Recently I was on temporary duty at another military base. During my duty, the wife pings me on the cell phone and mentions I received a package from Atari. I like receiving packages; it feels like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to get home.

When I finally returned to the old feeding grounds, I quickly opened the package and viola, a crisp clean copy of the Unreal engine based game Shadow Ops Red Mercury begged for my immediate attention. Without pause, I installed the game and excitedly clicked on the icon. What happened next was a twist of mixed emotions.

First off, I want to state I understand the need for developers and publishers to include slideshows of their logos. Some are cool, but most are quite annoying. Shadow Ops Red Mercury took the annoying meter to new limits. Thank the spirits for the functional escape key! After numerous splash screens and logo slideshows, I finally viewed the game’s intro movie. Unlike some reviews I’ve read, I actually thought the intro movie was well done.

Using the in-game models and environment, Shadow Ops Red Mercury whisked me into the feel of the game. The camera angles and quick pace produced the experience of a military action movie. However, the atmosphere faded away when the sound began to skip out of sync like a scratched CD. This problem wasn’t isolated to my system, it happened on three other gaming rigs too. Luckily, this annoying and unacceptable faux pas only emerged during the movie cut scenes and not during actual game play.

The intro illuminates the game’s premise of military espionage, betrayal, and fast-paced action. As a highly trained military operative, your mission is to chase –hold your breath, a bad man. The nemesis is an evil incarnation of Waldo; you have to pursue him and his suitcase-sized nuclear weapon through jungles, deserts and various urban environments. If you’re thinking this is like the average action movie, two points for you! Aside from the cookie cutter premise, the game is actually fun.

The single player version of Shadow Ops Red Mercury isn’t a military realism game. The game’s principal focus is on action, rather than convincing tactical simulation. This is most evident during the first level where you storm a village with your AI teammates. The well-armed sidekicks are nothing more than expendable bullet sponges who conveniently sit back at key ambush points, forcing you to play the point man. This wasn’t too bad, since the game presented good enemy ambush spots, balancing poor AI with an up and down pace of action. Luckily, the well-designed ambush points kept the game from dropping serious entertainment points for the poor AI.