenge, you can always go online for multiplayer action against real human players. The only problem with the mode is that this is a really obscure game, meaning that finding an opponent is in itself a challenge.

The combination of all these issues leave the game as an experience that is hard to really enjoy. The game is not too terribly broken as one can easily go through the game in a day or two with a little bit of dedication. It’s just too bad the terrible level design creates artificial obstacles for you to deal with and leaves Code of Honor 2 without much of a personality. A better A.I. would have been a good start to improve the game, and having some balance between the guns would have helped in bringing a little bit of diversity to the proceedings.

Apparently, there is a second ending, but the path I followed to get to the first one was not fun enough to bother starting all over again. In fact, by the time I was finished, I was more relieved than satisfied. If you do choose to spend money on this game, be aware that it will most probably be a one-shot deal. No matter how you look at it, there is simply no incentive to play through this game more than once. Sadly, I’m having a hard time finding a reason for anybody to even play it the first time.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Worthless

FINAL SCORE: Pretty Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary

Code of Honor 2 is a bland entry in a genre that is already overcrowded. With so many First-Person Shooters available for PC, it is difficult to make a case for this game when it brings nothing new to the table in terms of ideas and it fails to impress with its gameplay. It is plagued with too many issues to be fun and its lack of personality is the final nail in the coffin of a forgettable experience.



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One response to “Review: Code of Honor 2: Conspiracy Island (PC)”

  1. […] Original post by Guy Desmarais […]

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