Because the Game Boy Advance is so far behind the curve when it comes to tactical first person shooters, the final product on Nintendo's handheld is very often a far cry from what you see on other platforms. The job to do the conversion almost always lands on Crawfish's lap, mainly due to their expertise with treating the material (they started with the Game Boy Color version way back when Rainbow Six was around) and their success in doing so before. The Sum of All Fears for the Game Boy Advance is no different.
Fans of Crawfish will not be surprised with Fears' approach. Instead of the first person mode, you get a semi-isometric birds-eye type of view on your team. It works relatively well, and the controls (reload, etc.) that were present in the first person mode are also available here. Other than the perspective, the rest of Fears is classic Red Storm Entertainment. Even the main menu uses the same menu samples as Rogue Spear/Rainbow, and the cinematic soundtrack and setup refuses to play second fiddle to anyone. You're still given mission briefings at the onset of every outing. You're also able to pick your team members who clock in with varying characteristics. Obviously, someone skilled in demolitions will not be needed for those missions that require absolute discretion.
In terms of the single player campaign, Crawfish didn't do much to change the original formula. Some of the mission particulars are different. You're still shepherding the FBI HRT in anti-terrorist initiatives. The first mission, like the initial mission on the PC, takes place on American soil against militiamen. Whereas the PC version had three separate teams and specific objectives assigned to each one, the objectives have been shortened here, and you'll usually deal with more combat than lengthy linked objectives (disabling security before infiltrating, etc.). Despite cutting some corners, the maps are still pretty large, and you'll generally run into a hefty amount of combat before coming close to any of your objectives.
The course of the campaign will take the HRT deep into foreign territory; allied and non-allied alike. That provides for some different landscapes, but Fears is generally an indoor type of game. It especially excels at depicting indoor environments like office buildings and research labs.
When Fears was released on the PC, it was known as a simplified version of the Ghost Recon engine. Fears on the Game Boy Advance should be treated similarly. You can no longer choose multiple teams and, moreover, there aren't any complex team tactics available for you to mount simultaneous takedowns and other tactically sound moves. Your team members are fixed on following you around too, but at least they're able to put up a fight, and potentially shoot down tangos sneaking up behind you. In terms of weapons selection, you're simply given the best of the best and you're left at that. On the PC, you were only given the go-ahead to carry more exotic and heavier weapons when the mission warranted it. That aspect is sorely missed, but critics had complained Crawfish implemented too many controls and setup aspects earlier on. So I'm guessing this is their way of saying they listened. It would have been nice to have a toggled option as to whether you want to play this in arcade or realistic mode.
One area where these titles consistently do well is in the multiplayer arena. Here, you'll not only be able to play against each other, but you're able to link up with another player to go through the campaign together. That truly exercises the full potential of the Game Boy Advance, and I laud the developers for including this, despite the fact that few fans of Nintendo's handheld ever get a chance to really try it out.
My only significant complaint about the game is its perspective. The pseudo isometric birds-eye view is going to get old sometime soon. With first-person shooters abound for the Game Boy Advance, surely it's only a matter of time before Crawfish can make a successful jump into modeling Red Storm Entertainment material. Having Ubi Soft as the backer of both handheld and mainstream versions should only help with the prospects of that.
Tittles that fall into this genre are generally known for their ability to create tension and anxiety. You never know what's going behind the doorway ahead, or around the next corner. Crawfish is an expert at using this perspective to generate that. They generally place enemies just beyond your vision zone, so you'll have to tread carefully and lightly if you want to be able to see them. That the auto-target doesn't target beyond that vision radius helps promote the idea of proceeding with extreme caution. That's the gimmick or trick behind Fears. And it's one that Crawfish executes very well; perhaps better than any other developer on the handheld format.
If you have the patience to enjoy this type of title on a handheld, Fears should satiate that hunger. It is well-designed by a veteran of this genre, and the audio and visuals do not pale against the original PC version of the game, given the overall latitude of producing a title on the Game Boy Advance. While you won't be manipulating Jack Ryan or John Clark in this title, as you might in a traditional movie to game conversion, I'm glad you aren't. The HRT provides enough source material for you to work on, making it a thrill from beginning to end.