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Project I.G.I.: I’m Going In (2000) | The forgotten godfather of Far Cry, Metal Gear Solid V, Ghost Recon Wildlands

Project I.G.I.: I'm Going In is an openlevel (almost openworld) sandbox first-person stealth action tactical shooter released in 2000. Although it has a cult following and influenced several FPS trends, it seems to not being given away free nowadays while IGI 2 is still being sold on GOG. I remember my father playing this game on PC, although I never actually played it myself until now, so I have a passing familiarity with this title.

IGI is credited as a pioneer of openworld shooters, with wide-open spaces and free-form infiltration into the enemy outposts and bases. It was not the first of its type. You can find all of IGI's gameplay elements in earlier games. Delta Force existed beforehand, but that series was closer to a milsim or a tactical shooter in the vein of ARMA and the original Ghost Recon, in which the player is part of a large-scale battle fighting off a military force, and the worlds were comprised of primitive voxels and the bases didn't feel authentic but felt like random objects on random rolling hills. The lethal realism in tactical shooters like Rainbow Six or SWAT 3 but did not have the visceral first-person weapon models an action-oriented shooting. The games like Mech Warrior had giant levels but they lacked up-close details.

IGI had all. The worlds were (comparably) believable. It had the graphical details, solid 3D sharpness, and controllability, and intuitive first-person weapon models with reload animations you would expect in an action-oriented up-close shooter, with the lethality of a tactical shooter, at the scale of a milsim. Even Operation Flashpoint, which was released one year later, had the primitive jittery feel and had smeared visuals compared to IGI. It had a sneaking alone type of the stealth-action genre like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear. I would even say IGI is actually closer to MGSV than MGS1 and 2 ever do to MGSV.

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You start with the zipline (which is the first gameplay mechanic that made use of ziplining in any game as far as I am aware), then infiltrate and attack the eclosed enemy encampment, shuffle between patrol routes, crawl through buildings, or snipe down the guards from a distant ledge with a Dragunov. You can even hack the computers to deactivate the surveillance cameras, and this game came out only a few months after Deus Ex.

What is interesting about the gameplay is there is not much guesswork involved in how you play. You have the vast levels that go as far as the horizon in your hands, and directly show the bases you have to infiltrate in front of you. You have a binocular that detects all the enemies through the HUD (like Far Cry binocular). The sniper rifle can zoom and zoom until the screen is filled with the face on the screen. Your aim is laser-sharp and each shot is lethal. The more modern iterations of this genre have more to it, such as less accurate weaponry, tagging, and stealth kills, forcing the player to think about their approach. In comparison, IGI feels archaic, and it does have its own simplistic charm that cannot be found in other games.

What is fascinating is the Goldeneye DNA in the gameplay. It feels as if the developers went out to create a Goldeneye clone for PC, and this is the style I'd like to see more of: giving the player a list of set objectives and locations to explore, and let them loose with stealth, weapons, gadgets, etc to get in and get out. Hell, even the explosions look identical to Goldeneye. Add to that its own unique atmosphere, with the methodical, lethal gameplay and the techno-thriller tracks.

Because the game was too ambitious for the small team of developers in 2000, the game is underdeveloped and unpolished. There are neat ideas that have been expanded that going back to play IGI was difficult. For example, AI is terrible even for the time period. Although tactical shooters in this era struggled with AI, often relying on the lethality of the weapons and the randomization of enemy placement to make up for their lack of agency, IGI stands out to be particularly horrid in this regard. The enemies are either too smart or too dumb. For example, enemies don't see bodies for some reason, rather they seem only react to the gunfire noises and line of sight. They just stand there as if nothing has happened even when I sniped his friend in front of him. When the base is on alert, they just rush out and then stand there without any effort to search the player.

The ridiculously smart part is their reaction time once they see the player. There is no delay time. Normally, in stealth action games, NPCs have a delay when they spot the player to give the player a chance to counter the threat. In this game, the moment they spot the player, they immediately fire the weapon. No "huh, what was that?" reaction. They just shoot. The start of Mission 8 has the player leave a truck they have been hiding inside. The moment the player leaves the truck, and I mean the moment you step out of the truck, you get hit. At first, I thought I was spotted by some guards standing next to the truck. It turns out there is a sniper in the guard tower OUTSIDE the base, like 600m between me and him, has spotted me in less than a second and began firing at me because he was placed to face in the direction of the base. I tried to snipe him inside the truck later, and he somehow still saw and attacked me. It makes no sense.

