Conspiracy: Weapons of Mass Destruction
Build it and they will come. Or maybe not. In this case, we'd say not.
Life is all about choice. Nothing new of course, you all knew that already. But given the sheer number of decisions we all need make on a daily basis, it's great when once in a while our choices are all but made for us. Such is the case with Conspiracy: Weapons of Mass Destruction, a game so mundane, so utterly devoid of imagination and lacking in almost every aspect that you really need not even consider purchasing it. In fact, the only choice you need now make is whether or not to continue reading this review. Heck, we'll even make that easy and decide for you: yes, you should.
Imagine, if you will, any number of the most heralded first-person shooter titles of the past few years. Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and Unreal Tournament 2K5, right on back to their progenitors. Now strip each of these franchises of their strengths: original gameplay, astounding visual prowess, things like, oh say, fun. Go on, you can do it. Finished? Right. See that average-looking, by-the-numbers husk of a genre you have left in your head? That's Conspiracy. 'Tis truly a thing of beauty, is it not?
So complex is the narrative, so subtle its nuances and so clever its premise that you'll have to forgive me if I am unable to properly convey its essence. You are Cole Justice, an ex-government agent recruited by an entity known only as The Agency for one final mission. What is that mission you ask all a quiver? Well, a government-funded agency, operating under the auspices of 'Hydra', has secretly proliferated, say it with me now, 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and they're going to, get this, sell them to terrorist organizations. Oh the humanity! The horror! The horror! There's even a plot twist. Neato.
Aided by your unflappable handler, Cara Quinn, with whom you maintain radio contact throughout each mission, you are assigned tasks as disparate and broad in scope as infiltrating enemy bases in the jungle, infiltrating enemy bases in the Arctic Circle, infiltrating enemy... aw, forget it. Standing between Cole and the sweet, blissful catatonia of retirement are a legion of guards all too willing to squander their lives in pursuit of Hydra's ideals.
Thankfully, there is little artificial intelligence to speak of, because if these peons had even a modicum of brain activity they would've up and left this game a long time ago. As it stands, they're more than willing to take a couple shots at you before their inevitable demise at your hands. The more mentally acute among them do tend to try and take up better positions but this usually just ends up getting them shot in the back. Hey, retirement beckons. Oh yeah, there's that whole world peace thing too.
To facilitate your switch-flipping, item collecting shenanigans, you have The ArsenalTM; the first-person shooter protagonist's standard-issue cache comprising a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, and rocket launcher. And of course grenades that you can lob about should the need arise. Especially wonderful is how they explode on contact with enemy units, vaporizing them instantly in a shower of tiny red giblets. Wow. Also cool is the way the machine gun fire sounds like someone raking their fingers across a tin can. The voice-acting is in a class all its own. You will, I hope, take that comment in the spirit it was intended. And the death animations? Poetry in motion.
Mercifully, the game's handful of levels are short enough to allow even average gamers to complete the title in a few hours. You know you're in trouble when the nicest thing that can be said about your game is that it's over quickly. The smattering of unlockable extras are so insipid as to offer no added value to the product.
By the strictest definition of the term, Conspiracy: Weapons of Mass Destruction is a game. You can certainly 'play' it. Pressing buttons on the controller will make stuff happen. The fact that if you've played any FPS title in the last five years then you've already experienced all that the game has to offer notwithstanding, it's really not a bad title. It's nice to think though, that we all expect a little more from our videogames than a response. Look elsewhere.