Genre: Top-Down Shooter
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: 11/18/2002
Tom Clancy has had his name all over a little bit of everything lately. From his books, to movies, to video games, almost anything with his moniker attached has become pure gold. The Sum of All Fears movie was quite good, and the PC version of the game was decent, if not a near-complete clone of the Rainbow Six series. The GBA Sum of All Fears is probably the first Tom Clancy game to break the mold and come out as a truly low quality game.
Granted it isn’t entirely the game’s fault, the GBA is a near impossible platform to make a game of this type for. The Sum of All Fears is played from a top down perspective, with you controlling one of four operatives and leading the rest, which in reality amounts to them simply following you and shooting at the bad guys rather than you being able to assign waypoints, tactics, or anything of the sort. Each map is well detailed, with computer monitors, desks, pictures, and various other objects place in every room. The only problem with the map design is most rooms use the same objects over and over, each desk looks like the next and such, which makes each map look much too conforming and downright boring to make it believable. Other things on the screen are a colored picture of your weapon, a colored ammo indicator, and a colored bar beneath the character you control. For those of you that have play any of the Tom Clancy games on PC, you know that in all of the games player health is represented by colors with green being good, yellow being bad, and red being a walking dead type affair. The same style applies to the picture of the weapon and the bar beneath the character; they are color coded to represent the player’s health. The problem is the colors can be very hard to distinguish unless you are in perfect lighting, which can be a big problem. The ammo indicator changes colors depending on how much you have left in your clip, which isn’t really useful at all but doesn’t detract from anything either.
Control in the game is a lesson in pure and total complication, again, not entirely the games fault. To move you use the D-pad, to shoot you press A and to reload you press B. Easy enough so far, but that’s no half of it. To strafe, you hold the L button and press the D-pad. To go into manual aim mode, you have to press L and tap B. To change your kit item (Such as grenades) you press R and A, and to switch characters you press R and B. To open doors or otherwise interact with objects you press L and R. On paper it sounds fine, but in gameplay it’s horrible. Most enemies can see almost as far as you can aim which is a good bit father than you can normally see. To shoot your foes, you either have to maneuver your character into position and fire, getting shot the whole time, or hold L and tap B, then move the overly slow aiming indicator to the enemies feet and fire, getting shot at all the while. Since taking cover is useless, manual aiming is slow, and enemies can see father than you can for the most part, you can expect to get ambushed repeatedly. To help in a small way is a heartbeat sensor, used by pressing Select, which will show a map and any enemies nearby, through walls and all. Very useful to get a heads up on what’s nearby at any given time.
Graphically the game is disappointing on most fronts. While the HUD is decent even with the color problems, the characters in the game all look like ambiguous black blobs holding black lines. However, the characters are very well animated and whenever the characters fire, reload, interact with objects, or fall over wounded it all looks very smooth. Also, you simply cannot see far enough, if you are in a medium sized room you more often than not wont be able to see the opposing wall, or anything that may be near it. The only way you can check long distance is either by manually aiming which allows you to move the screen a good ways or by using the heartbeat sensor, both of which leave you vulnerable to getting shot at.
The sound in the game is sub par, even for the GBA. The firing sounds are out of sync with the animations, and even the ammo indicator, you can fire twice, your ammo indicator will do down one, and it sounds like you unloaded a quarter of a clip. Music in the game is almost non-existent, and when it does play it is nearly too soft to hear even at full volume. Sound effects in the game are of decent volume, but lack any force. When weapons fire the sound that plays totally lacks any oomph, as if the people in the game were firing dime-store cap guns. When characters get shot and die they moan and grunt which sounds thankfully decent, since you will be hearing them a lot. The only upside to the sound is the various radio messages, which actually sound like a human being is speaking through a radio.
Overall, The Sum of All Fears GBA is a good idea placed on the wrong platform. A console would have been a much better choice for this style of play due to its higher resolution to allow for more detail and a larger screen size, and more buttons to assign to actions rather than remembering complication combinations of buttons in the heat of battle. As it is, The Sum of All Fears GBA is a lesson on how some games just don’t work. There are many other Tom Clancy games out there, and all of them are more deserving of your time.