Genre: Tactical Shooter
Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: November 30, 2004
Four years after the first Ghost Recon 2 (PS2) found peace in North Korea, we're back again. Yes, those whack jobs are finally bankrupt and starving, driving them to actions more extreme than ever. It's 2011, and it's time for you to play Ghost Recon 2 on the Xbox. (We referred to this as GR2.0 in the PS2 preview a couple days ago.)
It turns out global warming has been harder on North Korea than Florida over the past few years. While the retirees have retreated from the peninsula as there seems to be more hurricanes than flamingos each fall, the Korean Peninsula is at the end of its fourth major drought in as many years. The government essentially collapses under the need for humanitarian aid, but before the dust even clears, a new leader rises, General Jung, who establishes military control, and quickly ends any possibility of opening North Korea's borders peacefully.
Not forgetting that the country is still in a very desperate condition, the rest of the world becomes concerned, as the rogue state will still need to feed its people and military. Of greatest fear is that North Korea will strike out using any means necessary, including nuclear, to gain the resources their state needs to survive.
Regional states play it cool in fear that they will be the first to get nuked, and they secretly demand protection. Remembering the impossibility of fighting a large conventional campaign on the mountainous terrain of the peninsula, the US and European partners send in nimble expeditionary troops to catch Jung's forces at critical points before they are able to fully prepare themselves for war.
This is where your team comes in. Although this is an overt mission, the tactical abilities necessary are the same. Take your team in behind enemy lines, and disrupt everything from communications to the weaponry itself. The emphasis here is on the abilities of a small, nimble group to move swiftly to destroy resources and personnel before they mass in critical areas.
Red Storm got the nod for this title on the Xbox, and development is built to suit the needs of the machine. The question is, "Was it worth it?" Judging from the graphics, exclusiveness pays off. Red Storm has produced an experience that is very crisp visually, truly outdoing the offerings on other platforms at this point of development. So, with an excellent visual environment, how is the actual movement? When we got our hands on the build, it was good, but not quite as smooth and precise as the PS2 offering. This may be from familiarity with the Unreal engine on PS2, but the superior graphics still make it a draw between the two.
One thing we haven't touched on is a new mission style in both PS2 and Xbox offerings, "Lone Wolf." In this style, you go in alone, and wreak all kinds of havoc as a single player. But, how? The answer is simple. Superior weapons, stealth, and air strikes! That's right, every minute or so, you will be able to direct a strike from above that will blow everything in the area to kingdom come. With the integration of the Havok 2 physics engine, the amount of debris flying after one of these strikes is great, if you are not too much of a puss to hide behind something while it happens. Calling a strike on a tank and hanging around to watch can be pretty hazardous, but drop one on something less massive (like humans) and it's a great time to watch bits and pieces get scattered to parts unknown. Lone Wolf is initially available only in a couple of levels, but as you progress through the game, completed levels may be replayed in Lone Wolf mode, but the superior weaponry in the mode is exclusive, so don't expect to use it in group missions.
Recon 2 incorporates a new camera view, over-the-shoulder. This allows you to see the character respond to movement and visualizes the commands given to the other members of the team. As you watch your player signal to send the team ahead while laying cover fire, it lends a more involved feel to the game. Smartly, Ghost Recon 2 replicates an angle used so often in combat scenes of movies, making it feel more cinematic than ever was possible in true first-person mode. In some levels and multiplayer competition, the old camera view is more desirable, and it is readily available through a menu option.
The second major change to gameplay is the controversial shift to more general commands for the rest of the team from you, the leader. Now, the main commands are now fairly basic and general, with the AI of allied NPCs improved to take care of themselves a bit more. While the team does a better job of taking care of themselves, you are only allowed to play as one team member throughout the mission, and more precisely controlled tactical approaches are a bit tricky. So, love it or hate it, the commands are simpler, making for a faster-paced game. Let's face it; the North Koreans aren't going to wait forever for you to kick their butts!
From the bit of hands-on time we got with the multiplayer combat, it looked fairly strong, but there was still a good deal of tweaking in order. Ghost Recon 2 will incorporate some general issue military themes like Cat and Mouse, Last-Man-Standing, and Hamburger Hill. These were good fun, and the weapons transfer well from story mode to multiplayer combat with their realistic limitations (like reloading speed for rockets) keeping the playing field level. Hopefully, everything will continue as planned, and Ghost Recon 2 will have the potential to be a staple for the Xbox Live community.
We hope the target release date of Thanksgiving 2004 is nailed by Red Storm and Ubisoft, in their relentless pursuit of building a sequel the hard way. With a new engine incorporated with Havok 2 physics, we're sure that the team has a lot of finishing touches to make, but we'll keep the faith and hope this mission lands on schedule. If it does, we will have another title in a long list of titles competing for your dollars this holiday season. But hey, in the end, it's your team that will save the day and prevent a conflict with nuclear potential. Are you sure you have what it takes?
On our wish list: a rebate or merchandise bonus if you buy Ghost Recon 2 (2007) and Ghost Recon 2 (2011) before December 31, 2004.
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