Game Over Online ~ Preview - The Sum of All Fears (c) Ubi Soft

Preview - The Sum of All Fears (c) Ubi Soft

Published: Monday, May 13th, 2002 at 06:12 PM
Written By: Fwiffo

The Sum of All Fears follows on the coattails of some critical successes by Red Storm Entertainment; namely, Ghost Recon and its expansion pack, Desert Siege. The latter titles focused on infantry military combat, a tangent off the Rainbow Six pedigree that made Red Storm a household name for tactical first person shooters. Rainbow Six, as you might recall, focused on the close quarters battles, something that was few and far between in Red Storm's latest games. The Sum of All Fears serves to fill that void, using the malleable Ghost Recon engine and putting it in a close quarters, in your face setting.

Followers of Clancy fiction will note that The Sum of All Fears takes place behind the much-vaunted Rainbow Six franchise, but the gameplay is just as intense as the progenitor of Red Storm's flagship. Curiously, Rainbow Six's latest incarnation, Raven Shield, will use the Unreal engine, while the long ranged infantry combat will continue to use the Ghost Recon engine; which surely will get a follow-up as well. That leaves The Sum of All Fears in a sticky situation, using the Ghost Recon engine, originally intended for large outdoor settings, in enclosed locales. This time, you take on the role of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, another elite force that Clancy fiction glamorizes, although not lauded as much as its military counterparts. The Ghost Recon engine adapts well in The Sum of All Fears. Perhaps because the distances are much closer, the engine runs much smoother with a faster framerate even though there is a lot more attention this time around to fleshing out indoor environments. We have paintings, glass, decorations and furniture, just like the old Rainbow Six maps. In fact, map design is somewhat similar and familiar to Rainbow Six fans. A lot of maps are composed of a few isolated buildings or one huge building, cordoned off with artificial walls and fences.

Many people were turned off by Ghost Recon because of the adoption of a few choice decisions from the developers. The persistent heart beat sensor, although not quite as accurate as the old Rainbow Six one, turned off many potential converts. The atrocious difficulty and one shot-one kill, this time from miles away, would not win any new players from Counterstrike, Quake or Unreal Tournament fan bases. Indeed, Ghost Recon was beginning to be highly developed and as I mentioned in my review of that title, the platoon leader effectively became a specialist; planning tactics for individual soldiers, applying cover or sniper fire in support of the overall tactical plan. The Sum of All Fears is clearly geared towards a more pedestrian audience, perhaps because of the potential horde of mainstream players who will be enamored with the film. Everything about the Red Storm tactical first person shooter has been simplified. You have features like auto reload and several modes of auto-targeting. The latter was formerly only reserved for consoles. The mission load screens now have a 'tips' box to help you out with setting controls and how to stay alive longer. Your maps now come with a pretty good pre-assigned HQ plan (although it still isn't the optimal one). At easier difficulties, a very accurate heart beat sensor is persistently on. And weapons selection is now like unlocking new cars in a racing game; you get access to better, bigger and flashier weapons as the game progresses. So overall, things have become more accessible and Red Storm has extended an olive branch to its Rainbow Six fans with The Sum of All Fears.

In addition to these improvements, The Sum of All Fears features a markedly different attitude than previous Red Storm titles. As part of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, you're initially tasked to rescue hostages and defuse law enforcement type situations. This also makes the game a lot easier, since law enforcement ethos dictates that overwhelming police presence often serves as a deterrent to firefights. Here, you'll be assisted by four squads of three (note the smaller size of men *and* women under your command for simplicity) who are pretty much autonomous. Commanding your own troops is also a lot easier. It's still not point and click like SWAT but it isn't any more difficult. Furthermore, the FBI will dispatch support teams to help you clear out choke points, protect your rear and generally assist you in your objectives. This is something I hope to see from every tactical first person shooter later on.

For those who are worried that this game is all about coddling hostages and doing SWAT-type work, you have no need to fear. This is a Clancy novel we're talking about and there's no reason not to expect a few plot twists as well as a visit from our CIA friend, John Clark. The missions themselves get explosive with trips to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The key difference between this and Rainbow Six is the scale. The buildings you will go through, especially the cubicle offices, are huge. They have rooms upon rooms upon rooms. You'll more often than not get lost in a lot of the indoor environments if you don't follow your assigned path. As the story progresses and you get into stickier foreign territory, the FBI (who are really supposed to be a domestic agency but we won't get into that) will provide less and less support. This lets Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon veterans have at it with the enemy, who are a mixture of terrorists, suited men in black, mercenaries and paramilitaries. With eleven missions, six multiplayer maps and an extensive training mode, The Sum of All Fears does not skimp in any category. This is a full fledged title.

The Sum of All Fears is really the first title in awhile that is based on an actual piece of Clancy fiction. Rogue Spear and Ghost Recon, for example, were written for the game, much like James Bond movies without the Ian Fleming blessing. The plotline, which I won't reveal here, is particularly scintillating and in light of recent events of terrorists attacks on domestic soil, very poignant. Perhaps that's why this book got the nod for the entertainment industry. Like Debt of Honor, the scare against Japanese interests in America, or Clear and Present Danger, the scare with the rising power of the Colombian Drug Cartel, or even Rainbow Six, a scare of biological weapons, The Sum of All Fears is like all other Clancy fiction. It is 'fact-ion', a literary genre that blends realism and fiction to make compelling and suggestive entertainment. With some reduced physics and helper aids, thatís what The Sum of All Fears is in the tactical first person shooter genre; foregoing a little realism, incorporating some refinements, but still touching on the fun of elite special ops.

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