Silent Ops is a gorgeous action spy thriller, but the gameplay falls short

Hello, agent. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to download Silent Ops for the iPhone and iPad, and then save the world. You’ll fight terrorists, sabotage enemy governments, and – let’s be honest – a lot of cannon fodder security guards. But you’ll get some really neat gadgets to play with and some swanky spy gear to wear. This message will self-destruct in… oh, wait, sorry. That feature’s been cut due to budget cuts. Just throw it away on the way out, will you?

Silent Ops is a third-person shooter that begins in the near future, with a man known as The Cardinal being tortured and interrogated about a series of special black ops missions. It turns out that The Cardinal was the leader of a team of spies who would go on secret missions that nobody official wants to admit to. On top of that, The Cardinal was able to watch his agents in real time via special visual/auditory implants that the agents had built into them. Basically, this is a story that’s largely composed of flashbacks, and it makes for a pretty interesting plot device.

Players control three different agents throughout the game. There’s Jack, who is a close combat and small arms expert; Yuri, the sniper; and Nicole, the hacker. The three travel across the planet on missions that take place in locations like secret underground labs, huge European towns, and lovely cruise ships.

The game is pretty stunning at first. The production values are all amazing: the music, the voice-acting, and the graphics all seem like they’re straight out the last generation of consoles. In fact, the graphics should be particularly highlighted. This is easily one of the best-looking games on the iPhone these days. Unfortunately, these sounds and graphics promise a game that will be great, and the gameplay delivers an experience that is simply OK.

The main problem with Silent Ops is that the mechanics are a bit wonky. When players aim their weapons at enemies the shots should clearly miss half the time, but still manage to take out their target with no problem. On top of that, shooting through gaps in railings and the like doesn’t actually work, even though there shouldn’t be anything blocking the shot. Occasionally the game will dramatically slow down when players activate the aiming mode and are trying to draw a line on an enemy.

Equally frustrating is the fact that there’s no actual health display. When a player is injured, the screen has some splotches of blood appear, which doesn’t indicate how close to death they are. As a result, firefights can become a guessing game, which is really frustrating at times.

Silent Ops

Silent Ops

The other problem is that there’s no real depth to the game. Players basically have to just move into one area, take out all the waves of enemies that come at them, and move on. It’s fine for a while, but starts to get old after a bit.

The multiplayer action, meanwhile, is solid (though, again, somewhat unremarkable). Up to twelve players can join at a time and participate in regular and team deathmatches; joining a match can be problematic at times, but once a game starts there aren’t any noticeable problems with the actual gameplay.

For the most part, Silent Ops is a decent game. Unfortunately, that feels like a colossal letdown after things start off, if only because the production values imply that it’s going to be so very much more. It looks and sounds amazing, so it’s a shame that it doesn’t play amazing, too.