Almost no book or film about war claims that it's anything but miserable. Fighting soldiers are under constant threat of death, and to avoid it they have to kill. They carry huge amounts of equipment, freeze in winter, broil in summer, sleep on the ground, and rarely wash. Nevertheless, games that simulate war are permanently billeted in the sales charts, and more surprisingly, the closer to real life they are, the better.
Delta Force was one of the first to try and recreate the knife-edge, sudden death nature of military combat, and while this mobile version doesn't match the realism of its PC cousin, it maintains the game's well established standards.
The narrative places you at the centre of an eastern European terrorist crisis, in which it's your job to destroy a paramilitary organisation before its members manage to make a nuisance of themselves.
To accomplish this, you have a squad of three soldiers, each of whom has a different skill. One is a GI with an automatic rifle, one is a sniper with a scope that you can activate with '*' and hover above the screen, and one is an engineer who can heal wounds, disarm mines, and call air strikes on groups of enemies.
You can swap between these with '0' and advance them through the level one at a time, or you can shift them all at once using '#'. This system of selection enables you to creep your sniper forward to take out an enemy sniper or rocket launcher whilst his comrades huddle in safety, or throw the soldier with the most health into the fray to preserve the others – all while keeping the whole of the action to a very few buttons.
A typical level might see you making your way through a maze of narrow, rain-lashed streets, reconnoitring for ambushes and mines with your sniper as you edge forward.
A crowd of enemies congregates in a walled garden, so you call an air strike to butcher them. The red line of a sniper's sight wipes back and forth, so you call up your own sniper and take the enemy out with a headshot, then shoot a barrel beside a couple of other enemies and watch them die in the explosion, before sending your GI to collect a briefcase-shaped power-up. And so on.
In reality, though, there is no typical level. Very soon after the beginning of the game you're barrelling up a road in a truck, firing a machine gun from the back. Later, you're sniping from the top of a building, and later still you're playing from your gunner's point of view, strafing slowly across a long horizontal level. You even get to take a crack at tuning a radio.
The controls are the standout feature of Delta Force. Rather than push your men around with the usual directional buttons, you use the same buttons to move the cursor, press '5' on a spot, and watch your selected men assemble there.
Like the seminal Cannon Fodder, this control system enables you to aim while you move, and while Delta Force lacks the fluidity of its great forbear – preventing you as it does from firing and moving simultaneously – the use of cursor control in an action game is surprising and effective.
Much of Delta Force's longevity comes from its difficulty, and it can be frustrating when you reach the last shots of a level only to lose a squad member.
However, as a part of Angelina Jolie's body apparently says, that which kills also nourishes, and the tension that Delta Force's unforgiving levels induces will appeal to as many gamers as it puts off. And given the innovation of the controls, the tactical depth of the three-man squad system and the variety of the levels, it can afford to test a few people's patience.