Signal Ops is without a doubt, one of the weirder games that gamers could ever play. Signal Ops, as played on the PC, is one part squad based shooter, one part FPS, one part stealth game and one part micro-management heavy…something. There’s also some puzzle elements to boot. This sounds pretty good in theory, but Signal Ops is a game that is unique, grounded and one of the hardest things a PC gamer could take on this side of Dark Souls. All this adds up to a game that is sure to gain a cult following of dedicated players who will spend countless hours mastering the in depth nuances of Signal Ops’s unique gameplay, unfortunately, most of us aren’t going to be in the group.
Story and GameplayIn Signal Ops you play as the operations commander of Signal Operations facility 7C. Your job is to direct your squad in the field to perform all sorts of covert stuff against the enemy. These ops run the gamut from planting evidence to the always fun straight assassinations. Sounds simple but the trick here is that you control all the agents simultaneously through a multi-window system. Therein lays one of the biggest problems with this game, the user interface (UI). Oh that damned UI. Your screen will be split into multiple monitors, each one focused on each squad member you have on the field. Only one of these windows offers easy viewing, the rest of these are so small you have to squint. Even with a laptop screen is a 17.3-inch behemoth, gamers will constantly squint to see their smaller screens. Yes, there is the option to switch any of the screens to your main viewer but this is tedious and just creates a problem elsewhere.
The gameplay itself, when you get down to is pretty much your standard shooter and stealth fare. You have a first person perspective and you can aim down your sights, hide behind stuff and sneak up on your enemies. It doesn’t help that the controls are clunky and you walk very, very, very slowly.
The most frustrating part of this game is a mechanic that makes this game one of the most micro heavy squad games ever. Basically, one of your team is a radio guy and you can only control guys that are within his broadcast range. So if one of your guys moves out of the radio guy’s radius then his screen goes static. Basically this means that you have to constantly position your guys around his radius. It does not help that his radio loses power after a while and you have to keep hunting for power.
Graphically, Signal Ops isn’t the best thing to come out of the indie circuit. It is hard to say what kind of art style the designers were going for but suffice to say, it did not work. The color palate is drab; the character models with their wobbly heads were physically detrimental to me. Most likely, gamers will have to stop every few minutes just to get the nausea to pass. The environments are plain and the lighting is so-so.
The best part of the game is the world, especially the writing. There are some real laugh out loud funny moments to be had here. The dystopian vibe borrows heavily from 1984 and the like but when is that ever a bad thing. Gamers should get the sense that a very interesting ‘Big Brother’ plot lies under the surface. Too bad players of Signal Ops will spend more time hunting for power outlets for their radio then actually taking in the atmosphere.