Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike
Developer: Red Storm Entertaiment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-4, 2-16 system link or Xbox Live
Words By:

Ghost Recon 2 was a genuine surprise to us – we thought changing the well-established franchise from first person to third and simplifying the squad controls would both alter and dilute the game beyond recognition, to the point where everyone ignored it like that mad bloke who lives on the park bench, but as we often are, we were wrong and the game turned out to be a bit of a cracker.

What you have here is a stand-alone data disk at a budget price point, in the same vein as Rainbow Six Black Arrow, and it's of a similar high quality too. A superb collection of new missions, multiplayer maps and new game modes (we love ‘Helo Hunt’) will keep the multiplayer gamer (split screen, system linked or via Xbox Live) busy for weeks or months, the graphics have been slightly improved with better explosions and smoke effects... In fact, our main problem with GR2:SS is the solo campaign mode, and just how darned tough it is…

Now the Recon games have traditionally been hard as nails, and Summit Strike is no different (there is no ‘easy’ setting, just ‘normal’ and ‘hard’, and ‘normal’ is hard, and hard is next to impossible), and you have to wonder who exactly play tested this game when you attempt some of the missions. After plenty of complaints from both gamers and reviewers about the rigid difficulty of Ghost Recon 2, you’d have thought they’d have turned it down a notch or two, or at least given us softies an “easy” setting to play on. Here’s an example; several of us got to the 'Bunker Hill Redux' mission in the solo campaign (a horrible night time Alamo-style ‘hold the fort’ type mission in which you’re on your own and have to save some other soldiers from certain doom for some stupid reason) - I must have tried it twenty times or more, and simply couldn't do it. I’ve got the mission saved just this side of when it gets tough, and tried loads of different ways to survive the onslaught whilst protecting the dumb soldiers I was sent to protect, with no success – just like your regular squad, they rarely seem to do what you want them to, and if they do then they don’t do it right, and die. Online we couldn’t even complete the mission with six experienced Ghosts!…

Now you can call me a lightweight or a softy or whatever, but I reckon this is pushing things too far, when it takes days of effort to get past a mission and then when you finally do it, success appears to be because of blind luck (I won’t tell you what). The fact of the matter is that the AI is, at times, just too darned good (the enemy are incredibly accurate shots, pick you out in cover way too easily and can see in the dark, without night vision gear), and to compound the whole feeling of impending doom, your guys can at times be dumb as arse, and fail to kill enemies right in front of them.

But, - and it’s a HUGE but - GR2:SS has something that keeps you coming back – wicked enemy AI for a start (they’re much sneakier than your dopey Ghost brethren anyway), massive, panoramic maps that make Halo’s look like your front room, clever, believable multi-stage missions that never seem to pan out the same way twice, and atmosphere by the truckload (aided in no small part by superb sound fx). The squad controls are still oversimplified and don’t seem to work very well (you can also use the Xbox headset to bark orders via the microphone but it seems quicker and more effective to use the buttons to us), and reload/weapon change animations take an annoyingly long time (you can’t cancel them by changing weapons or using a melee attack like Halo either)… And finally, the game still won’t let you walk up some little undulations in the ground (and we’re talking about teeny slopes and rises), but by some bizarre discrepancy bordering on the comical will let you clamber over some waist-high objects (although naturally enough for Ghost Recon, not all)…

What you have here is a slightly confused masterpiece – intense and challenging and at times, stunning to play and look at (some multiplayer maps had us just wandering around enjoying the scenery and the immense attention to detail, this is without doubt one of the best-looking Xbox games of the year), but the Ghost Recon 2's idiosyncrasies haven’t been sorted out and still spoil things a bit. Regardless of our part-time soldier whinges, this is still the best co-op squad game online, bar none – missions and multiplayer modes on Xbox Live with up to 16 players from all over the world are a wonder to behold. The potential for the amazing-looking Ghost Recon 3: Advanced Warfighter is clear to all (if you haven’t checked out a movie of it yet, then do), and we expect great things from it. So yep, Ubisoft’s domination of the co-op squad shooter goes on, but yet again without quite hitting the target dead centre…

Best Bits

- Play the game co-op online
- Helo hunt is great fun
- Looks and sounds amazing
- The AI is, at times, brilliant.
Worst Bits

- The AI is, at times, just too good to believe, or hopelessly bad.
- Switching weapons takes too long…
- …and you can't cancel animations
- Squad orders are a bit crap.
- Still can’t use any vehicles.
- It's just too tough to be enjoyable throughout.

by: Masonic Dragicoot

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