Ghost Recon 2 was a departure from the serious military sim approach of its predecessor to a more arcade shoot-Ďem-up experience, with a similar transition taking place in the Rainbow 6 franchise. While not necessarily needed or welcomed by many fans of the original, the change helped the title to conform more naturally to the control limitations of a console controller and sped things up for the online crowd. The Xbox versions of the first two were fun, though flawed, and provided a fantastic multiplayer experience with a plethora of options including Live, link, and split-screen support. My enjoyment of the sequel was seriously tarnished when I had to play through the different and far inferior GameCube port. Summit Strike continues the form of the Xbox sequel, and helps me to remember why I enjoyed the series to begin with, but suffers from problems that have been hampering the series for years.
Summit Strike is the console version of the expansion pack. Up until the Halo 2 Map Pack, I cannot recall a console title having a PC game-like expansion, one that requires the original to play. Instead of a tacked-on experience, consoles get games titles like Summit Strike: a title very similar to the original, but heavy on additions like weaponry, multiplayer maps and a light campaign. The single player experience is composed of eleven missions in the country of Kazakhstan. The ghosts will go from calm forests to snow-tipped mountain tops and dilapidated prison camps. The missions arenít too striking, but they are solid enough and feature the glorious return of the SCAR, a weapon that allows the player to expose only their arms to enemy fire by using a camera mounted on a gun and to paint objects for artillery to lock onto.
New to Summit Strike are weather effects as well as a theoretically open-ended approach to completing objectives. While the weather does a good job at making combat situations more hectic, and in a more dramatic way, the levels arenít really open-ended. Itís true that the player is left in a larger area in which to operate, but a key element really ruins the chances of the multiple paths and larger terrain from playing a more entertaining role: the enemy AI. Aside from the fact that enemies can still take multiple hits before they die, which doesnít really help whenever four or five rounds go seemingly unnoticed by a perturbed enemy that proceeds to return fire and kill you, they donít react like humans do. Sure, they have their canned roles and rudimentary concerns for not being killed, but they never lose your scent and have an uncanny ability to tease you with poor aim until you get close enough to cover to get out of harmís way. Having all this foliage and natural protection does no good when it can rarely be used, though thanks to the SCAR and good accuracy, it can be to some extent.
The real bulk of the new content comes in the form of the multiplayer additions. In total, there are twenty-four maps and twenty-four modes. New additions include Helo Hunt, where you destroy pursuing helicopters; Armor Strike, a race to destroy your enemyís armor vehicles; as well as new skins. Due to Ghost Recon 2ís already rich multiplayer experience which includes the ability to play co-op and versus, the additions are compounded several times over.
The unlockables are back as well. While I enjoyed the videos of the team checking out the various weapons in armories and the weapons in use, the compression was poor, leaving much to be desired in terms of quality. Another unfortunate return is the annoying radio chatter that is supposed to make your death more dramatic, with your commanding officer unable to reach you; I say ďsupposed toĒ because itís more irritating than anything else, being much louder than the rest of the game, screeching out irregularly. The rest of the game is pretty much Ghost Recon 2, bland enemy designs, cool effects and all.
This being the fourth Ghost Recon title on the Xbox, itís the departure of the sequel that keeps the series from becoming too stagnant and Summit Strike from a bore. For those who missed the sequel, the multiplayer serves as an enjoyable wrap-up, but for those who have put in countless hours into Ghost Recon 2, Summit Strike is hard to recommend. On its own, it stands as an enjoyable title, but fans will need to be pretty ardent for another go-around so soon.