Here’s another Red Storm tactical shooter but this time a movie release comes with it. Yep, Jack Ryan is back in the form of Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck? Did Clancy approve this casting decision? What’s next – Matt Damon as James Bond? Don’t laugh, Jason Bourne is close. Doh!! Don’t let the movie tie-in fool you – this is strictly Rainbow Six material. Certain storyline elements are taken from the movie but not enough to make it feel like your playing a videogame version of it.In the Sum of All Fears, you’re a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and it’s your job to lead your crew in whatever hostile situations arise. The first mission starts off with a hostage situation when a band of renegade militia from the hills in West Virginia take over a television on New Year’s Eve. From there, you travel to various locations across the world to do battle against terrorists plotting to detonate a nuclear weapon on American soil. Actually, the storyline takes a back seat to the solid tactical action that is consistent with all Red Storm shooters.There is a difference though in that Red Storm has designed a game that will appeal to gamers who are new to the tactical shooter genre. Yet at the same time, it retains a lot of the gameplay elements that make the line of Red Storm shooters so popular among hardcore gamers. This is a fine line to balance and the game succeeds for the most part, due to its flexibility in game options. The most prominent option is the ability to turn off the in-game save feature. Why would you want to do this? You’re a hardcore Rainbow Six/Rogue Spear gamer and pride yourself on your ability to play through the realistic tension of a one-shot death scenario. Besides, you can earn medals based on your ability to successfully complete missions on the “no save” option. The other selectable gameplay options are “Fail on Team Casualties,” where you lose if any of your squad mates are killed and “No Support Teams,” where you don’t have the support of other squads (it’s just you and your team members). Speaking of teams – all you get are two other squad mates and that’s it. You can select weapon packs for your entire team but you cannot customize them for each team member. The design team was smart enough to vary the primary character’s weapons with some of the weapons pack choices so you can have at least one member with a unique set of weapons. It’s by no means as varied as Ghost Recon but it’s better than having all the team members with the same weapons. Another limitation is the absence of pre-planning squad movements before starting a mission. Veteran players of the series might be disappointed with the paring down of these options but it seems to be the evolution of trying to bring a simpler gameplay experience to the masses. It does sacrifice the strategic elements of the series for the sake of getting the player into the action sooner but I always thought the auto-setup mode in Rogue Spear addressed this. I guess that’s what you call designer overhead.The missions are mostly in close quarters so there’s a lot of breaching and using flashbangs to clear out rooms. The on-screen interface makes it easy to issue commands to your squad mates. Hit a key and a command panel pops up for you to make the following choices – squad formation (close or open grouping), movement (hold position or move with me), and RoE (rules of engagement – recon or a*ault). The other section of the command menu relates to room commands. Point your reticle on the door you want to enter and then select a command – clear an area, open a door, or toss a grenade or flashbang. One feature that I would have liked to see is the ability to a*ign an action to an individual team member. Instead, the computer will have both team members take the action. Not a big deal but it would be a simple way to add some more strategy into the game. Another new feature that makes things extremely easy is the HQ Plan, which is a path on the mini-map that shows the way from one objective to the next. If this doesn’t make new players comfortable, I don’t know what will. This is user-selectable so you can turn it off if you want to figure out the path yourself.The Sum of All Fears enemy AI will be familiar to gamers of the previous Red Storm tactical shooter games. They are crack shots so if you try to rush into a room without using a flashbang or grenade . . . you’ll die. The enemies are typically in defensive modes since they are holding strategic positions but they will try to take the upper hand when either you or a team member is hit during a firefight. The other friendly squads (ones you can’t control) will usually mop up after your team has done the most damage but they will occasionally engage with the enemy first and help to reduce the number of terrorist vermin.Multiplayer is chock-full of different types of games. In solo mode, there’s Cat and Mouse, where it’s one vs. all and the single player is the only one who scores with kills. The winner in King of the Hill is the player who can stay in the central area of the map the longest. Last Man is obviously the last man standing wins and Sharpshooter is the person who has the most kills wins. Team games also have King of the Hill and Last Man Standing but also offers Search and Rescue (rescue three hostages first), Siege (defend or attack a base), and Domination (possess bases longer then the other team). The online co-op modes though are really where this game shines. Firefight has you and your buddies taking out as many foes as possible. Recon’s objective is to make it from the Insertion Zone to the Extraction Zone and Mission has you playing a full-blown mission. Ubisoft’s own online service is a simple way to get online quickly but it does suffer from occasional lag but not enough to discourage you from using it.The game’s graphics are decent enough since it’s the same graphics engine as Ghost Recon. It’s not quite on the same level as UT or Q3A but it’s close enough. The death animations are cool since you’ll see a fair number of enemy death spirals and even blowing guys off their feet if you shoot them within close range. I did encounter one nagging stability issue with a black screen problem after quitting a mission, which forced me to reboot my PC. This is probably an issue with older video cards (ran it on a machine with a TNT2 Ultra) but hopefully a future patch will correct this problem. The sound is first-rate but I suggest changing the weapon kits when you start playing the game since the default sound-deafening weapons are not ideal for showcasing the sound effects.All in all, The Sum of All Fears is a streamlined tactical shooter that succeeds in providing a short learning curve so players can get into the action as quickly as possible. Purist might cry foul over the lack of pre-planning or limited squad control but there’s enough flexibility with the game’s settings to overcome this and still make this a worthy addition to Ubi Soft/Red Storm’s lineup of tactical shooters.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.