I live in Norway, and I like bragging about my country. I haven’t had too many chances to do so regarding games. Maybe I’ll have my shot now...
It has been three years since Codemasters released the Innerloop Studios Project IGI: I’m Going In. The game features David Jones, a British IGI agent who did missions regarding terrorist factions. The game climaxes with Agent Jones stopping a nuclear bomb. The game was innovative in a few ways, including a computer based map where you could see each and every villain who was roaming the great outdoors. Normally you would’ve thought that such a map would be too much help, and almost like cheating, but it actually worked out quite well because of the level design, and the number of enemies scattered about. Stealth was very important, but often you had to rely on your nice collection of firearms to progress.
The game did however have its faults, such as the artificial intelligence, which would act peculiar at best, some clipping and texture errors, and the ability to only save between missions. Very often you would get close to the end of a mission, an enemy would spot you from miles away, fire a few rifle shots and put you to the ground. You would load a savegame, lose fifteen minutes, be fairly annoyed, and probably end up killed once more by another strangely acting soldier.
Project IGI 2 is Innerloop’s second attempt at depicting the life of an IGI agent, which is reminiscent of the SAS. A number of things have been added, removed, and altered, but while most of the nuisances of the first title have been ironed out it still leaves something to be desired.
Back when Project IGI was released it didn’t really revolutionize the first-person shooter genre when it came to graphics.
The engine was capable of some nice things, but the whole “WOW” effect was never really apparent. Another problem was that many of the buildings were identical on the inside. I’m pretty sure even terrorists have diverse housing, so this was a detail you’d likely notice.
In IGI 2 the “WOW” effect is also seldom apparent. Innerloop chose to use their own engine, It looks okay in most accounts but it doesn’t really impress as much as games based on the Unreal 2 engine. I’m convinced this game would be better accepted if it had some of the graphics features of the upcoming Deus Ex 2 (Doom 3 would be even better, but let’s be realistic). I would’ve liked to see per-pixel lighting, shadows that play a larger role in the gameplay, and I would’ve liked to shoot out lights. Things like normal mapping on the models would of course have been great, but optional.
The engine does a nice job when it comes to lighting the environments, and David Jones has a stencil-buffer based shadow. The shadow he casts may not at all times be as it would in real-life, but it is of course better than nothing.
The texturing is one of the game’s stronger points, offering fairly sharp, fairly colorful textures, wrapped seamlessly together. The environments and the various objects like houses, towers etc look quite good (disregarding the somewhat repetitive house interior). A first-person shooter needs well-made characters, and in this case the enemies also look okay, although many things could’ve been done to make them even more realistic. In the cut scenes between the missions Innerloop could’ve thrown in some more polygons so at least your superior who tells you about the missions would’ve looked more realistic.
Sounds / Music:
Innerloop certainly deserves praise for their sound effects this time around. Realistically depicting combat of this sort requires good sound effects. In this case the sounds of the weapons’ real-life counterparts were recorded, and implemented in the game. Few games can boast a correct set of sound effects as this, which says a lot in an age where there is a plethora of first-person shooters. The voice-overs in the cinematic sequences are also quite nicely done, with appropriate language, accent and everything. However, more diversity in the in-game voices would have been beneficial. You can be standing outside a building, firing off a few shots at a camera, and then hear soldiers inside the building run around screaming “Grenade!” again, again, again, and again. A more realistic reaction to gunfire would certainly have helped, but the voices do fit for the locations of the missions.
Speaking of lacking diversity, the musical score could have had more tracks. What was included works really well with the game, setting the kind of stealthy atmosphere a game like this needs.
IGI 2’s premise works largely like the first game. At the beginning of a mission you’re shown a cutscene that tells you about what, or who you’re after, and sometimes even shows it to you. When inserted into your mission you’re given a small number of weapons, and some gadgets that’ll prove indispensable. David Jones can only carry one pistol, one main weapon (M16, MP5, etc), a few grenades, and a knife. The weapons you begin with usually work well in the particular mission, but you’ll often find that swapping weapons with a fallen enemy can be useful.
David would have an awfully hard time if he only had his weapons, and thanks to well spent taxation on government research you’re given one pair of binoculars, with several degrees of zooming, a computer based map very much like the one I mentioned, and finally some form of binoculars that lets you see the thermal signature of enemies. All three of them are incredibly important, because timing something difficult gets substantially easier when you can learn the patrol route of your enemies without them having a clue of your whereabouts.
The regular binoculars are very nice because they let you see what angle a camera is facing, so you can easily sneak in and blow it to bits. The thermal “goggles” are great because they instantly show you where the enemies are located. Several of the missions take place during nighttime, so you’re likely to use this gadget a lot. The downside is that you can’t zoom with this one, so you’re also likely to swap back and forth with the binoculars. Another of the major advantages of the thermal goggles is the fact that they can see through thin walls and ceilings, and when you’re inside a wood structure you can fire at the baddies through the wood. You often begin with about 300 bullets, so you can in fact hide in a sneaky spot and fire through the walls at whatever enemies pass by.
Innerloop consulted with ex-SAS agent Chris Ryan, who during the course of the last several years has served Britain in the cold war and during other troublesome times. He assisted in shaping the “feel” of the game; how the weapons would look, sound and work, and the overall atmosphere of the game. In an interview he stated that when looking at the weapon in IGI 2 it doesn’t get much more realistic.
Most of the weapons are precisely the ones used in SAS today, and they are quite fun to use.
When playing the game it’s evident that realism is even more important in this iteration. David Jones can still handle a big spray of bullets, so it might have a tad of Quake in it, but then again anything else would’ve been just plain frustrating.
With the increased power of our PCs the game developers can afford to have more extensive AI routines. Innerloop had three years to update the fairly horrid “intelligence” of Project IGI, and they succeeded. The enemies can still at times hit you from far away, but now they work really well as a team, trying to flank you, throw grenades at you, and in general make your life as hard as possible. I still encountered bugs where the enemies simply wouldn’t go to certain locations (where I happened to be hiding), but at least now they react when a teammate’s head gets pierced by a bullet.
Not having multiplayer support was, as I’ve said, also one of the problems with Project IGI. This time Innerloop wanted to do things right, and that’s also one of the reasons why they had the extensive open multiplayer beta test, which was heavily downloaded here at Gamer’s Hell. The final product works quite well, and should hopefully be a fully good alternative to Counter-Strike, even to some of the fanatics. The multiplayer mode has only support for team-based combat, and when creating a game you’ll get to choose from five very diverse maps. Fighting on a tree-filled mountain one minute and then hopping over to a Chinese temple-town is quite fun, and with the extensive number of weapons you should have plenty to play around with. You should be able to download new maps at the official website, but I did hope they had support for more modes and bots.
I do wish I could brag endlessly about this game, but I can’t. In most ways IGI 2 is a solid game, with no major downsides. It has decent graphics, decent sounds, good gameplay, and a well-shaped multiplayer mode. However, it is not very innovative. Perhaps in a few years we’ll see a third game with top-notch graphics, more gameplay innovations and maybe even some more multiplayer modes. Until then you can have a lot of fun playing IGI 2, both if you like challenging single player missions, or duking it out over the Internet.