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.