Blast from the Past: NovaLogic’s Delta Force – Series that Inspired Battlefield and Call of Duty
Few days ago, I was cleaning up my basement when I found a box with some old stuff of mine. Besides the endless supply of boot-cut jeans and cargo pants, which were ohhh-so fashionable during the 2000s, I also came across some old CDs and DVDs that I completely forgot about throughout the years. While some were pirated, others were legit, with many still being in their original boxes. To my surprise, one of the discovered boxes was that of Delta Force Trilogy, the series i used to love as a kid, and one of the first multiplayer shooters I ever played.
Old-school gamers are probably going to remember the Delta Force franchise, but for younger ones, it might be a complete unknown. The series was developed by the now-defunct NovaLogic, a company established in 1985 and renowned for making some of the first military simulators, such as the submarine simulator Wolf Pack (1990), tank simulator Armored Fist (1994), flying simulators Comanche (1992), F-22 Lightning (1997), MiG-29 Fulcrum (1998) and many others. Originally made in conjunction with US Army for the purpose of army training, Delta Force paved the way for modern shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, as it invented many of the game mechanics and design concepts which are commonly used in today’s shooters.
One of the first unique feature of the Delta Force series, at the time, was its freedom of choice. When starting a mission, the players could pick their custom soldier and equip him as they saw fit. They could choose his primary and secondary weapons, as well as additional equipment such as offensive and defensive grenades, flak vests, laser designators and many others. This allowed players to approach the missions in any way they wanted, from being stealthy and using silenced weapons, trough sniping from afar, all the way to taking their M249 SAW and mowing down enemies in front of them.
Custom loadouts added to the replayability of each mission as players could, for the first time, experiment with a variety of equipment in discovering which one works best for the given mission similar to the modern-day COD franchise.
Character selection and loadout screen
The Delta Force series also pioneered shooters with large open areas that players could freely explore and move around. Although these vast playable areas were not as lively as in today’s games due to engine and hardware constraints, they never felt bland, as maps featured a mix of hills and plains, rivers and lakes, all of which added to the uniqueness of the terrain. As the game’s plot played out on all five continents, missions were also set in different environments such as South American jungles, Siberian snowy mountains and African deserts. There was also a mission which featured the Pyramids of Giza, which could be entered and climbed on, allowing for some fun sniping experience.
These large, open areas removed the linear bonds that most games had at the time, there by letting players try out different tactical approaches to each mission, just like in the modern Battlefield or Rainbow Six series.
Players could explore any area of the map and climb the present structures, such as the Pyramids seen on the right
NovaLogic also strived to bring hardcore realism to the Delta Force series, in lieu of their reputation for making military simulations instead of simple shooters. As such, the player, his teammates and enemies were by no means bullet sponges. One bullet to the head or center mass was all it took for both the player and enemies to be taken down. Even bulletproof vests and armored helmets, which when equipped took up an inventory slot, did not offer full protection, as they would only effectively stop small arms fire while sniper bullets and grenades would still instantly kill the player. Players could also run out of ammo during their missions, rendering them unable to complete it.
The one-hit-kill mechanic and limited ammo added realism to the series, a feature that was only later seen in modern games such as ArmA, America’s Army and Insurgency.
The Delta Force series were also among the first to feature AI-controlled teammates with which the player could communicate trough radio messages. Although these AIs were not very advanced, they were still an interesting add-on, as they could inform players of enemies, call in a laser-designated strikes and even provide fire support if ordered. Teammates could also die while on a mission, which would cause them to be replaced by new characters of different looks, names and loadouts. Interesting fact was that Delta Force series also featured female soldiers, a rather uncommon sight at the time.
Parachuting with an AI-controlled buddy Longbow, and one of the playable characters and potential mission partner Mako - the team's medic and a specialist diver
Delta Force games also came packed with content. They had unique weapons such as the cancelled Pancor Jackhammer shotgun, one-of-a-kind Soviet underwater APS rifle, and even the futuristic-looking G11 and Calico M950. Every sequel also had about 40 playable missions, which when combined with custom loadouts and challenging gameplay mechanics such as bullet drop and one-hit kills, made the series offer hours upon hours of fun.
Although by today’s standard, the Delta Force series are quite outdated both in terms of graphics and gameplay, they still have mechanics used in modern day games, and while I cannot recommend them to youngsters, older gamers might find the series a nostalgic reminder of the good old days.
The first three Delta Force games currently hold Very Positive ratings on Steam and are available individually or as a Bootcamp bundle for 19.99 USD.
Edited by EchelonBrk