PC Game Review: IGI 2: Covert Strike
IGI 2: Covert Strike plays like a mix of Hitman 2 and Thief 2. Read why that's a good thing.
A Good Politician
After the Cold War ended, humankind needed a new hobby to occupy it in its spare time. Corporate struggle replaced political struggle and nameless, faceless business conglomerates vied for global domination instead of nations. So goes the storyline of IGI 2: Covert Strike. Into this hostile environment came Senator Pat Lenehan (Republican), who founded the Institute for Geotactical Intelligence (IGI), the organization from which the game inherits its title. IGI's purpose as a private sector enterprise is to thwart terrorism and avert "massive destruction." Solo operatives such as the game's protagonist, David Jones, are hired for their skills in assisting IGI in its mission.
IGI2: Covert Strike is played from a First Person Shooter (FPS) perspective. A former Special Air Services hero, Chris Ryan, served as Military Consultant to Codemasters, and his fingerprint is evident in the game. IGI2: Covert Strike is not just another FPS shoot-em-up title. Blending elements of great sneaker-shooters like Hitman 2 with elements of gunplay from great mainstream FPS titles like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, IGI2: Covert Strike gives gamers moments of heart-pounding fear as they attempt to sneak past sentries and heart-pounding excitement in an all-out firefight when stealth is no longer an option. The result is a highly entertaining combination sneaker-shooter.
Less Realism, More Fun
Having a former SAS commando as a military consultant to a game must be a thrilling experience for a game designer. I would imagine that the ability to access a commando's experience has to be both humbling and rewarding. Games are certainly just games, but wargamers seek to find a level of competition that watching NASCAR just doesn't seem to provide. With the guidance of an experienced SAS commando, Innerloop has managed to craft a game that feels fairly real while still presenting something fun to play.
The game begins using a cut scene. David Jones, the game's protagonist, jumps from a C-130 to HALO parachute into his first mission. After he lands, he communicates with IGI, which informs him that the Russian mafia has stolen some sensitive technology. His job is to recover it by penetrating a mining camp, then move up a mine shaft to a research facility. This assignment ends up constituting the first three missions of the game. All of the missions are either an extension of the previous mission or linked by the plot, and cut scenes splice the missions together. They can be several minutes in length and the do a solid job of holding the game together. The influence of Chris Ryan is also evident in the way each mission is constructed, and they all feel like they're ripped from the classified pages of the SAS' operational history. The missions are often long, but not overly so. Initially they started somewhat slow for me, but as I learned how the game structured its obstacles and how I was supposed to overcome them, I found them very enjoyable and highly addictive.
Reality is a mixed bag when it comes to gameplay. When the player emerges heavily wounded from one scenario and enters the next, his health is somehow restored to 100%. He can also suffer more gunshots than the enemies in the game, though it still only takes a few rounds to kill him.
Despite some lapses of reality in the gameplay, the game successfully mimics it in other ways. The player's objectives for each mission are logical, the maps, locations and positioning of guards are realistic, and the equipment given to the player is taken from a contemporary arsenal. While the player's health may be restored between missions, if one mission is merely a transition to the next, with no change in location or time, then the player's ammo is not refreshed. Sometimes this made me wish I'd been a little more cautious with my shooting. There wasn't any way to know when one mission was accomplished, whether it would be extended, or if I'd be extracted and this uncertainty made the game doubly exciting.
The cut scenes have details that reveal the influence of a real-life commando. At one point the clip shows David Jones employing his knife to dispatch a guard. The technique demonstrated was clearly taken from someone who understood the proper employment of a concealed, edged weapon. Another mission reveals Chris Ryan's influence. The objective in this one is what the military refers to as "escape and evasion." It had me holding my breath as I attempted to sneak from bush to bush, sliding along on my belly, seeking to escape across a border that was protected by dozens of hostile troops. It can't be anything close to the real fear that someone in that situation would experience as Chris Ryan has, but the game certainly gives the player a taste of how difficult and vulnerable that kind of situation is.
No Good Evildoer is Left Undone
Though IGI2: Covert Strike begins with the Russian mafia taking actions that require IGI's attention, it seems that in its world Evil is an equal opportunity employer. Arabs and Chinese both make nice contributions the cast of villains dispatched by David Jones. The only major threats to society left uncovered are the Mob and South American drug lords. I can't claim to have any sight into the future, but my guess is that there's enough fertile ground that a future IGI3 will find David Jones blowing these guys away.