Review: It's always great to see a game that improves on its predecessor in almost every way; it also doesn't hurt when the game in question comes at a reduced price.
The Ghost Recon series has been a mainstay on the Xbox platform since it first arrived in early 2003. However, much like another Tom Clancy franchise ? Rainbow 6: 3 ? it has gone through quite a genesis over the years. What started as a first-person twitch shooter has evolved into a more methodical third-person action experience; essentially, the series, with this rendition, has become much more friendly to the console rather than its initial PC roots. If this fact can be dealt with by a player ? or if one liked Ghost Recon 2
? then there is much to like in Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike.
There's a good selection of gameplay choices in GR2: SS, especially in the wake of this being an ?expansion disc? that is meant to supplement Ghost Recon 2. For offline offerings, there is an 11-mission campaign mode that provides a new experience from the one found in Ghost Recon 2, as well as split-screen and system link offerings that provide players access to many other skirmish and map-specific variants. For Xbox Live users, the game provides access to 24 maps that feature every mode available in offline, including the campaign missions.
The 11-mission campaign will provide a good dose of value, especially since it is an all-new story from the one found in Ghost Recon 2
. As the leader of the ?Ghosts,? it is your job to diffuse a situation in Kazakhstan that involves chemical attacks, terrorist extremists, and a country in disarray. The mastermind behind the trouble is Asad Rahil, a Pakistani terrorist. His efforts to destabilize the Kazakh military and the nation in question have proved quite successful, hence the reasoning for you and the Ghosts' involvement.
The missions you'll undertake range from level clearing kill fests to seek-and-destroy objectives that require constant use of the map and HUD. Thankfully, these elements work quite well, and you'll never find yourself struggling to find your way, unlike in games like Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
where you can't quite see objectives in relation to everything else. The map does use a sector structure (A1, A2, etc.), which, potentially, could be confusing, but this is not the case. You'll have a view of the entire level when looking at the map and this is particularly effective when coordinating and collaborating your attacks. Movement is quite similar to the previous game, and you'll even have the ?winding wheel? spinning around when executing rolls while prone on the ground, reloading, and generally conducting specific actions. The way in which weapons, items, and firing options are toggled is somewhat cumbersome, but will likely only confuse at first, but won't be much of an issue after repeated play. The game displays from a third-person perspective, but zooms in to a first-person view while aiming. This departure started back in Ghost Recon 2
, to mixed reaction, but it does give you a good perspective on the action before you engage the enemy. For purists, the first-person only perspective can still be used. The control of the game is fairly responsive, but as mentioned earlier, the feel of the game has much more of a methodical pace than previous Ghost Recon games or even many other shooters on the market.
The team-based elements of the series remain constant, as you'll have to issue basic commands (when not on your own) to your three-man squad. They'll often do what they need to do on their own ? take cover, fire back, flank the enemy ? and your commands will really only be needed when they are in over their head. Like most other recent squad-based action games, the commands are very basic and aren't hard to execute so you won't be pulling your hair out with uncooperative teammates or difficult button layouts.
The weapon selection is quite varied and is loosely decided by what type of Ghost you choose. The selectable player types include gunners, marksmen, and a ?lone wolf? type. Gunners carry heavier assault weapons, but also get a sidearm, rocket launcher, and grenades. Marksmen get the same supplemental items, but their sniper rifle types include increased zooming capabilities, but they can only fire 1 bullet at a time. The lone wolf gets a grenade launcher in place of the pistol, and this allows him to, like the name says, survive on his own a bit longer, especially against vehicular targets. Whichever way you slice it, there is a lot of variety when attacking the Kazakh military.
The artificial intelligence for your adversaries is decent, but could honestly be a bit sharper. The AI is somewhat akin to Pandemic's Mercenaries
, where the sheer number of enemies often dictates their stopping power. This isn't entirely incorrect in terms of real battle, and the game still provides good action with this factored in, but it is worthy of note. To be fair, the enemy does use its heavy weapons quite well and is often capable of surprising you with a grenade or tank blast. Additionally, infantry gunfire is reasonably accurate; the problems come when you encounter soldiers in open ground, as they can't really match up unless they've got numbers. In the open, they like to just stand there and take the abuse, and using cover doesn't always occur to them.