And enemies throw grenades from insane distances. It does not matter how much you are far from the enemies. It seems distance has no bearing on how they use the grenade. You are 700m apart and enemies throw grenades perfectly to my feet 100%.

The combat and stealth systems are barebone. Many basic gameplay mechanics necessary to this game are not present. I can't lean and shoot at once. I can't go prone and crawl. The stealth is mostly about evading the lines of sight that are wonky as I just described. Considering the wide environments, it could have had deeper stealth systems layered on top, like a Thief-like lightplay or MGS3-style camo index. Although the maps are big, lots of spaces seem pointlessly large and serve no function. Some buildings are completely empty, making me wonder why this is on the map in the first place. There is not even a statistic screen that tells me how well I played after finishing a level. When the base is on alert, instead of enemies ending reinforcements from the outside the building to amp up the difficulty, enemies just respawn from the empty barrack buildings. I searched the buildings, no one was there, and the moment you step out of the buildings, dozens of enemies pop out of nowhere and shoot.

Not only stealth is basic, but it is erratic that I cannot formulate a coherent strategy. Like, destroying some surveillance cameras is fine, but destroying some other surveillance cameras alerts the entire base? There is no difference in their look, so why is it inconsistent? You also have a glitch in which the alarm can't be deactivated at all. You press the alarm bell, and it responds only sometimes, but oftentimes it won't turn off. It breaks Mission 8. If the stealth is this inconsistent, every attempt at sneaking degenerates into just guns blazing.

This acclimates into the insane difficulty without any save point, which seems to be a design lift-off from Goldeneye. You cannot save in any point during the game. No checkpoint. No quicksave. You start a level, you complete a level, from start to finish. The games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark work without any save because their missions are short. Each mission is tightly crafted and thoughtfully designed to fit their clockwork gameplay loop that encourages repeated playthroughs in which you have to figure out how to progress through repeat playthroughs. IGI's levels are absolutely mammoth and nonlinear that you can easily spend an hour moving through a base. A few shots deaths, hour+ long missions, gigantic maps, frustrating combat, game-breaking glitches, and then the complete lack of a mid-mission save feature do not go well together.

Mission 7, Border Crossing was the level designed by professional torturers. This entire section robs you of the weapons. You don't have your satellite mini-map and another such tech, which means you have no idea where enemies are. You have minefields all over the terrains, which means you have no real freedom as to how to navigate through the level, only forced to go a single, predestined path. This level is so frustrating that I almost stopped playing. Initially, it plays well because the game gives the player a sniper rifle. It feels more or less fair in the beginning. Then as you progress the game during the midpoint, Anya warns the player of an attack helicopter coming but there is not enough cover to hide from the chopper. The level does not have any RPG to destroy a vehicle, so you try to go back to hide, but then you die all of a sudden having no idea what just happened because the level spawns a disastrous tank with a cannon and a machinegun behind you that kills you in a second during the scripted event, which you have no way of anticipating because Anya never tells the player about this. (Tanks in this game have eyes in their hulls. At times, the tanks did not even face me yet they spotted me for some reason.) So you have no idea what to do unless you go through countless trials and errors, starting over the whole level. It seems the AI system is one hivemind that links the soldiers together. In one instance, I found a tank on the road and did not get spotted, so I just tried sneaking past them. Then a soldier came out of a hut and found me, pouring the machinegun rife, and the moment he does that, the tank just automatically found me and blasted me to bits. It is maddening.

In Mission 8, I literally couldn't progress because the game kept crashing at a certain section, so I had to find a save file to skip to the next level. It seems that the later missions lack freedom, rather they nudge you into one path. The last level is indoor, which means the game does not utilize its strength of open infiltration.

It is unfortunate that this game never saw a fan patch or mod to improve the experience for the modern standard. For example, there is no wide-screen patch. I have a 1920×1080 monitor, and I used Voodoo 2 to make the display HD, it does not scale the UI. So my UI elements are so small that I literally can't see the ammo count. There are radio conversations during the gameplay to give the player tips and mission updates, but they are not voiced, so I literally can't read what my aid is saying.

I don't think IGI is worth playing now. It was groundbreaking back in 2000 because there weren't all that many games that allowed you to attack an enemy outpost on an open level in a free-form fashion. Now though? Attacking enemy outposts is an openworld staple. Pretty much every single openlevel/openworld shooter that came later does what IGI tried to do better.


It is common now, which makes me scratch my head that why to bother even trying to make a sequel to this game when we already have mountains of spiritual sequels, It feels odd to bring back an obsolete title that hardly anyone remembers.

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