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Game Review: Predator UAV
February 26, 2002
By Adrian Luca

In the past some of the best console games on the market have been pilloried by lobby groups both liberal and conservative for promoting violence against innocents. Worthy bestsellers like "Carmageddon", "Postal" and "Kingpin" have been attacked as if they were sequels to "The Turner Diaries" rather than harmless entertainment.

The latest to feel this heat is the brilliant "Grand Theft Auto 3" by RockStar Games, which even earned the distinction of a thread calling for its banning in a forum here at Democratic Underground. Why? Because players win points for beating up pixilated prostitutes and running down cartoonish pedestrians. It's as if critics expect 16 year-old boys to suddenly jump up from their playstations, steal the keys to mom's Taurus, and mow down little old ladies in supermarket carparks.

All this makes the relative silence that has accompanied C.I.A's latest release "Predator UAV: War On Terror" so refreshing. Creativity at this cutting-edge developer was stifled by its parent corporation following the release of the controversial "Operation Phoenix" role-playing-game in the early 1970's, and again in the mid 80's after complaints about its primitive but adventurous offering "Contra: Freedom Or Death." But finally it seems the shackles at CIA have been loosened.

In "Predator UAV" you play a secret operative on the hunt for terrorists and their assorted running dogs. Controlling an unmanned surveillance plane from the comfort of your base in an unnamed third country you scour the badlands of Afghanistan with sensitive electronic eyes, on the lookout for evil-doers. Merely identifying Taliban combatants wins you 50 points a pop. Spotting an al Qaeda fighter gets you 100. Taking out Osama bin Laden wins you the game and a Congressional Medal of Honor.

I was only 5 minutes into my first mission before I spotted three untoward-looking characters from an altitude of 25,000 feet. Wait a minute! That guy with the beard and turban seemed unusually tall! Receiving authorization from the Global Operations Center in Langley, Va. I ordered my drone to swoop down like a vengeful bald eagle and let loose a Hellfire missile. The resultant carnage was exquisitely detailed, with each bloodstained robe, every coil of intestine and numerous amputated blood-spurting body parts lovingly rendered in realistic 3D.

As it turned out, my kill was worthless. The suspicious three were actually poverty-stricken villagers scavenging for scrap metal. But a fortunate quirk of this game is that you don't lose any long-term momentum for offing the wrong people. In fact you can actually gain by quickly ordering a follow-up drop of $100 bills.

As I maneuvered my predator over the next ridge, I immediately eyed another group of almost-identical characters, and returned to base for re-arming. That's one minor problem with "Predator UAV." Friendlies and enemies all look alike. The best strategy is to blast them all and let the CPU sort them out.

All in all I give "Predator UAV: War On Terror" two thumbs up for graphics, story and simple adrenaline-pumping playability. And to all the squeamish would-be censors out there I can only say: It's just a game, folks!

Adrian Luca is an Australian-based writer.




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