Chris Leigh
20 Nov, 2005

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike Review

Xbox Review | We recon there's just summit about it.
There's just something that's indescribably thrilling about executing sneaky kills in videogames. Metal Gear Solid perfected this art in the '90s of course, though toying with Russian soldiers in Goldeneye certainly ranked quite closely to the clandestine murder that Kojima's PlayStation masterpiece allowed us to indulge in. More recently, the likes of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay have presented us with new ways in which to carry out these crafty assassinations, yet Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike deserves to be placed alongside any of the aforementioned titles when it comes to the art of the sneaky kill.

That's not to suggest that what's on offer in Summit Strike is terribly innovative or new - the Ghost Recon franchise is almost venerable now, after all - but this is the best game of the series to date by some margin, and with a budget price tag of just $49.99AU / £19.99 (hunt and you'll find it even cheaper), it's not to be ignored. Certainly, for a game that labels itself as a mere 'expansion' to Ghost Recon 2 (which, before you ask, you won't need to own in order to play this), there's a wealth of new content here, including a single player campaign of eleven new missions, six new exclusive multiplayer maps (for a total of fourteen war zones), and a multitude of new characters, weapons, vehicles and two new Game Modes.

To which we say: Bravo, Ubisoft.

If you've played one of these games before (or, for that matter, a Rainbow Six game), you'll know what to expect story-wise: lots of gruff, macho US marines, pseudo-technical military terms by the bucketload, gravelly-voiced commanders and an evil Balkan despot/guerilla army, all set against a kind of 'it-could-just-happen-in-the-real-world-in-the-near-future-you-know' backdrop. Summit Strike's central yarn checks all the usual tickboxes, but it's not a bad story in truth (it's better than the narrative in previous Ghost Recon games), so heck, here goes: It's 2012 in Kazakhstan, and things have gone decidedly Pete Tong. See, the Kazakh president and Security Council have been assassinated in an explosion by a notorious Pakistani warlord and arms dealer named Aamir Rahil. With the President dead, the Kazakh military end up fracturing into factions vying for political control of the country. Rahil quickly moves in and consolidates power using his corrupt Kazakh military contacts. As it happens, a large group of soldiers loyal to the country of Kazakhstan has been working closely with U.N. ground forces to stabilise the region.

Which is where you come in. You play as one Scott Mitchell, a 'Ghost' and a member of a crack marine unit that's been sent in to capture Rahil and neutralize his military presence. They're working closely with a contact in the Kazakh military named Grigoriy Koslov. Together, the Ghosts and Koslov shadow the U.N. ground force's assaults against Rahil's troops and track him from the southern mountain ranges to the wastes of the arid badlands. If it sounds a little easier to swallow than the usual Ubisoft/Tom Clancy fare, well, that's because it is. And it's bloody well presented as well, thanks to slick cutscenes with - hallelujah! - voice-acting that doesn't sound like it's from a fifth grade nativity play. So, it's a good start.

'Could you give a man a lethal blow? If he was coming really hard?'
'Yeah, if my life was in danger, yeah.'

Generally, standards are maintained from thereon in. As we discussed in our first paragraph, it's the 'being sneaky' part that really draws us to these games, and Summit Strike excels in this department. Yet while the act of plugging an enemy skull with a bullet from five hundred yards is undoubtedly satisfying, the build-up to such kills is often wonderfully engrossing, as you manouvre yourself and your unit of Ghosts around the huge outdoor environments and gradually flank your unsuspecting enemy. We found it difficult to suppress the odd evil cackle.

Thankfully, the AI-controlled Ghosts fighting alongside you largely do their job, providing some useful fire and knowing when to duck to avoid having their heads separated from their shoulders. Granted, they're not perfect, but they're a lot better than the usual braindead fodder that passes as assistance in similar games (hello, Conflict: Global Storm), though playing with three other humans whilst you're all perched on the same couch ratches up the enjoyment levels somewhat.

On the subject of braindead fodder however, it saddens us to say that the enemy AI appears to be at exactly the same level as that seen in the first Ghost Recon (now over three years old, by our reckoning); in other words, it can be a bit rubbish. But not always. For example, the Kazakhstani guerillas you're fighting here have a tendency to fight in small groups, and firing at one will send the others rushing for cover, or see them collapse to the ground in a bid to make themselves smaller targets. We like this. Some will dive behind rocks or trees, and stay there for a damn long time. We also like this.

