David Jones is back in the new and much improved sequel to the game, Project IGI. Project IGI 2: Covert Strike is set after the events of the first game and continues the exploits of our hero, Mr Jones as he and the IGI agency attempt to thwart global terrorism and restore world peace, something Tom Clancy would be proud of no doubt. The sequel builds and greatly improves upon the game mechanics of the first game by leaps and bounds, since GX gave IGI an 82% score last time I was curious to see if the game had been improved. I am glad to say that it has, and this is why.

The first game had some fairly boxy interiors and some pretty good but simple levels, the AI was good but nothing seriously impressive and the graphics were ok, again they were nothing to write sonnets about. But I liked it; the mix of stealth and action lifted it from the realms of just another shooter to the realms of a game to give 10 resounding ArooOOOs. IGI 2 has taken many lessons from the Bond genre and many lessons in general from other games, and applied them successfully to create a varied and immerse stealth/shooter experience.

It can truly be said that if Splinter Cell is the new king of the Metal Gear genre, then IGI II deserves the title of the new Bond. I much prefer this offering to any of the Bond games that I've played, including the game Goldeneye.

Those of you who are familiar with my review style, love it or hate it (And I know who you are, our satellites are always watching you) will note that I'm not the most technical minded Wolf on the block, nor do I tend to give reviews that talk about thousands of mega-poly-texel-vertexes et al. I talk about why the heck the game is so fun to play, and why it's worth getting (if at all) and a lot of folks have accused me of being 'paid' off to write good things about a game.

Let me put this ghost to rest once and for all, if I think something is the biggest POS on the planet - you'll know about it and why. Trust me on that, just watch for my next PS2 review, I've got a humdinger of a gripe with a certain game. Anyway let's get on with the review and enough digression. IGI 2 I have found is great fun to play, it's not easy at all and it can be bloody frustrating when you think you've covered all of your bases and executed the best bit of stealth, only to open a door and find even more of the guards on the other side. Yes, the usual tactics of shoot first and ask questions of the corpse later, don't work in this game.

David Jones comes armed with a whole array of helpful tools to keep tabs on the enemy however, because unlike the previous game this one really is based about stealth. It's best to move quietly and carefully through the massive levels, and yes, they are pretty massive to be honest. And you need all the tools you can get to get past the insidious guards in the games levels, so David has a pair of IGI Light Amp Binoculars - which can't be worn so you must use them to get an idea of the location you're in, then move around in the dark. He also has Thermal Image binoculars, and these are the same deal except they show up heat sources and allow you to see through thin walls.

Note: in the game bullets penetrate certain surfaces so it's possible if you want to strafe a wooden barrack wall, to take out a whole room of guards before they know what's hit them.

David also has a Map Computer that can see the movements of enemies thanks to IGI's spy cameras and satellites. It can also be used to interface with IGI HQ and upload and download information (read save and load the game)

You can save and load as many times as you have battery power left in your Map Computer, when that's all depleted you're out of saves so learn to save when you /really/ need to.

There are a few more gadgets that I won't mention, I'll let you find out about those yourself as you get a chance to play the game (I recommend trying the demo first to see if you like the style of game, as well as reading the review.) So you have the stealth tools, what else can help you through the murky world of Covert Strike? David himself is pretty stealthy and can jump, climb, slide and shimmy various things like ladders and zip lines throughout the game itself. He can change position from standing to kneeling and finally prone, which seems to be a new standard and one I welcome in all games.

Sound, vision and all those lovely elements are prevalent in Covert Strike; so learning to move quietly is a must. Remembering that sound propagates based on speed of movement and posture can really help you keep your intrusion skills to maximum. Also make sure to look around you, for the cameras...whilst you can shoot them, on some levels this will alert the guards quite quickly and you might find yourself in a no-win situation. It could be possible to run off into the shadows and hide for a while, hope things calm down, or even use the darkness to pick off guards as they search for you...but you'd better be pretty good at that or you'll end up deader than driftwood on a beach.

