There I was, in the snowy, rocky valleys of Kazakhstan, and it was time to jog. My destination was a gun emplacement guarded by troops loyal to a Pakistani warlord out to make some trouble. My team of Ghosts, U.S. soldiers with the latest gear and weapons, were on a secret mission. It was thrilling—except for that whole jogging thing.
The signature feature of the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon games, as opposed to the Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell games, is that they take place in enormous outdoor areas so big you can get lost. It's not usually easy to get lost in a videogame level, but these things are stupidly huge. And if you have to start over, you're going to spend the next several minutes just jogging, trying to get back to where the action is. Starting over is something you'll do pretty often, too, since in this game a single shot can kill you and there's no healing. Jogging, dying, jogging, dying, rinse, wash, repeat.
Let me be clear: This sucks.
Admittedly, you can use the clumsy and confusing game-save interface to cut down on repeat jogging. But all of this is supposed to be balanced by the fact that you're commanding a squad of elite soldiers, whip-smart veterans who do what you tell them. Unfortunately, the developers haven't done much with the whole squad control system in about four iterations of this franchise, and after playing Full Spectrum Warrior and even Brothers in Arms, the primitive squad tactics in Ghost Recon are a letdown. I can't actually tell my guys to advance to a specific position; I can only tell them to charge and kill whatever they find. Or, if I want to get really fancy, I can tell them to charge from the left or from the right. Whoa.
Let me be clear: This sucks too.
In fact, it would be fair to say that Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike sucks, except for one thing: the Xbox Live multiplayer. That part is actually fun. The easy-death, no-healing brutality makes you cautious and ramps up the intensity. The voice communication with your actually human teammates makes squad tactics fun. And the cooperative multiplayer, where you can carry out missions as a 16-player team against the computer, is a real blast.
Online, I soon hooked up with a kid and his dad who were playing on separate Xboxes in the same room. I teamed up with the kid in the first game—his dad wasted both of us. It was great fun listening to the kid over the headset yelling at his father, "Dad, that was lame!" He even got protective at one point, telling me that his dad was still choosing his weapon and I shouldn't shoot him yet. We played for an hour, gradually accumulating a coterie of fun-loving players around us, and for that golden hour Ghost Recon did not completely suck.