Not long ago we brought you the first details on the upcoming Xbox-exclusive expansion disc for Ghost Recon 2. Titled Summit Strike, this stand-alone title will deliver a surprising amount of content at its roughly $30 price point. In addition to an 11-mission single-player campaign, the game will offer a wealth of new multiplayer content, including new maps, modes, player skins, and so on. We recently got to check out some of the new multiplayer features, which make Summit Strike look like it'll be one of the more appealing Xbox Live games to hit later in the year.
We got to check out some of Summit Strike's new competitive maps, which will be composed of both multiplayer-only levels and some missions taken from the game's single-player campaign. The handful of maps that we saw will offer distinctly different play experiences, based on our preliminary time with the game. One map, Badlands Fortress, was set in a desert region and featured lots of rocky outcroppings, uneven terrain, and bombed-out buildings that made for good cover. Another map called Dig Site was set in a similarly desolate climate, though it had more linear, tightly constrained canyonlike passageways that funneled us toward a central area with ruins that provided for cat-and-mouse-like firefights.
Another map called Hot Springs was set in a wintry northern climate and had much more open terrain characterized by gently rolling hills. This left us out in the open more than on the previous maps, but luckily Hot Springs features plenty of pine trees and other vegetation that make it harder for your enemy to see you, especially if you go prone. Finally, we got to check out a map from Summit Strike's single-player campaign called Government District, which was set in a sprawling metropolitan environment. This map had plenty of urban effects, from courtyards to small alleyways, that should make for diverse combat in heated team matches.
In addition to the whopping 22 multiplayer modes taken from the original Ghost Recon 2, Summit Strike will offer up two new game types called armor strike and heli hunt, both of which we got to try out during our demo. Armor strike is the more involved and team-oriented of the two. It gives each of two teams three tanks placed strategically on the map, with the objective being to protect your team's tanks while attempting to blow up all those on the other side and achieve victory. The catch here is that your standard weaponry, even the bazooka, won't put a dent in one of these tanks. Instead, you'll have to paint the target with your laser designator for about a minute to call in the necessary artillery strike, and luckily the more teammates you have "lazing" the target at the same time, the less time it will take for that strike to come. Armor strike seems like it'll provide an interesting team dynamic, since the players who are lazing a tank are stationary and defenseless and will need protection until the armor has been taken out.
The other new game type is heli hunt, which is a cooperative-only mode for four players that pits you against multiple waves of incoming attack choppers. You don't get to respawn in this mode, so getting through the dozen or more helicopters to achieve victory feels sort of like an endurance match. Fortunately, there are ammo containers scattered around each match that will let you fill up on rockets and grenades. It's also fortunate that the choppers are so susceptible to these munitions--one well-placed shot from the bazooka or grenade launcher will send the pesky whirlybird to the ground in a heap of scrap. Heli hunt will send different kinds of opponents at you, from standard attack choppers that will spray you down with machine guns, to the fearsome Hind gunship, which will also lay into you with rockets when it gets close enough.
Summit Strike's vehicle AI will be significantly improved over that in the original Ghost Recon 2. Red Storm purportedly began redoing this AI during the first game's development but didn't get a chance to implement much of it before the project was finished. Vehicles will now be able to actively hunt the player rather than following preset movement and attack patterns, and we got to see some examples of this new AI during our games of heli hunt. In maps where our squad had significant cover, the helicopters would quickly strafe our position and lay down machine gun fire before zooming back over the ridge. But in the Government District map, the birds would lazily move down the streets, laying down withering fire before using the nearby buildings to hide behind. We'll be interested to see how this new AI applies to Summit Strike's single-player campaign, which is said to include significant vehicle action in most missions.
Red Storm is putting an appreciable effort into improving the visuals for Summit Strike, which is saying something considering the Xbox version of Ghost Recon 2 was no graphical slouch to begin with. One of the most immediately noticeable elements is a new set of weather effects that are tailored to each map. For instance, the Badlands Fortress and Dig Site maps are both set in arid, canyonlike areas and feature roiling dust storms that will occasionally obscure your field of view. Other maps, such as the icy Hot Springs, will include falling snow to add some variety to the outdoor experience. The team has also been working to enhance the lighting effects and tighten up the frame rate, which seemed to be evident in the build we were playing.
The idea of a stand-alone expansion pack might seem paradoxical since it doesn't actually require the previous game, but you can't argue with a budget-minded title that delivers almost as much content as the original (not to mention some nice minor gameplay tweaks). And with Microsoft pouring all its resources into the impending Xbox 360 launch, Summit Strike should be one to keep an eye on for current-gen Xbox Live fiends. Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike is due out in August. Stay tuned for more.