Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: March 13, 2003
Pre-order 'GHOST RECON: Jungle Storm': PlayStation 2
Hey! You! Yeah, you.
Yes, you, Mr. Control Freak, sitting right there! The one who likes to give orders to all your friends when playing Counterstrike or Halo. The one who likes to lay out plans; control your squad. The one who goes ballistic when even the slightest thing goes wrong--and to make sure it doesn't, micromanages every aspect, and skill of your teammates, to the point of dictating what tools they should be carrying to get the job done.
Have I got a game for you.
This is Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm, and it gives you all the comfort and power of being a leader, with none of the risk of those horrible little minor setbacks such as hurt feelings, uppity squad-mates, or the ever-dreaded mutiny.
What do you get to do with these squads? You get to take them into dangerous enemy territories ranging from South America to plain old uncharted island strongholds… which are probably also located near South America. Whatever. The point is, you get to take two teams in, and fulfill mission objectives to cripple the enemy-many covert, some glaringly overt. These missions are many, varied, unpredictable, and downright strict. For example, don't expect a great many missions where your goal is simply to kill everything in sight. You might be sent in to perform a search and rescue, or to protect somebody. Your goal might be to take out only a set amount of targets, or to make it through a fortified territory with as high a level of stealth as possible. Also, most times, if one of your teammates dies, your mission is an automatic failure. Therefore, you must do your best to protect your squad as well--very well, as even a single bullet to anyone, whether it be you or your squad-mate, will very realistically and easily hamper their ability to perform in the field.
You want weapons? You've got weapons. Assault rifles, machine guns, anti-armor rockets, grenades, and pistols are your friends. Claymore mines and night-vision goggles also come along for the ride, and of course, you've got your own innate soldier skills. Peek around corners while staying out of sight. Crouch and crawl through tight or dangerous spaces. Kneel for better aim, commandeer stationary turrets, or use the zoom feature on various weapons for better shots.
The level of control in this game is simple, but by no means completely intuitive. There are a vast array of commands that you'll be able to assign to your squad. You can tell them to lay down suppression fire, or to hold their position until you meet up with them-or heck, if you trust them completely, you can have your teams storm the base by themselves. There's also very little need to worry, because the AI for your teammates is top-notch. Having teammates that automatically will kill enemies on sight--sometimes before you even begin to draw a bead on them yourself--really brings home the advantage of having a few sets of extra eyes along to help you out.
If there's one drawback to all of this freedom, it's that it's a little tough to implement it on a console pad. Ghost Recon is likely best played on a personal computer, simply because you have ten times as many action keys to work with, plus keyboard-and-mouse control to complement your own first-person shooting perspective. Still, the control setups you're given make things as painless as possible.
As of this writing, I must admit that the graphics engine could use a bit of work. As large as the environments are (and now that I think about it, it just might be a tradeoff thing), they aren't very detailed. They seem just enough to get the job done, to the point where many pieces of scenery (trees, vehicles, buildings, etc.) look like base polygons with some textures grafted on at the last second. Given the very large amount of time it currently takes to load just about any aspect of this game, from said large environments to the menu screens themselves, this is a disappointment that can sometimes harm the ability to imagine oneself in a virtual squad environment.
The sound is quite nice, however. There isn't much of it, but in this case, that's an asset. What music there is, is all military-inspired, as you'd expect it to be-expect marching bands, plenty of percussion, and energetic trills as you navigate through your squad's attribute menus, or stalk the enemy team with intent to take them out. Other times, expect deathly silence-perfect for allowing a leader to keep their concentration up, or simply to build suspense as you play.
Ghost Recon looks to be one heck of a hardcore soldier squad simulation, yet, unlike many "sim" type games, it has the blessing of being easier to pick up and comprehend than most. This PS2 version also has the added benefit of having the Island Thunder expansion missions pre-packaged into an already value-laden bundle. Add two-player simultaneous split-screen play, and online capabilities, and you've got yourself a rumble in your room. Get ready, because on March 14th, you too will be able to get your control freak on.
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