Still, the gameplay has been refined over the various GR renditions, and it reaches a fine balance with Summit Strike. It's quite fun to take on flanking enemies who are accompanied by tanks or jeeps, and the way in which your team of soldiers go into the prone position while braving a hale of gunfire is a satisfyingly visceral sensation. Moments like this are also amplified when you use some of your supplemental items (launchers, grenades, night vision) to deal with the enemy, as they not only make the battle more exciting, but they also give you more ways of going about the missions.
The real meat of the experience for this game comes from the multiplayer component, which is feasible through system link or split screen, but really comes to life via Xbox Live. There are 24 maps to play on and each one is quite detailed, even slightly more so than the previous game. Some missions are in wide-open rolling hills, some take place at night, while others are in more ?cozy? circumstances. Equally as impressive as the maps are the game modes, of which there are many. Old favorites like Firefight (finding all enemies placed on a map and eliminating them) and Garrison (defending a base) still remain intact, but new modes like Helo Hunt are quite a bit of fun. In Helo Hunt, you can face off against an ever increasing horde of helicopters; it's quite fun to use the lone wolf class and see how long you and your buddies can last in this mode. Of course, much of the draw to the multiplayer component is being able to participate in the missions from the single-player campaign in an online match. Rather than having AI squad members, you and your buddies can jump into any level that featured a mission and move through the various checkpoints and objectives. This game doesn't do anything strikingly different in this area, but the appeal of cooperative campaign elements in action games is definitely strong, and one only hopes that developers add more of this to multiplayer gaming in the future. There is also the adversarial mode from the previous game, and this allows for a slew of variants and options that really keep the online rooms moving along. While there isn't any matchmaking ala Halo 2, the action can get quite fun, provided you find a good group of people to spend the night playing with. All the requisite XBL features are supported including friend lists, voice chat, Optimatch, Quickmatch, scoreboards, and downloadable content. The multiplayer portion of Ghost Recon 2
was very strong and that heritage continues here.
Visually, Summit Strike holds up to the last game and adds a few more details along the way. The landscapes once again look very good and the details like grass, rocks, trees, foliage, and weather all make for a very immersing game experience. It may not be up to Battlefield: Modern Combat's
pedigree, but it does have great detail, nonetheless. The animations are also very strong, with character movement for gun positioning and evasive maneuvering looking particularly sharp. The draw distance for the maps is quite good, although not completely vast, as in some other titles. One area that's lacking is the enemy animations and models, which while not bad, are definitely looking somewhat drab and repetitive; if you're going to see the same guy over and over again, it should look a little more polished than it does. Most of these gripes are quite nominal, and there isn't really anything that detracts from the game experience in a major way.
Sound is also uniformly good, specifically the excellent bullet, gun loading, and explosion effects that you will hear frequently. Since the game is based in a pseudo-realistic environment, the sound effects play a pivotal role, and, as in the previous game, they don't disappoint. In fact, firefights often sound so frenetic that you might catch yourself ducking and reacting in your chair as bullets whiz passed your head and impact nearby. There is also some stock Ghost Recon music that plays during the menus and after mission completion, but it does manage to do its job adequately. Voice acting is also used for some of the characters, but none of it makes the storytelling particularly effective ? it just keeps the experience coherent and functional.
It's hard to really knock a game like this, especially if you're a fan of the previous game and the changes it brought about to perspective and gameplay. Additionally, with strong presentation, robust online support, and a discounted price, you really would be hard pressed to find a current action game that delivers more bang for your buck. If you're even remotely interested in the Ghost Recon series or just want an all-around strong action game, especially for Xbox Live, then you would do well to check this one out.