You've Seen The Movie, Now Play The Name.
Hollywood sure can perform some magic, eh? Case in point: it can turn Alec Baldwin into Harrison Ford, and then give him a chin-job into Ben Affleck. Games based on movies seek to emulate the experience of living a fine film, and every now and again they do. But often times, they just don't seem... right.
Crack open a copy of The Sum of All Fears, and you'd think that in the film of the same name Ben Affleck plays a lethargic counter-terrorism commando dropping mountain boys instead of running all over a post-apocalyptic Baltimore with a cell-phone, overacting to save the world. This is odd, isn't it? After all, Tom Clancy wrote the book, the movie, and his game company Red Storm made the game, so wouldn't there be some high level of authenticity? Not really. There isn't even much of a pulse.
To be blunt, The Sum of All Fears is merely Red Storm's previous Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games without the tactical elements that made those games work. For anyone who hasn't played a Red Storm tactical shooter or is to lazy to check out one of our reviews, the basic premise is straightforward: you are given a mission and you have a team of crack commandos whom you outfit with guns, give missions plans, and issue orders. You can control any of these commandos, and you have to orchestrate intricate operations to take out the "tangos" and save the hostages, or just stop the world from getting itself blown up. Mix that all in with some slick level design and a lethal level of realism (one-shot kills), and you're in for some nail biting tension and some brain bending strategizing.
Enter The Sum of All Fears. It is the exact same thing, except for the planning, the intricacy, the strategy, the coordination, and most importantly, the fun.
The mission plans are already made - all you have to do is follow the white line telling you where to go and shoot the right people at the right time. You don't control any other teams because the CPU handles everything. There isn't even much skill involved in the shooting since you can whip out a handy "heartbeat sensor," which pinpoints the location of every enemy in the next room and makes the whole game something of a cheat now that it's all about twitch skills.
I realize that gamers who were put off by Rainbow Six's strategic difficulty might be excited by this, but that would be to ignore one very, very critical factor; action games, these ain't. You walk fairly slowly, you can't jump, you can't see your gun and the graphics are barely passable. You just aim your crosshairs at a blocky terrorist and hope you can click the mouse before he does so you can watch him die. Hell, you usually utilize silenced guns so you don't even revel in any bombast. To make counter-terrorism minus the planning fun, you need an action model at least as satisfying as Counterstrike; without that, there really isn't much there.
Perhaps Red Storm understood that they had whipped up a little tonic of ennui, so they calculated to dull the pain by giving you a paltry 11 levels to play. Generally speaking, 4-8 hours is all it should take to play through. Over the course of those 11 levels, you encounter a story that is intended to run parallel to the events of the film, but it's a weak effort, and one of the most lackadaisical movie tie-in gimmicks I've ever seen.
There are multiplayer games here as well, including some co-op options. It's a decent little system, but when the game is sub par, the multiplayer doesn't really matter that much. At least it extends the life of the somewhat shallow single-player product.
The big problem here is trying to figure out exactly who this game is for. If you own Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon, you'd be paying cash money for less than half of what you already have. If you haven't played RSor GR, then try them out because they're both much better than this. If you find you don't like having to take time to carefully plan and execute a complex mission, then more visceral action games are likely your bag and you needn't apply here. You might think that Rainbow Six without the strategy is half the game, but the more you play The Sum of All Fears, the more it becomes clear that that it was far, far more than that.