Version tested: PC
Not you again!
Loosely based on the movie of the same name, which is in turn loosely based on the Tom Clancy book, The Sum of All Fears is exactly the type of material we've come to expect from Red Storm, albeit in a hugely diluted form. I'd be surprised if we could get a more straightforward, no-nonsense, almost FPS-like "tactical" shooter out of them.
You take charge of a team of domestic counter-terrorism experts formed from the best of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, and your first couple of missions in the game take place as part of this group. As you wrest control of a TV station from a West Virginian militia group you gain the attention of the CIA though, and when someone decides to let off a nuclear bomb at the Superbowl in Baltimore your newly formed team is sent on a string of eleven missions hopping across the globe to track down the perpetrators.
The game plays very much like Rainbow Six, but has done away completely with the preliminary planning stages, lacking even the mid-mission map plotting of Ghost Recon. Instead you're sent off with a set course to follow on your HUD map and two other team members to work with. There aren't usually any other teams involved in your missions, but when there are you have no control over their actions and will only come into contact with them briefly as your paths cross. Apart from these cuts, the only other major feature difference compared to the Rainbow Six games is the inclusion of a command menu. This works much like the menu we're used to from SWAT 3, and it works very well; commanding your troops to open a door and flash the room couldn't be simpler, and they even crouch to clear your line of sight.
In general your team's AI is a mixed bag though, and agents still occasionally exhibit problems negotiating doors and the corners of furniture, leading me to wonder whether Red Storm are ever going to iron out this niggle. By contrast the terrorist AI appears to work a lot better; they scatter when you make your presence known, negotiate the environment well, take cover and shout for help. I couldn't tell if their behaviour was scripted or not, but it contrasted sharply with that of my own team mates as they took shot after shot and refused to run for cover or even to shoot back.
This might have something to do with the fact that Sum Of All Fears is the first game to really let the Ghost Recon engine try its hand at proper indoor environments. Frankly though, if it wasn't for the fact that the main interface was exactly the same as that found in Ghost Recon, I might not have noticed. Buildings look like low-poly movie sets and there's no real sign of advancement over the similar environments we were furnished with in Rainbow Six and its sprawling family. I was expecting a lot more from the engine to be honest, and what's here is merely okay.
The texturing is probably the most impressive part of the package, and the developers have done their best to paint a realistic world, although this work is let down by low detail on the constructions themselves. Character animation is another highpoint, as we've come to expect from Red Storm, apart from some strange choices of death animation; shooting someone in the back of the head only for him to fly dramatically backwards as if caught in a grenade blast not only defies the laws of physics (either that or he was just a bad actor), but also looks incredibly silly.
The Sum of All Fears isn't bad, but it isn't anything special either. The whole thing has a cookie-cutter feel to it, almost as if Red Storm have specialist software which randomly generates games for them. It's also ridiculously short, with only eleven missions that you'll easily finish in a single day's playing, although the price does just about reflect this. I can't help thinking that it really would have worked better as a mission pack for Ghost Recon though, complimenting its large number of outdoor missions with some much needed indoor action, because it simply doesn't have the scale or depth we've come to expect from a standalone game. If you're really desperate for some covert action and you can't wait for Raven Shield then give it a shot, but I'd prefer to recommend the far superior SWAT 3 if you haven't already got it.
6 / 10