Release Date: November 20, 2007
There was a time when attaching those two simple little words to a game would make gamers and reviewers alike squeal with utter delight.
Unfortunately, those times ended around the turn of the millennium. Now, in order for people to pay attention to your game, you need rendered cinematic cut scenes, padded-out gameplay, repeated grinding of the same menu-laden battle over and over again under the exact same circumstances for hours on end until a single level or weapon is gained, and of course, the ever-present back-of-the-box bullet promising that the $60 you spent on this game was definitely not wasted because it has oodles and oodles of hours of gameplay and is thus totally worth every penny!
Ghost Squad, however, bucks this trend and does it in a way that will fool most people. For starters, it's not even truly "arcade perfect " — the graphics are a downgrade from the original arcade version. Dreamcast-quality they may be, but they still easily work. Besides that, it only has three stages, it's fast-paced, and it has you compete mainly for score. In addition to this, you will see the end credits after a half-hour's worth of play every single time.
To beat Ghost Squad's trio of missions only once (or even twice) and then write it off as "too short" or "Wii mini-game fluff," however, is to be one of those who were fooled. The first time you see Ghost Squad's credits is when the game truly begins.
Let's start our rundown just before that happens, though. At its core, Ghost Squad is an arcade light-gun game. In order to get the true feel for this environment, you're going to need a Wii Zapper (an extra $20-$25, depending on where you shop). The game still works well with just the Wiimote, mind you — especially if you've played Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition, it works exactly the same way, pointer and all — but the Zapper adds to the game's immersion and makes gameplay possible without the onscreen pointer, which translates to more points.
Ghost Squad was developed by Sega's AM2 studio, the developers who brought you Virtua Cop back in the day, and it easily shows. This game evolves the VC formula in so many ways that it's not even funny. It's faster, has you take on multiple enemies at once, and has a true sense of urgency. Enemies flash red a full half-second before they land a surefire hit on you. They drop from the sky, somersault and slide onscreen and in your face, hostages get in the way, and it's all served in a first-person mode that's full of line-of-sight and perspective changes.
(Heck, even the Engrish is better. The plot for every mission is, "The terrorists have kidnapped somebody important (usually the President)! Are you bad enough dudes to rescue him? Remember, you're the <i>GHOST SQUAD</i>!" The voice overacting is downright hilarious, and the whole thing is cheesier than the macaroni you had for dinner last week.
The most novel addition to Ghost Squad is the Action button. During certain scripted sequences where using a trigger wouldn't apply, the Action button takes over. It allows for things like pantomimed hand-to-hand combat, timing-based sneak attacks, firing secondary weapons such as grenades, and defusing bombs and mines.
Other scenarios that do require your trigger finger, however, are also present. At times, you'll be given a rocket launcher or sniper rifle and told to go to town. Succeed within the given parameters, and rewards will be yours at game's end. If not, you'll have to try again during the next play-through.
That's the thing about Ghost Squad — it rewards repeat play with score, and experience based on that score. If you completely defeat a mission, there are rewards for that, too. Accuracy, scripted sequence success, boss defeats; it all adds up. Rewards are greater than a mere high score list, however. The score and experience allows for a bevy of unlockables. You've got guns, costumes, game modes, level scenarios — the works. There are a great many of each.
In effect, every time you beat Ghost Squad's three missions, a brand new way to play the game opens up, and these new ways are significant enough to go for just "one more try," especially if you're with a friend or three. New costumes are cool and funny to see, but the new weaponry is one of the places where things really shine. The unlockable M4E shotgun, for example, presents a gameplay dilemma all on its own: It has a wider range of fire, for better accuracy and easier double and triple kills, but in crowded areas with hostages? You're in trouble if you're not a crack shot, and sometimes even that won't help you. Other guns will allow you to shoot through walls and other people. Another is essentially James Bond's PP7 from GoldenEye. The more you play, the more guns you get, and the experience is different every single time.
Even if the stages were the exact same all of the time, the guns roster would make that somewhat forgivable, but Ghost Squad goes beyond that. Every time you defeat a mission, it levels up as well. When stages level up, there are differences. It may be day instead of night, or dusk instead of dawn. New objectives are added, new mini-games are present, and new ways to accumulate points are unearthed. Enemies are tougher, may fire faster, carry more armor or even riot shields. It's a whole new ballgame and a whole new challenge.
If, for some reason, you start finding Ghost Squad's arcade mode (where you'll be spending most of your time) a bit mundane, you can always turn up the difficulty to Hard mode and fight for your life on your own. Or you can do the same thing and then invite a few friends over for Party mode, which allows for four-player action, with two unlockable "makeovers" for the game: Ninja mode makes everything Japanese-themed, and Paradise mode turns all of the enemies into babes … and your gun into a water pistol. Both of these modes are very funny. There's also a Training mode in place, with target practice and a time-attack combat situation.
The one sad thing about all of this is that for people weaned on the likes of super-long, story-laden first-person shooters, Ghost Squad will seem like a baby's toy. However, people who remember arcade games and arcade shooters, still love competing for high scores (good news! The game uses Nintendo WFC to maintain a worldwide high score list!), love experimenting with customizable gameplay, and love games that can be picked up at any time for short, repeated bursts of fun, Ghost Squad is a steal at $30. It's still a darned good deal at $30, plus the Zapper's $20.
Most first-person shooters are over after 10-15 hours. It'll be at least twice that before you see all that Ghost Squad has to offer. Its brevity on paper is not a curse, but a blessing. Twenty to 30 minutes for completion mean that you don't need to commit too much time before seeing what you've unlocked next. You can just go in, blast away, feel refreshed, and have your game become all the better for it.
This is the Outrun of gun games. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.
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