The Ghost Recon franchise is what some consider to have been the salvation of Xbox Live. After all, up until UbiSoft started shipping titles that were Live-enabled, gamers only had titles like Whacked! to lure them into Microsoft’s online world. Ghost Recon was quickly followed by the Island Thunder expansion pack, which continued the tradition of great gameplay and online multiplayer that kept the Xbox online service alive. Then, somewhere along the way, Ubi decided to switch up the style of play for Ghost Recon 2, and for some it was a little too different. Gone was the waypoint map and steady-paced heart-pounding gameplay. In was a “quick command” system and a more action-based pace that featured a new third person view. On top of it all, the AI seemed to have been cheapened, being able to take shots from miles away through walls and rocks. The pace was too quick for some, and many of our old Ghost Recon online buddies dumped the franchise and moved over to the Rainbow Six series. Some stayed on board with the Ghosts, and for them, Ubi now offers the latest expansion: Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike.
Summit Strike is a stand-alone expansion, thus it doesn’t require the original game to play, which makes it a bargain at the suggested retail of $29.99. The problem is, all of the gameplay issues from Ghost Recon 2 have been carried over to this expansion. The AI is still a dirty cheater, hitting you from out of nowhere and popping up in areas you know you cleared out just moments earlier. The save system is buggy – forgetting when you’ve completed mission objectives, but somehow remembering your map location when you load a save.
With those annoying bugs and AI issues, you’d think we’d hate Summit Strike, but alas, that’s not the case. Even with its blemishes, it’s still a fairly enjoyable game to play, assuming you enjoyed Ghost Recon 2. Summit Strike has slowed down the pace of GR2, which makes it feel a bit more like the original Ghost Recon, something fans of the original will appreciate. The full complement of Ghost Recon weapons are there, along with plenty of hi-tech slug throwers and gadgets, which will make every armchair infantryman happy. Sure some of the guns seem a little too similar to one another, but it’s still a ton of fun to try out each and every one of them.
The storyline, which has the Ghosts (the Army’s super-soldiers) dropping into the landscape of Kazakhstan in winter (there are other missions in summer-like seasons, too) works well to tie missions together and give you incentive to keep playing. Your job in the game is simple enough – neutralize a Pakistani terrorist who’s hiding out after doing all sorts of dirty deeds.
The levels in Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike are huge. Each of the 11 maps is large enough to accommodate whatever style of player you are, be it stealth or run-and-gun. You can approach targets from multiple vectors, oftentimes coming up behind the bad guys and getting the drop on them. Since you can issue flanking orders, this openness is less of a gimmick than a tactical reality which can be used to boost the challenge of the game.
Speaking of challenge, Summit Strike sticks to the tradition of GR games being hard as Hades to finish. The easy level is what most other games would call “normal,” while the intermediate level should be called “bring on the pain.” The AI isn’t terribly smart, so to compensate, they attack in waves and pack plenty of heavy weaponry. Being that this is a Ghost Recon title, a few hits (and sometimes just one) are enough to take down you or a squadmate, and you need those precious squadmates if you hope to finish the missions.
As I mentioned earlier, Ghost Recon is one of the games that got people to sign up for Xbox Live, and Summit Strike will surely give those folks reason to stick around. There are two dozen multiplayer modes, playable on Live, system link or split-screen, which should keep fans happy for months to come. The online modes we all know and love (CTF, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, etc.) are all there, along with a few other multiplayer variants such as assassination and domination.
Summit Strike is a great looking game with likewise great sound, there’s no doubt about that. Every little detail (well, except for the foliage) is well detailed and lifelike. Player characters actually load their weapons like a real soldier would, bullets tear up the terrain and rockets make a suitable boom when they hit a target. The dialog can get tiring, but there’s enough variety in it to keep you from wanting to kill your speakers at any point.
Summit Strike’s variety of missions and online gameplay modes make up for most of the bugs in the game, and well-worth checking out for $29.99 (US). If, however, you’re one of the hardcores who hated Ghost Recon 2 for its gameplay changes, you might as well skip this expansion.
- Gameplay: 7.5
- Plenty of cool weapons and huge maps, but bugs still haunt the franchise
- Graphics: 8
- A very pretty game indeed
- Sound: 8
- Good dialog, good music and good effects.
- Replay: 9
- Multiple single player difficulty modes and tons of multiplayer options ensure you’ll get your $30 worth
- Overall: 8
- Easily worth the price of admission