IGI 2: Covert Strike Updated Preview
Read our impressions of this stealthy action game from Innerloop.
Project IGI, once referred to by the press as I'm Going In, was a shooter that emphasized stealthy shots from the shadows. It wasn't that successful in the United States, but it was a hit in Europe. It had its share of fans here, but with its AI problems, it just didn't have the goods to keep first-person shooter gamers happy. Yet, with its success in Europe, developer Innerloop realized that with some tweaks and improvements, it could turn this dud into a hit.
A few months ago, GameSpot had the opportunity to sit down with one of the game's designers, James Brown, to discuss the sequel to IGI, IGI 2: Covert Strike. A few things have happened since the original game shipped less than two years ago. Codemasters has replaced Eidos as the franchise's publisher, and Innerloop has recognized the flaws of the first game and is eager to avoid them in the sequel in the hopes of creating a hit for shooter fans.
Since our interview with Innerloop, we have had a chance to play some IGI 2, thanks to a very early preview build that showed up at the office. The game is supposedly 70 percent complete, but the beta we played only had five missions. Some features, like voice-overs, cutscenes, mission briefings, and multiplayer support, weren't in this build, and other features, such as the AI, were only partially implemented. Still, the missions did give us a sense of the gameplay in IGI 2.
Innerloop says that the missions in the final game will be divided among the three plot arcs that make up the game's full campaign mode. Missions will be assigned via in-game intelligence briefings, and the story will be driven along by movies in between the missions. Our beta included four missions from the first campaign arc and one mission from the second campaign arc.
IGI 2 is a game that emphasizes stealth over frontal assaults, and the mission design bears out this philosophy. You can't go wading through a level hoping to shoot everything in sight and accomplish your mission goals. That way lies madness, for unlike in games like Quake III, you can't expect to survive being surrounded by half a dozen hostiles by simply holding down the trigger and spinning around. Instead, you often have to skulk in shadows, run for cover, and evade detection. More often than not, you'll want to eliminate enemy soldiers one at a time or create diversions to make them investigate where you aren't, thus allowing you to sneak up behind them to cut their throats silently or simply sneak away. Yet, when combat is unavoidable, you will have to fire back at the guards and soldiers impeding your way. The beta only offered a few weapons to test, including a standard knife, a Glock 17 pistol, an M-16, and an MP5SD3. During a mission, you can also pick up weapons from dead guards, including a Desert Eagle pistol and an AK-47. Hand grenades were also in the beta, but they were not working--though Innerloop assured us that they will explode with spectacular results in the final game.
Already it seems like the designers are determined to show off a variety of environments and a lot of different mission objectives. Among the locales we witnessed in our missions were a forest hideout, a snowy mountain peak, and an amalgam of desolate desert and hillside. In addition, many missions require you to slink around in indoor installations and buildings. Let's take a look now at the missions in the beta, which give us a glimpse of what the gameplay will be like in the final version.
In the first mission of campaign arc one, which takes place in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, the objective is to infiltrate a base, cross a bridge, enter a fenced-off compound, and then go inside a secure building to find the entrance to a mine shaft that leads to the next mission location. The best part was reconnoitering the area, shooting out surveillance cameras, and then killing nosy guards with our silenced pistol. To get into buildings, you have to make sure no one can see you (lest they shoot you or sound the alarm), and then you have to pick the lock to a back door. In IGI 2, you have to hold down the "use" button for a brief second to unlock doors and gates. Yet, with guards only a few steps away and video cameras sweeping left and right, waiting even a second is a dramatic ordeal.
Mission two took us to the snowy Carpathian peaks, where we found a former Soviet weather station. The second mission required us to follow some guards without being seen, and then break into a lab, where we were to steal designs for a secret chip. After stealing the chip, we had to launch a weather balloon to spirit the chip away.
In IGI 2, the missions flow together seamlessly. Thus, after your success in mission two, you discover that several prototypes of the chip you were after are on their way to a manufacturing facility, and you're tasked with retrieving them. Mission three is a timed mission, in which we had 15 minutes to sneak into an enemy camp, steal some explosives, and then wire up a bridge that the convoy transporting the prototypes is going to cross. The ultimate objective was to destroy the bridge before the convoy arrived in order to prevent the chips from making it to their destination.
The fourth mission in the beta continued the overall quest to recover the stolen chip itself and tie up any loose ends. To that end, we infiltrated a manufacturing plant in the Ukraine. Because the actual office where the chip designs were housed was heavily guarded, we had to create a diversion by shutting off the power to the plant. In the confusion, we snuck in and stole the plans. The final segment of the mission supposedly involves destroying the plant and heading home for a plot-bending surprise, though it isn't in the beta yet because the cutscenes haven't been implemented at this point.
The only mission available in the beta from the second campaign was a fun change-up from the stealthy gameplay of the four missions in campaign one. You begin the mission riding in a helicopter, at the controls of a machine gun. As the chopper weaves its way through the sky, following a winding road through the hills, you just sit back and start shooting at hostiles below. It's good to know that Innerloop will have a mix of stealth-based and action-based missions, even if the game is weighted more heavily toward the side of clandestine operations. It could be because the beta limited us to so few weapons, but after the other missions, sitting behind the blazing firepower of the chopper-mounted machine gun was liberating, even though it did feel like a glorified rail shooter after awhile. Yet, by the second half of the mission, the copter deposits you at a corrupt official's house, where you have to make a hit on foot.
Although the beta we played only had a smattering of missions, they really showed off the type of gameplay that can be expected when the final game ships later this year. It's a game with a methodical pace, so it won't be for every shooter fan, but it does provide some exciting challenges. The frame rate obviously needs to be enhanced, there needs to be more variety in the enemies you engage, and the highly touted AI improvements aren't yet noticeable in this version, but the game is still only 70 percent complete, so expect more features to be added in the coming months.
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