Level objectives are often multi-stage and nice and varied, they have put a lot of effort in recreating the murky adventures of covert operatives, and I'm not surprised since their technical consultant is non other than the author of the book 'Land of Fire' and Gulf War Hero 'Chris Ryan' who was in the SAS, so the environments and weapons seem particular cool when you know this. But the game's about escapism as well so the locations would fit right in with a Bond movie, without a problem.

Vast complex bases and underground mines join forces with a cold arctic wasteland to provide for some fun encounters, you could be forgiven for humming the Bond theme as you did some skilful sniping with the PSG-1 and popped some bad guys from the safety of a snowy mountain or forest. Texturing and graphics in IGI 2 are superior to the first by leaps and bounds; the animations and the models for the weapons have been redone, tweaked and look the part. So these outdoor environments can really make you shiver with a sense of cold as it begins to snow.

Talking of weapons, no FPS would be complete without a whole plethora of goodies to make folks dead with. And IGI 2 does not skimp on the gun fun since as you can now carry only one rifle you can pick up the weapons of fallen foes and swap between them as you go. It's often necessary to backtrack to a rifle and swap it with your empty PSG-1 or vice-a-versa, this adds a tactical element to the game as you manage your available resources - and another reason to conserve ammo as much as possible.

The knife or a pistol whip should be the way to go unless you really cannot get close enough to do that. Then you should stick to trying to lure the enemy away from cameras and their allies, try not to let them sound an alarm...or you'll find IGI 2 has a habit of dumping hoards of mooks on your tail from summoned choppers or guard houses.

Weapons on offer are: Knife, G-17SD 9mm pistol, Makarov 9mm Pistol, MP5A3, Uzi, AK-47, M16/203, PSG-1 Sniper, SVD Dragunov Sniper, M1014 Combat Shotgun, RPG-7 RL, FN Minimi SAW and several types of explosives including Proximity Mines (Which can also be detonated from the Map Comp)

It is also possible to switch weapons mid reload (or at any point) and the reloading times of the various weapons seem to be pretty fast.

Enemy AI is also particularly fine-tuned from IGI, it's not the best in a game and it's not the worst in a game ever. It will react to sight, sound and other stimulus and definitely works to bring in reinforcements, using group and pack tactics to hunt you down and plant you in the ground. IGI 2's opponents are a dangerous bunch and should not be underestimated; they also fall down and die in many varied ways, so no one mook bites the bullet quite the same way...another nice thing to see.

Back in IGI 2 is the third person camera that kicks in when David picks a lock and hacks a computer or scrabbles up a ladder etc. Since he's capable of all these things, this is a welcome sight to see make a return as it allows you to keep an eye on things around you as he works to accomplish the task quickly. Make sure that you're not interrupted when you do this, because if you do get hit or disturbed you have to start all over again.

Is it over yet, I hear you ask, is there anything else???

But wait, there's more, IGI 2 doesn't just come with a SP game...no...they made sure that #2 is chock full of team-based MP madness. The idea is simple, let's take some cool ideas from the various Special Ops films and books, let's take some movie ideas from Bond and make a MP game that allows you to pit IGI vs the Conspiracy, a terrorist organisation that's dedicated to causing as much chaos as good old SCORPIO.

Each team has a list of objectives on the game's large MP levels and they must fulfil those to win the map. All the time they are trying to stop the other team from achieving their goals and preventing or starting global chaos. This is a pretty cool and refreshing MP game with some definitely cool 'Bond' moments in the maps, such as the use of zip lines to get from high locations to certain target points, it looks like a training movie for Delta Force or the next Triple X film to be honest. Add to this the interplay of gunfire and psychopathic agents from both teams attempting to make lead sushi of each other; you have a really enjoyable and team-orientated game.

And that's about all I can say about it, it's a worthy and much better sequel and I'm enjoying the story as well. Nice job Innerloop, I think you might well have gotten it right this time, and kudos to Codemasters for picking it up.