If you don’t know what Tom Clancy looks like, one thing to keep an eye out for is a dude with a satisfied grin a mile wide. As if the monstrous success of his books wasn’t enough, Clancy’s immensely profitable venture into videogames has created a genre all of its own. There have been enough Rainbow Sixes and Rogue Spears over the last year to keep fans more than satiated, and with the Ghost Recon series, the Clancy enterprise shows no signs of slowing down commercially. Artistically though, we’re talking about something else entirely.
Admittedly, when Ghost Recon 2 hit the shelves last year, there were some sneaky alterations to the Clancy formula that aroused welcome/alarmed suspicion amongst its fanbase. One of the biggest differences was that instead of controlling two teams you only controlled one character. By adding a twist to the proceedings, the series stayed alive and the sequel sold by the thousands.
Summit Strike isn’t a new game but an expansion of the existing GR2, so you might be forgiven for thinking that this is as essential as the director’s cut of Alexander. There are sweet concessions, however. In fact, this is almost something approaching GR2.5. Granted, it’s the same engine, same style, same gameplay... in fact, it’s the same bones overall, but a slightly different body. There are eleven missions over the fifteen in the previous, so there’s not much of a compromise in size either.
The game’s plot is standard hackwork Clancy: Ghost Recon have been called in to eliminate Asad Rahil, a nutty Pakistani warlord who has had the president of Kazakhstan assassinated and is now trying to take over the country. UN forces have struggled to restore the peace, so when white flags fail, there’s always time for a bit of old-fashioned butt-kicking to get the job done. And the Ghosts do indeed kick butt, thanks in part to fifteen new weapons, the best of which allow you to make endless alterations to their firepower. There’s an above average training mode that’s inessential for veterans but extremely necessary for newcomers.
The levels are decent, ranging from locales such as forests to canyons and destroyed cities, with a snow-coated mountain level where you must take out guards who are protecting an ammo stockpile being the stand out. The weather effects are excellent, as dust clouds and snow storms help to obscure the enemy, making sure you’re kept on your toes.
A welcome overhaul involves more freedom in the way you undertake your tasks, eliminating repetitive linearity. Trigger-happy carnage also gets a break now and then, in the form of missions like Government District, where the presence of enemy helicopters will require a stealthier approach. The multiplayer has twenty four maps to choose from, plus two mildly diverting mini-games: the four-player Heli-Hunt (where you try to stop rival choppers from blasting you out of the sky) and Armour Strike (team up to defend your tanks while doing your utmost to blow up your rivals).
Throughout, there’s a workmanlike, satisfactory feel to the action, which some may see as a comfortable ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ virtue, while others will moan at the lack of originality and progression. The result lies somewhere in between. Admittedly it’s fun, professional, sleek and very enjoyable, even if its new touches are far from revolutionary. The LIVE options help to add more to the experience, but all in all, we’ve been here before – and the feeling of déjà vu is inescapable.