Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 11/16/04 | Genre: Shooter
Released to wide appeal and much success online, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon was a hit when it was released on November 11 two years ago. After seeing an expansion in the form of Island Thunder last year, Ubi Soft and Red Storm Entertainment are at it again with arguably one of the best military shooters of all time, Ghost Recon 2.
Set a mere seven years in the future, the story pits Scott Mitchell and his troupe of ghosts against a North Korean opponent on their crumbled home field. Through the game you play a series of various missions ranging from simply taking out all the enemies to rescuing hostages to defending strongholds from enemy advances. The best of these missions are the Lone Wolf Missions. In these, you take a one man army in the form of Scott Mitchell into enemy areas armed with a futuristic camera-gun, complete with handy air-burst grenades. By simply tapping the Black button, you move into a camera mode, in which your character is stationary, and movement of the left joystick becomes movement of your gun itself. With this feature you are capable of zooming in around corners and over objects to get the drop on lesser-equipped enemies.
Your Lone Wolf equipment also comes with air-burst grenades. After selecting a meter distance by pressing the Y button, a grenade is fired through the air until that distance has been met, and then you can figure out the rest. There is another fun ability you obtain during these missions... it is the air strike. Simply 'paint' the target and press the White button for a nice little fireworks show. Lone Wolf missions aside, the game progresses at a fairly ho-hum pace through the story. When with your team of soldiers, you can give orders to them using either in-game hand motions or your Xbox Live headset. They can be ordered to fire rockets at enemy tanks, give suppressive fire, and perform emergency medical treatment on fallen teammates, among other basic commands such as hold, move, and regroup. Nothing that has been stated thus far compares to the most outstanding feature of the game, its graphics.
Never before in a video game have I seen such abundant foliage as I have with Ghost Recon 2. Each forested map is an incredible sight to behold, but that's not where it stops. Puddles shimmer, muzzle flare lights your position, characters cast realistic shadows, and nearby explosions cast a red glow across your screen. At times you wonder how it all holds together without huge slow-down, but those times will be found limited in quantity, as the majority of time is spent appreciating how pretty it is and the fact that there really is no slow down. The new third-person over the shoulder camera view allows you to see even the detail put into your character as you transverse the large maps of the game. If you don't seem to like the third-person camera, you can switch to the traditional first-person view on the fly. It's always appreciated when sound quality parallels the visuals, and as with most all Tom Clancy games, this one features amazing sound.
If you want to treat your ears to some great sound effects, just crank up your stereo and blaze your guns. Everything sounds good, like the crunch of grass, the clicking of boots on concrete, to what may be most important, the sound of the guns. Each of the 30+ guns has its own distinct and pleasurable sound. Also noticeable are the ambient effects, like background gunfire in the middle of battle. Your friendlies give advice as you progress, and if you can get close enough, your enemies are also giving each other advice in Korean. The level of graphical and sound detail put into the game submerses you deeper and deeper into the game, making it seem all the more realistic and thus more engaging and fun to play. Single player greatness aside, the game really shines online in Xbox Live play.
There are fifteen available online game types for the Xbox version of Ghost Recon 2. These range from cooperative Firefight, in which you and your friends can take on large numbers of terrorist opponents, to Squad Sharpshooter, in which you team up with friends in a fragfest with respawns against another group of players. Though there are a few bugs, such as lagouts and a friends list glitch that doesn't seem to want to allow you to move down to other names, a patch is likely on the way. There are far more exciting things than there are listed in this review, so go out and pick up your copy today.
Ghost Recon 2 will not satisfy everyone. It's not a fast-paced Halo 2 clone by any means, but if you're interested in a great military shooter experience, look not one bit further. This is your game. So get out there and soldier up for some incredible action.