Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike First Look

We get an exclusive look at Ubisoft and Red Storm's upcoming stand-alone expansion to the acclaimed Xbox shooter.

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If you're an Xbox owner who's a fan of first-person shooters, it's to be expected that you're probably a little nervous about what the rest of the year holds. With Microsoft first-party development wrapping up for the console, and with the third parties starting to shift their focus to the Xbox 360, you might think you're about to be left out in the cold. Thankfully, the fine folks at Ubisoft and the developers at Red Storm Entertainment have your back with the upcoming expansion for Ghost Recon 2, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike. The disc will continue the squad-based shooting action with a meaty selection of single- and multiplayer content. We had the opportunity to get a first look at the game in action and play one of the levels to see what Ubi and Red Storm are serving up to fans.

Summit Strike will see you working alongside UN forces stationed in Kazakhstan.
Summit Strike will see you working alongside UN forces stationed in Kazakhstan.

Although it's billed as an expansion disc, Summit Strike will actually contain a surprisingly robust selection of single-player and multiplayer content that actually comes close to what the original GR2 offered. There will be 11 single-player missions (which is pretty close to Ghost Recon 2's 15), which will once again put you in command of a squad of ghosts as they're dispatched to deal with trouble in the aftermath of a key assassination in Kazakhstan. It seems a Pakistani warlord, intent on taking control of the country, has assassinated the president of Kazakhstan. The ensuing chaos finds your ghosts working in tandem with UN forces to track the warlord and his military across Kazakhstan in order to thwart his attempts at attacking high-profile targets and causing national devastation.

The 11 missions will feature a significantly different structure from their counterparts in Ghost Recon 2, due to Red Storm's attempts to tweak the game based on user feedback. As a result, the missions in Summit Strike will offer a far less linear experience than the first game, and you will instead be able to structure your experiences to your liking. At the start of each mission your objectives will be laid out for you as they always are, but once you're in the game, it's entirely up to you to determine what order to tackle them in and what route to take to get to them. You'll have to deal with even more foes, including some of the most annoying and deadly helicopters seen in a while, which will force you to use your brain in new ways as you direct your squad. Your ghosts will be more at the forefront of the experience in Summit Strike, as you'll have more opportunities to interact with them and familiarize yourself with their unique personalities.

Enemy helicopters will undoubtedly cause you problems, at least until you blow them out of the sky.
Enemy helicopters will undoubtedly cause you problems, at least until you blow them out of the sky.

Though the missions will be extremely challenging, you'll have your squad and trusty array of weapons along to help. Red Storm Entertainment is also throwing embattled players a useful bone in the form of a new weapon called the S.C.A.R., an Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle that introduces a new modular weapon system to the series. The weapon is extremely cool, and it lets you tweak its capabilities through different attachments, which comes in handy depending on the situation you find yourself in. There are attachments that are made primarily for the four classes in the game: marksman, gunner, grenadier, and rifleman, as well as heavy and light settings which affect the rounds the weapons fire. The light setting will discharge 556 cartridges that are commonly used in M4s and M16s, while the heavy setting will shoot out 762 cartridges, which are standard in the rifles such as the AK-74 and the AK-47. The benefit of the heavy setting is that your bullets will pack more of a wallop; the drawback is that the weapon will have more recoil and will be more unstable when firing on full auto. Another gameplay tweak that's been added in response to user feedback is a visible sign for hit detection, which was a complaint many players had with the original GR2. This time, there will be small puffs to let you know you're hitting your target. Level design has been tweaked to make the locales co-op friendly.

Beyond the single-player game, Red Storm has gone to town with the multiplayer component of Summit Strike. Though Ubi and Red Storm aren't spilling the beans on everything about Summit Strike's multiplayer modes yet, the top level contains details that foreshadow a mighty experience. You'll find 24 multiplayer maps in Summit Strike, which include a number of fan favorites from Ghost Recon 2. The game will also throw down with 24 multiplayer modes, including all the favorite game types, like squad, solo, and co-op, which have played an integral part in the success of Ghost Recon 2's multiplayer game. Red Storm has even added in two brand-new modes--heli hunt and armor strike--to liven things up even more. Heli hunt requires you to take out waves of enemy helicopters that are hunting you throughout the map. Armor strike is a race to blaze and destroy your opponents' armored vehicles before they do the same to yours.

We managed to try out two separate levels, one set in a city and the other on a snowy countryside, and we're pleased with what we've seen so far. The game looks good and runs well. We were definitely pleased by the new mission structure and the flexibility it offers. Obviously, we're not huge fans of the helicopters, for personal reasons (we died way too much), but they do certainly blow up things well.

The Summit Strike graphics engine boasts refined particle and lighting effects.
The Summit Strike graphics engine boasts refined particle and lighting effects.

Now, while expansion packs traditionally focus more on content and typically recycle the graphics of the original game, Summit Strike doesn't do much of this recycling. The graphics engine has actually been refined, and it manages to include enhanced particle and lighting effects, which yield an array of subtle and flashy results that pull you into the game. In addition, you'll see new environments that are on par, if not slightly better looking, than what was seen in Ghost Recon 2. The audio hasn't gotten as much of a makeover as the visuals have, but there have been some definite improvements. The added chatter designed to show off the ghost's personalities should be cool. The weapons' fire, always satisfying in a Clancy game, is nicely done. We were most impressed by audio cues, such as the telltale thrum of helicopters, which will cause your blood pressure to spike as you brace for trouble.

Based on our sampling of some of Summit Strike's content, we definitely think that shooter fans should be looking out for this game when it ships later this summer. The new content is very appealing and provides a welcome dose to GR2's winning gameplay, which should be satisfying for Xbox owners craving some new shooter action. We're glad to see Ubi and Red Storm putting in the work that's needed to create such a solid expansion to GR2, especially with the promise of next gen looming on the horizon. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike is slated to ship this August on the Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks. Until then, check out our exclusive media of the game.

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