IGI-2: Covert Strike
In the context of videogames, blowing stuff up can be fun; but at the same time, it can get old after a while. Sneaking around, clinging to the shadows, and sniping your foes can often be just as satisfying, but it can often suffer the same fate. Finding a balance between the two can be tricky, but once the medium is found, an extremely satisfying gaming experience results. Innerloop Studios and Codemasters released IGI: I'm Going In two years ago and it was met with mixed reviews, criticizing the faulty AI and overly ambitious difficulty. IGI 2: Covert Strike attempts to improve on it's predecessor's faults and be the next great stealth action game, but can IGI-2: CS be more than just another ho-hum espionage game in a crowded genre?
When I first started playing IGI-2: CS, I couldn' help but think, aven' I done this before ?_ borrows gameplay concepts from a variety of games to make one big hodgepodge of stealth action, but what makes IGI-2 refreshing is the mix of stealth and shoot em' up action, allowing you to approach missions a number of ways. Sadly, the stealth elements aren't anything more than crouching behind crates or shooting out security cameras -- it's a very dumbed-down stealth experience. Gamers expecting engrossing or deep stealth action might be in for a let down. Thankfully, the gun-toting side of the game fares a little better, although it's not without faults as well. It's frantic and intense, just as it should be, but the AI isn't all that bright -- well, when they aren't shooting at you that is. They're unusually good shots (probably to keep you moving around slyly) and being exposed to too much gunfire will often result in a quick death, but aside from that, the AI is just plain dumb. I can recall a few times where enemies just ran by me with their back turned after another enemy had already started shooting at me. You can even set up in a corner of a room occasionally and wait for enemies to walk right in, only to be mowed down on sight. AI problems are prevalent within the espionage section as well. Have you been briefly spotted by something? Just duck behind something and the guards will run around frantically, doing nothing in particular. Left dead bodies around? Don't worry, the guards won't notice them. While enemies do have their better moments, there's no denying the AI is extremely flawed.
IGI-2 won't turn many heads with its graphics, but it gets the job done. The most notable aspect is the sheer scope of the landscapes. When everything's seen in full view, it looks very impressive, as there's not a hint of fog to distort the distance. Everything else though is very average. Textures are unimpressive and the building structures are used frequently, which leads to a repetitive feel. Characters are blocky with choppy animations, and the shadows and lighting are very simplistic as well. Framerates hold up pretty well, but your mileage will vary depending on your machine's speed.
There isn't much in the way of sound either. The underlying music remains unobtrusive, allowing you to listen to your surroundings, but it's forgettable all the same. Sound effects are nice and have a realistic tone, but the voice acting is awful at times. It's further complicated by the fact that enemies like to yell the same redundant phrases. Constantly.
IGI-2 includes an online multiplayer mode that can be likened to Counter-Strike, but without the crowded servers and juvenile players. Each side is given objectives that they must complete while simultaneously defending their base from the other team. Everything works pretty well together, but some of the maps are too large for a game of this type. Also, there's not an over abundance of maps (6 total) although Codemasters has released a downloadable map, so hopefully the trend will continue. Regardless, the multiplayer mode helps irk out the replay tenfold -- especially since there's not much reason to come back to the single player missions once you're through even though the game is plenty long and hard.
While IGI-2: Covert Strike may not have the refined stealth elements of Splinter Cell or the same intelligent action of Halo, it blends the two half-way decently into an entertaining spectacle of espionage action. If you're looking for something new and original, this isn't it; but if you're looking for a challenging romp filled with (albeit flawed) espionage and first-person shooter action, then IGI 2: Covert Strike warrants a look.