Game Description: Ghost Recon is a deadly game of intrigue and military combat, where you control a top-secret military strike force! Interact with dozens of different characters, including specialists that add distinctive weapons to your team.
Tom Clancy's squad-based shooters are a unique and rarely imitated breed of cerebral action games that have carved out a comfortable niche of fans with realistic tactical action blended with Clancy's typical war-themed narratives. Despite numerous iterations, none of them are very different from each other, and the latest, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, is no exception. It plays the same as most any Clancy shooter, with some refinements, streamlining of the pre-mission planning and a more brisk pace compared to that of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. It had been a while since I'd picked up one of these enjoyable simulations, and the trip was well worth the time. Ghost Recon is tense, challenging, and highly rewarding. A few minor weaknesses keep it from being a real step forward for the genre, but it's a finely crafted game nonetheless.
Set in the near future, Ghost Recon puts you in control of two squads of soldiers assigned to carry out a series of surgical strikes at an ultranationalist organization bent on reestablishing the Soviet empire. Locales range from farmhouses to dilapidated inner cities to dense forests, among others, and are nicely varied. I was always impressed with the feeling of realism, from subtle graphical and audio effects to the deliberate pacing of the game. It's certainly a refreshing break from typical first-person shooters.
Ghost Recon is largely similar to the Rainbow Six games with some key changes that make the game more accessible but may disappoint fans who enjoyed the immense attention to detail (not to imply that Ghost Recon is lacking) of that game. On starting a game, you choose your squad members for your two teams (Alpha and Bravo). You choose from one of four pre-set arms kits and jump right into the mission. You do a great deal less item management and pre-mission planning, which I felt diluted the experience somewhat. I would have preferred the option to streamline my setups, rather than being forced to. During the mission, can control your teams' aggressiveness, direct their movements, and command them to advance, hold, or advance at all costs. As per Clancy's m.o., your soldiers are far from supermen. A clean shot in the right spot will take them out at any moment. Movement is realistic, with sidestepping and backstepping being markedly slower than advancing. Enemies will spot you much more easily when you are standing, so crouching or crawling is almost always the most practical method for advancement. Weapon accuracy is also subject to a soldier's level of experience and decreases significantly during movement or with rapid fire. Under fire, the best tactic is usually to hit the dirt and plant a well-aimed shot in your enemy's vital organs.
My only true disappointment with Ghost Recon is the lack of control over your teammates. While you can do a lot, there are a few things you can't do that were done exceptionally well in another recent tactical shooter, Conflict: Desert Storm. While you can direct your teams, you cannot control individual team members. Your compatriots will follow you around and mimic your movements (looking where you look, crouching when you crouch, etc.), but unlike in Conflict, you can't command an individual soldier to move to a specific location and face a given direction. So it becomes impossible to, say, send your sniper to a high point and have your heavy gunner give you cover as you advance for an assault. Additionally, you cannot control the aggressiveness of team members easily. Often, I wanted to advance a sniper for recon while I set up an attack, but was forced instead to advance an entire team. The computer-controlled team will also not display much in the way of convincing squad tactics. They move and act as a group in all situations, despite the fact that each team is often composed of soldiers with radically different skills. This can be remedied somewhat by composing teams of similar soldiers (a long-range team of two snipers and a gunner, for example), but circumstances often arise that demand a more balanced team and the resulting lack of control hurts the game significantly.
This isn't to say that the single player game is poorly done—far from it. It is highly challenging and a successful mission is highly satisfying. But with the inability to direct individual teammates, the focus gets shifted to the game's multiplayer options. Cooperative, team, and solo games (for the truly experienced player) with a variety of excellent multiplayer maps and options out the wazoo make Ghost Recon a game best enjoyed with friends. The Xbox and PC versions have a rather decisive advantage over the PlayStation 2 edition by featuring online play. Assuming you have are able to track down a full roster of well-behaved buddies over the Internet, the game becomes a different beast entirely. Most notably, you can play through the single-player campaign over the Internet, effectively negating the problems with the computer-controlled soldiers. Nevertheless, this assumes you're able to find enough players to fill each squad, and so even with all of the excellent multiplayer options, being able to control each individual soldier would have made a significant difference.
Ghost Recon is another fine Clancy shooter, and should satisfy fans of the series while remaining accessible enough to win a few new fans as well. But it's not quite forward-thinking enough to be remarkable, only a solid game that is perhaps a bit too similar to the previous Clancy games. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Raven Shield.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
In the last few years I have become more and more impressed with the steps taken forward by designers to enhance the experiences provided by military simulations. Everything from accurate weapon representation to the "one shot one kill" motif, have brought these games to a much higher level. And as Mike suggests, Tom Clancy's titles are the cream of the crop in this regard. They capture an urgency and essence that other's cannot seem to duplicate and for me is an exciting, enticing, and challenging experience.
