Sum of All Fears (GBA)

Sum of All Fears (GBA)

Written by Cyril Lachel on 2/2/2003 for GBA  

For much of my time with Tom Clancy’s Sum of All Fears I had a miserable time. I hated just about everything about it, from the small graphics to the slow pacing of the game. I was ready to come back and give this game as close to a 1.0 as I could without destroying my subjective reliability.

But a funny thing happened on a long trip from out of town, I actually found myself enjoying this little game. Granted, it still has most of the problems I hated about it originally, but for some strange reason they didn’t seem to bother me like they did only days earlier.

This actually put me in a tough spot. You see, I had all but finished an extremely negative review for the Sum of All Fears, but had not submitted it, in hopes that I would actually learn to enjoy the game. And lo and behold, I actually started to enjoy this little game, even if it is cluttered with more than a few flaws.

First and foremost, while the Sum of All Fears looks like Cannon Fodder, it certainly doesn’t play anything like that classic game. Where Cannon Fodder is a fast action game, the Sum of All Fears recreates all the excitement of a tactical shooter. In other words, you better take things slow and be deliberate instead of a more basic run and gun game play.

This dynamic actually works for and against the Sum of All Fears. On the one hand, the game plays remarkably well for a game of its kind shrunk down for a handheld system. Problem is, this might be one of those kinds of games that shouldn’t be ported to a portable.

On the PC and consoles, games like the Sum of All Fears generally offer a lot of techniques and moves to master, usually resulting in quite a bit of button memorization. This is generally pretty easy on gamers, since most current controls have more than six buttons to offer. But on the GameBoy Advance it is somewhat limited, considering there are only four buttons to work with (if you don’t include the start and select buttons).

To compensate for the lack of buttons, Red Storm Entertainment has given us a workable, but extremely difficult to use set-up that involves a whole bunch of button combinations. While firing your weapon is simple enough, changing between your four team members and between their weapons is a major chore. Likewise, you’ll find that even things that should be simple, like aiming and opening up doors, are sometimes frustratingly hard, due in large part to having to combine buttons together. And sometimes it’s not just pushing the L and R buttons together, there are some things that require you to actually hold the R button down, while pushing the A button a number of times. This set up works, but not without a whole lot of frustration.
Once you get a handle on the controls, though, the game becomes much, much better. Now instead of just rushing into a room and gunning down your targets, you are actually using some thought to get through each mission.

The core of the Sum of All Fears involves familiar territory for Tom Clancy related products. In fact, if you watched the 2002 film of the same name, you will already know that the story revolves around a band of terrorists who steal, and plan on using, a nuclear device. Needless to say, it’s your job to disrupt this terrorist plot, and keep everybody safe from a nuclear disaster.

In all, there are fifteen different missions, each with their own objective. You lead a team of four counter-terrorists in each mission to defuse the tension, save hostages, and hopefully save the day. Before each mission, you are able to select from a number of characters, some offering better player stats, others just using different weapons. As in real life, once one of your teammates passes away, you will not be able to choose him again.

If your team is able to both kill all of the enemies in the mission, and complete the specified objective, the Sum of All Fears will open up an extra mode called Lone Wolf. This mode enables gamers to try to take on the levels without a team backing you up. This is a little more challenging, as you can imagine, but doesn’t really change the game all that much.

While each of the fifteen levels are extremely big, they are fairly uninteresting for the most part. The graphics are extremely small and not very detailed. They certainly do what they need to, but you may become tired of seeing the same landscape distractions from level to level. Compared to most GameBoy Advance games on the market, the Sum of All Fears really lacks that graphics edge.

It’s also extremely dark. Now, I understand that this is almost a given on the GameBoy Advance, but recently companies have been learning ways around this problem. Games like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Yoshi’s Island, and Tactics Ogre can all be played without a lot of light, but the Sum of All Fears requires you to be directly under a sun lamp.

This just isn’t a very fun GameBoy Advance game; especially consider what is already on the market. It’s hard on the eyes, and not especially easy to play or get into. But still, I have to admit that it got better as I played it more. I still can’t recommend it, but I feel I must give credit where credit is due. This is the best game of its kind, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It may not seem like it at first, but given enough time there’s actually a fun game underneath the rough exterior. If you can’t get enough sneaking around and strategically planning your attacks, this may be the portable game for you. Everybody else need not apply

Rating: 6.5 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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