The IGI, or I’m Going In series proves that you don’t have to own a console to get a good stealth shooter. The IGI series in its original incarnation is far older than either Metal Gear Solid or the Johnny-come-lately Splinter Cell.
Unlike most stealth shooters on the console, you can resort to mindless violence to solve levels in IGI2, but you are going to have a much harder time if you play this way. The situations you are put in are nearly impossible. You are sometimes outnumbered 100 to one, which in a game featuring realistic damage levels means going toe to toe with bad guys is probably not the best move.
You have a lot of tools to help you on your missions, including a PDA that uplinks to a real-time satellite map of your mission area. You can zoom in and see people walking patrols or zoom out to get an overall idea of the terrain you are about to encounter. If you look at your map too long or in the wrong place, you may see yourself get shot and killed as it would look from 25 miles up. You also need to be careful because the PDA is not infallible. If someone is standing next to a tree or under a roof, you won’t be able to see them with your top-down view from space.
The original game, which was published by Eidos, featured amazing graphics owing to the fact that the developer used a flight simulation engine. Thinking of a flight simulation engine for a shooter game is a bit odd, but it worked and looked great. The one problem was that you got a bit of a floating feeling when playing, to a much greater degree than with most shooters. IGI-2 also suffers from the same feel at different points in the game. In one mission you have to crawl across a large field and I felt like I was piloting a boat. But for the most part, the feel of the game has come on-par with the amazing looks.
Interloop used a real SAS officer – that’s like the British version of the Navy Seals – as an advisor for the game. The SAS man is Chris Ryan and he is the real deal. During his tour of duty he was part of an eight-man squad in the Gulf War (that’s the first Gulf War) where three men were killed and the others were captured. Ryan was able to escape from Iraqi detention and was awarded the Military Medal by his government.
Ryan’s influence over the game is obvious. Everything is hyper-realistic. You can’t instantly heal during levels by picking up a med-kit or fruit or something silly like that. If you take a hit, you are going to be injured for the rest of the mission. And it does not take very much to kill you, so you need to be careful.
The game will find players in a variety of settings that help to keep things interesting. You will fight in windswept artic mountains, tropical islands, forests and many underground complexes. Here too, the attention to detail is perfect. In a Chinese temple for example, the beautiful cherry blossoms will have you wanting to sightsee at times instead of taking the less pretty, but safer, routes to your objectives.
Weapons are about as realistic as you can get in a computer game, and are in great variety. Everything from the standard bad-guy AK-47 to the advanced SOCOM pistol with integrated laser site and silencer is in the game. From what I can tell using my limited real-world shooting experience with some of these monster guns, they seem very accurate. I know I would turn to certain weapons in the game for some tasks like stealth and others like the FM Minimi for ambushing patrols in a most destructive and loud manner.
Sometimes, you could find places in the game where stealth would win you an amazing prize. In one level I was able to get into a ventilation duct that overlooked a weapons factory. From my concealed spot I was able to kill just about everyone inside the building without taking any return fire. They triggered the alarms, which is a natural reaction when people on the assembly line suddenly have their heads start exploding. But other than running around looking for me, nobody noticed me high above. Had I gone in guns blazing the traditional way, I would have been mincemeat for sure.
The original game was missing a multiplayer element, and thankfully IGI-2 has one. It’s interesting because you can use your PDA to look at the battlefield and see where everyone is, and you can also tick other’s PDAs by standing under trees or inside buildings.
Whether or not you like the multiplayer mode depends on your play style. You start out with limited money and have to purchase equipment over the standard amount given. You get more money by simply staying alive, and huge bonuses of cash for killing opponents or completing an objective like stealing the enemy computer files.
If you come into a game late, you are probably going to be screwed because by then most people are running around with great weapons and all you can afford is a cheap Makraov pistol, though there are probably good weapons sitting near fallen players. And it is so fun to cap someone carrying a fancy G11 assault rifle because you snuck up on them with your Makraov. It does not happen often but when it does – wow. You earn taunting rights. This style of play reminds me of the game Global Operations, which follows the same basic format.
IGI-2: Covert Strike is basically a greatly improved version of the original game. If you like a great deal of stealth and realism in your shooters, then IGI-2 is the game for you. If you like to go in guns blazing, dodging bullets by constantly jumping around, you might want to lean more towards Quake. Personally, I had a great time with IGI-2, especially when I completed – sometimes hours later – a mission I thought was impossible. IGI-2 earns 4 1/2 GiN Gems for being a solid shooter with a lot of extras thrown into the mix.