I do however have to note that Mike is spot-on in his problem with his teammates' limited and utterly disappointing control. I feel this is mostly due to the limitation of only allowing players to enter two teams into the fray. For instance, in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six title, players are authorized up to four teams with a total number of eight solders at their disposal. In Ghost Recon, players are severely limited by two teams with six members. Had Red Storm carried over this setup, players would be able to organize their teams more proficiently. It would allow for a two-man sniper unit to set up a sniper position and provide cover fire for an assault team. Ultimately this would have effectively increased the level of control of the soldiers, increase the number of options to accomplish missions, and create a more immersive experience.
Another disappointment mentioned in the previous review is the limited item options. I'm forced to decide between kits that aren't necessarily ideal for what I want for a mission. In previous iterations of these tactical shooters, players had more freedom with primary and secondary equipment. I could choose my primary weapon of choice (assault rifle) and my secondary item (pistol/grenades) to my preference. This time around, I was forced to use pre-determined kits that often did not have the mixture of equipment I would have preferred. More times than not, I would have to take the lesser of two evils in my kit selection, leaving me feeling restrained.
Fortunately, Ghost Recon's problems end there, and the previous review did a good job of highlighting what Red Storm got right. There are a few things though that I felt needed to be looked at a little more closely.
The first of those are Ghost Recon's replayability. While it can be entertaining simply replaying the missions on higher difficulties, there are 50count 'em, 50 unlockable items in a player Dossier. These items include mission specialists for use in single-player mode as well as weapons and maps for both single/multiplayer modes. There are even new multiplayer modes available to unlock. Thankfully, the Dossier outlines and even explains how to obtain each unlockable, and while some aren't too difficult, others seem downright impossible. Essentially, everyone can find a challenge.
Another portion of the original assessment I found lacking was the minimal attention given to the multiplayer portion of the title. While the single-player mode is quite challenging on the higher difficulty levels, the real challenge comes with playing against fellow humans. More often than not during the solo games, I noticed the enemy AI is only a mildly accurate shot. I often had plenty of time after the first round was fired to hit the dirt and plant some lead in their chest. The enemy AI was also ridiculously weak in that they would stand up in the open trying to kill you. This makes for an easy target and proved to be of little difficulty. All of this changes online.
Other players will utilize stealth and cunning to kill you and your teammates. They will quickly take precise and deadly aim. They will not leave themselves out in the open to get shot and will certainly not give up with out a fight. Many will have unlocked the superior weapons and most importantly (at least on Xbox Live) they will communicate with their teammates to locate and obliterate you. Make no mistake, Ghost Recon's online arena is a beast unlike anything you'll ever see playing solo. It's through this rugged experience that Ghost Recon really explodes.
This experience is also not limited to your simple deathmatch setup. There are several unique modes available from the start as well as additional gameplay modes available through the aforementioned unlockables. Cooperative modes are also available and are quite entertaining. It's amazing how smooth the solo missions play with the help of skilled online players replacing the simple witted AI.
Additionally, Mike would have you believe that there are never enough well behaved people to play an online game. In my experience, this has never been the case. In any match I've played, weather it be co-op or deathmatch, there was a plethora of people. On top of that, most are well behaved and even well mannered. I've made quite a few of online buddies whom I play with when they're available. Xbox.com claims that Ghost Recon is the most played and most populated Xbox Live title and it's easy to see why. I've been able to find plenty of people to play as early as 7 am and as late as 3 am (I tend to sleep at least 4 hours a day). I couldn't imagine it being any different during any 24-hour period.
Ghost Recon boils down to be one of the better military shooters out there today. It does have its share of problems, but ultimately it steps up where most fall short. For me, multiplayer really adds to the appeal, and multitudes of unlockables have me going back for more. It's an immersive experience that really captures the player and has them playing for their lives.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Violence
Parents, there is plenty of lifelike violence in Ghost Recon, but it's not graphic or gratuitous. It is a military sim with some complex themes that may not be suitable for youngsters.
Clancy fans, whether fans of his books or games, will find all the action and cold-war-esque themes that one would expect. The detail and realism is there as well, though not as predominate as in the Rainbow Six games.
PC and Xbox Live owners should not hesitate to take it online. Sorry Playstation 2 owners, there's no online play, but it is still has strong single and multiplayer options.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers should note that the game does rely heavily on audio cues, and of course Xbox Live requires voice communication for an optimal experience.