Signal Ops is a squad-based first person shooter with stealth mechanics and puzzle elements. Now I know that may all seem really complicated but the thing is... well OK, the thing is, it's really complicated. While the theory behind this mixed-bag game is fairly interesting, actually playing it is a whole different story. While I’m not sure if the concept is simply flawed in practice or this particular execution is the problem, I can say the execution certainly did not help.
You play as an operations commander who controls agents out on the field. You are engaged in dirty missions like planting evidence, assassinations, etc. This is executed via a multi-screen system, where the idea is that you can see each of your agent's perspectives simultaneously. The problem is that only one of the screens is actually (and only just) big enough to be a tolerable viewing size. The other screens are too small, and - while there is the option to change which agent takes up the main screen - it is tedious to have to manually change the view every time you want to control someone else.
Granted, if you don’t want to have direct control over an agent, you can order them around from the perspective of the agent you are currently controlling. Unfortunately, the controls for this feel complicated and a little unresponsive. One thing I immediately found annoying was the way your character’s head would bobble and bounce as you walk. This began to give me a mild sense of motion sickness (something I have never experienced in a game before), and there is no option to switch this off. In fact, the in-game options seemed to only give me the ability to adjust various sound settings and mouse/controller sensitivities.
Another issue with the gameplay is the stealth. Since the shooting mechanics are extremely clunky, you tend to want to avoid fights for as long as possible. The problem is the game isn’t really made for stealth. This mainly comes down to the graphics. While the artstyle is certainly unique and interesting, there is not enough contrast between dark and light to make stealth in anyway functional other than hiding around corners and trying to sneak up on people. But even this is boring, because your characters seem to walk at the slowest pace possible, which is made even slower when crouching for stealth. Yes, you can sprint, but this makes noise and draws the attention of many, many guards.
The strangest, most tedious, and most annoying element of Signal Ops is that your agents can only move within the radius of a radio transmitter - the boundary of which is represented by a dashed green line - otherwise their signal to command is lost, which turns their screens to static. The problem is, this transmitter eventually loses power unless you connect it to a power source. Therefore, one of your agents must always be guided around the map to find power sources and hook the transmitter up, all the while making sure your other agents operate within the moving boundary.
This is great example of the main problem Signal Ops has. The level of micromanagement you have to do is beyond the realms of what you would normally expect from a squad-based FPS and more inline with what you’d see in a real-time strategy game. The problem, therefore, is that you are stuck in a first-person perspective, which makes the whole thing complicated and boring.
One plus I will give the game is I mostly enjoyed the voice acting and writing. There was some cute stuff in there that definitely made me smile. But beyond that, Signal Ops is the kind of game that if I weren’t reviewing it, I would have most likely uninstalled it after the first hour or so. The ideas seem interesting enough, but in the end it looks, plays, and feels like a game from the mid 90’s; and not one of the the good ones.