Genre: Tactical First-person Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai
Release Date: March 25, 2005
The most accomplished web journalists (namely those at Pitchfork Media) all have a habit in common: ridiculous parallels. I, on the other hand, am not a "well-known" or "recognizable" writer. I write for the website you are now browsing, and currently not a single other publication. Or, to cut to the chase as to why I am unknown outside a very small circle, I write about videogames. Nobody without thumb calluses from Street Fighter or constant daydreams plagued by Lumines blocks would have any idea who I am, or any but maybe two or three videogame journalists are, by name.
So, with Ghost Recon 2 for the Gamecube Nintendo (not a syntax error – browse your gaming message boards if you don't get that joke) being one of the more inane releases to arrive on the platform in recent months, I will take this opportunity to sharpen my journalistic might. I am going to carve out a name for myself in this harsh, harsh world of internet writing, and I am going to carve this review out of the best, most ridiculous pop culture parallel I can think of:
Ubisoft's Gamecube development is similar to the career of Sean "Puffy" Combs.
But first, let's take a cursory look at Ghost Recon 2 itself. This is a tax write-off in the making for Ubi. Though the 'cube is more than powerful enough to handle a port of the superior Xbox version of the game, the publishing giant instead opted for the ugly duckling from this pair of obviously fraternal twins. To explain: GR2 was conceived as a multi-platform title to the extreme: two different platforms, two different games. The PS2 version is set in 2007, while the Xbox release starts with the aftermath, set during the year 2011. In an nutshell, the PS2 version was inferior and had little effect on the Xbox version – which was clearly the darling twin of both the development and marketing departments – leaving Sony fans with a boring SOCOM clone when they had copies of SOCOM already sitting right next to their systems.
The problems with the game? Shoddy graphics, loose control, stiff A.I., and did I mention shoddy graphics? The PS2 is not known to be a visual beast when it comes to the textures and, to an extent, the geometry, but much, much more could have been done to spruce this game up a bit. Take a look at the latest Splinter Cell on the same console. Yes, the environments had to be shrunken, and therefore gameplay had to suffer, but the game still plays similarly enough to its Xbox sibling. But in that case, those games were developed side-by-side to announce a similar experience. Not so with the platform exclusive Ghost Recon 2 projects. A better job could have been done; but the Xbox version was the priority. Couple this with a complete lack of offline multiplayer (my favorite feature from the first GR game), and you've got a release with little purpose other than to sell a few Xboxes to jealous onlookers.
And now this same crippled game has been released on Nintendo's neglected little console, this time without any semblance of online play, despite the online capabilities used by games like Phantasy Star Online and Homeland. (Still, with little online market to speak of thanks to the lack of first party support, I'll cut Ubi some slack and put the blame squarely on Nintendo.) Months after the fact, a third Ghost Recon is here, and it's the most crippled version yet. It's as if Ubi threw the game out there, knowing it would make a few dollars… kind of like Puff Da — excuse me, P-Diddy, has done with many a song to construct his multi-million dollar personal fortune. Ghost Recon 2 for the 'cube is the cheap remix of the cheap remix of the better-than-average Xbox version.
This release is dedicated to Ubi's dying friend, the Gamecube Nintendo. Oh, life is still left in the poor little 'cube, but third-parties are dwindling away, moving on to the upcoming Revolution or – gasp! – the Xbox 360 (rumored name, at this point) and the big, bad Playstation 3. Ubi's droppin' one more for their old buddies at Nintendo, another name-drop, game-drop, another beast ready to tear up the non-Nintendo GCN scene. But, as P-Diddy ruined a beautiful song by the likes of Sting for the sake of "hollerin' out" to a fallen comrade, this new version is actually worse than those before it, especially where gameplay is involved… and load times, which are often longer than those found on the PS2.
Everything else is identical to the PS2 release when it comes to the basic tactics, level layouts, etc. To save you from running a WorthPlaying search for my previous review: This is Ghost Recon made "console-ized." None of the missions are nearly as difficult as in either the original GR or its standalone add-on pack/whateveryoucallthesereleases, Island Thunder. Those games may have been beaten into the ground with an ugly stick upon birth, but they played more like the Tom Clancy games of ye olde times, i.e., realistically. The gameplay wasn't for everyone, but the great depth and developmental focus on gameplay made them not classics, but great games in their own right. GR2 rejects what made Rainbow Six so popular in the first place, and streamlines the gameplay in all the wrong ways.
Everything runs at a faster pace than in previous games. Strafing, crouching, weapon-switching – all made more "videogame"-like, instead of the realistic time passed in previous Tom Clancy releases. The only aspect that has truly remained the same is the predictable A.I. Scratch that, it's actually worse, and the missions play more like memory games than those in the first GR, and that game was already chastised by reviewers for its trial and error mission grind. One can hear Mr. Diddy sitting in the studio, working on a new record, saying, "Let's make a couple songs for a single here. This one's the better one, for the radio, and this one's for fillin' up the b-side. That's the plan. Let's pop open some crystal and call it a day!" The PS2 version, and subsequently this Gamecube wretch, were made to be the b-sides.
And then there's the absence of any multiplayer capabilities. For me, offline co-op was a major factor of my love for GR games. The PS2 sequel deprived me of this. But online was there, and, while the game itself does not "click" as well as its predecessor, it really does shine when players are frantically screaming strategies at each other, dreading the oncoming bullets of the North Korean enemies (although with much less fear than in older Tom Clancy games, with the lack of one-shot kills). But the Gamecube version brings none of this. No effort was made to rectify the loss of the very best mode any tactical shooter can possibly present. Nothing. Nil. Fin. Sir Combs is grunting over a classic song, making it worse than ever before – "Uhn. Yea. Yea. Uhn." – and ripping out parts that made it good in the first place. And the b-side of the b-side is complete.
P-Diddy is also known for making use of the most expensive, opulent production technology available… and, with his grunts and moans being his only real contribution to his "remixes," he right ignores what he has available. So why, in this post-Resident Evil 4 era, are we receiving a downgraded PS2 port on a console that is only one graphics card generation behind the Xbox, and contains comparable processing power in many respects? Why are the graphics almost identical, barring the slightly cleaned up textures, which should have been redone for the higher texture memory capabilities of Nintendo's little wonder? Why is the geometry exactly the same, when the 'cube can push so much more than the PS2 can?
But of course, audio is the one thing that always remains "just fine" in these games. Nobody was expecting more or less than the usual dramatic Hollywood symphonic tones that always wriggle their way into these games. And without realistic gunfire, footsteps, panicked radio calls, wouldn't we be all too aware of the throwaway nature of this game? But, I digress… the audio department at Ubi always does a good job, without fail. I dare not drop a proverbial bird dropping upon the heads of their great sound technicians, and thus will not continue my snide Puff Daddy comparisons when referring to the best aspect of this game, from the standpoint of pure quality.
There you have it, Gamecube fans. If you have no other console sitting under your television, you are left with the very worst version, the b-side of the b-side, the version with more P-Diddy-esque muck clouding the surface, the version with more of the good stuff ripped out with nothing to gain for it, and a few months wait to boot. Let's hope Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory doesn't end up in the same boat as this one; if it does not, grab that one and bathe in its fantastic multiplayer modes. You won't find nearly as much fun here.
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