What we're not so crazy about is the way that, if you get to within twenty feet of your enemy, the AI goes a bit loopy, with fearsome Kazakhstani guerillas running here, there and everywhere in full-on mentalist mode, perplexed as to what to do now we can see the whites of their eyes. That said, you'll spend most of the game behind the scope of a sniper rifle or some similar long-range weapon, so you'll rarely get close enough to see such erratic AI. But it's there, so we should mention it.

'And do you imagine doing it face to face with a bloke or could you take a man from behind?'

'And do you imagine doing it face to face with a bloke or could you take a man from behind?'
'Either way is easy.'

Also worth mentioning is the online mode, though for entirely more positive reasons. Put simply, Summit Strike has provided us with some of our best Live experiences in a while. This is thanks to a number of factors - the menu layout has been sensibly assembled, finding a game is quick and straightforward, and well, the game simply seems to attract a slightly politer, more mature crowd than many other titles, meaning you won't have to endure all manner of American teenage oiks questioning the nocturnal activities of your mother, as in Halo 2.

Admittedly, that last bit has little to do with any input from Ubisoft, but if you're connected to Live, we're happy to say that the Summit Strike crowd tend to be jolly nice chaps. Hurray. Joyfully, there's also a pleasing lack of lag, with many sixteen-player games running smoothly and with barely a jot of jerkiness. Yes, occasionally you'll see the odd colleague flitting, twitching and teleporting from place to place on the screen in the manner of a small child with too much tartrazine in their system, but lag tends to be more unusual than usual.

This smoothness is even more laudable when you consider that Summit Strike is no sloth when it comes to visuals. The environments are exclusively set outdoors, and are generally littered with a list of graphical bits and bobs that really look the part, with great weather effects and some of the most convincing trees we've seen in a game for, ooh, a while. We like a good videogame tree, us. Best of all though are the animations, not to mention the explosions which, although rare, look absolutely first-class and are really shown off on night levels such as 'Bunker Hill Redux'.

So with all this positivity floating about, what's with the score at the bottom of the page? Shouldn't that be a 9/10? Well, it would be. Only the game does have a tendency to commit some of the mistakes made by previous games in the series. There's the AI problems that we touched on earlier, for a start. But then there's also the way in which you still can't clamber up a nine-inch ridge, despite supposedly being a highly-trained crack marine (you have to go around some laughably small ridges instead of scaling them). Or the way in which you can't see the names of your colleagues once they get too far away, meaning you end up killing them in a hail of friendly fire on the suspicion of them being Kazakhistani guerillas. Perhaps our biggest complaint would be reserved for the spawn points, however. They seem to be rare, but when they do pop up, they're an endless source of irritation; quite literally, as enemy soldiers pour forth and never stop appearing until you move to an entirely different area of the map. Booo.

It's also worth remembering that this isn't a game for everybody. If you're after a fast-paced, bloody experience, then you'd be best advised to snap up a Halo or Timesplitters title. But if, like us, you like the thought of lying on your belly in long grass (sometimes for minutes at a time) and then springing out to lodge a well-aimed bullet in the head of some poor unsuspecting fool, then there's not many games that will simulate that unique pleasure better than this. Quite simply, being sneaky hasn't felt so rewarding in ages.
The Score
A thoroughly enjoyable military sim from start to finish: tense, engaging and strategic in equal measure. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Ho ho! Out with the puns and in with the innuendo? icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
'Ho ho! Out with the puns and in with the innuendo?'

A cookie to the first user who tells me where that innuendo comes from. icon_wink.gif
8 years ago
bad bad bad puns
8 years ago
haha great work chris! some perfectly placed quoting there!...Gareth, what a champion! Thank god for the office icon_biggrin.gif
8 years ago
Chris-Leigh wrote
We like a good videogame tree, us.
Dendrophilia anyone? icon_lol.gif

Bloody good review, sucks my Xbox died, now I can't play it icon_cry.gif I've loved Ghost Reacon: Island Thunder and Ghost Recon 2. Guess I have to wait till they're BC on the 360...
8 years ago
Still, for a game that's retails around the $50 price mark, it's well worth it.
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