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Xbox Review - 'Ghost Recon'

by Chris "Fozz" Breci on Dec. 17, 2002 @ 9:39 a.m. PST

In Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, you are invited to lead this brand-new squad as they focus on covert military strikes and international peacekeeping missions that do not always go as planned. You and your team conduct extensive missions on foot, but you’ll occasionally have assistance from troops in tanks, helicopters and close air support. In many cases, you will be working with international military forces and NATO to fight against rising dictators and rebel groups.

Genre: Tactical FPS
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: 12-Nov-2002

As the first decade of the new millennium nears its conclusion, the world is on the verge of all-out war. A militant group of ultra-nationalists have seized power in Moscow – their main goal, the reestablishment of the old Soviet Empire. One by one, the nearby, smaller, independent countries begin to fall back under Russian control. As the rest of the world is left twiddling their thumbs, the militant Soviets have planted tanks in the Caucasus Mountains and the Baltic forests, simply waiting for the command to strike the countries to the south and to the east. The world sits on a very thin axis, and the slightest move in either direction can make the world of a difference.

As all of this goes on and the rest of the world is blue in the face from holding their breath, there are a very select few for whom the war has already begun: the U.S. Special Forces Group 5, First Battalion, D company. Although hardcore soldiers, these men are not under orders to attack the enemy, but rather to "keep the peace." Insertion into the Republic of Georgia has left them at the very tip of the iceberg and in the center of the Caucasus Mountains. As the tension grows at home, these Green Berets are spearheading the defense plans while representing the initial course of action taken by the United States. These walking war machines are equipped with all of the best and latest in technological weapons, to strike skillfully, silently, and invisibly. Mostly due to the fact that these men are virtually intangible to the enemy, they call themselves "The Ghosts."

There are various modes of play, not including training and campaign mode, that will allow you to start enjoying the stealthy killing goodness a little bit quicker than reading the story. Ghost Recon offers a quick mission mode that allows you to choose from different types of missions to get sneak and crawl your way through. The first quick mission is the "mission," in which you can pick a map that you’ve unlocked in campaign mode and play the mission through. This, however, does not unlock specialists, like in the campaign mode. The second mission is more like a death match; the "firefight" missions pit you against another team of special ops. The objective in firefight is to simply exterminate all of your enemies. One of the more exciting and overall more entertaining quick missions is "recon." In recon missions, you and your squad are placed in a battlefield with one objective, and this is to get to the designated area on the other side of the map. As easy as it sounds, the enemies have a stronghold of troops waiting for you to get there, and they aren’t friendly. The last quick mission is by far my favorite, these would be the "defend" missions, which put you on the flip-side of the recon missions in which it is now your objective to stop a team of operatives from getting to its desired destination. Think of it as a border patrol mission, if you will.

Any of these are quick and easy ways to start getting in on the action that is Ghost Recon, but if you are more of the story-mode person, Tom Clancy, Ubi Soft, and Red Storm have fused together to create one of the most intense story modes ever made. Each mission starts off with a debriefing and also gives you the opportunity to pick your teams. You have two squads to assemble, each comprised of three "Ghosts" that are fully configurable; you have the option to choose from individuals per squad who specialize in their field of warfare. This aspect really gives the game an edge over something like "Soldier Of Fortune" because it adds an intense amount of realism to the gameplay (i.e., if a person dies in a mission, you cannot use them in the subsequent missions, each person has different packs to choose from, each consisting of a different arsenal of weapons, etc.). For instance with a sniper, you can get a rifle and your pistol or a rifle and a silenced pistol, and also several different rifle types. Upon completion of missions you unlock more Specialists that have more advanced weapons and better stats for combat, also each specialist unlocked will come with his own pack to choose from, furthering the arsenal of weapons.

Once you have selected your Alpha and Bravo team the mission begins and you are inserted into the battlefield. Once you land on the battleground you are now able to set up a plan of attack, by utilizing the L trigger you can bring up the map that allows you to set waypoints for either Alpha, Bravo, and both teams whether they travel together or not. Once you have set waypoints you can use this menu to select the actions of your team, and how they react to spotting the enemy. You can select the “advance” option, which allows the team to advance and depending on their reaction setting will stop and react to the enemy, “advance at all costs” will allow your team to take shots while still truckin’ it across the battlefield to get to their waypoint, and finally the halt option that simply makes your team stand their ground. The reaction settings include “Recon” which automatically halts movement on visual contact with the enemies and will not open fire until being fired upon, the “Assault” setting will engage enemies, the last option is by far the most devastating to the enemy, however don’t plan on finishing the mission in a stealth-like fashion. The final option is “Suppress”; in case you’ve never heard the phrase “Lay down a suppressing line of fire” it will fire at the enemies and continue to fire in spots they’ve moved from and spots they could have moved to. Once your finished setting up your teams and their actions, the real fun goes down.

Moving your desired Ghost from one piece of foliage to the other can be very rough at first. You have to get used to using your HUD to understand the enemies position and your own. There is one little icon that has a North indicator, a thick line to show your waypoint, an indicator that shows the direction of your main objective, an indicator that shows the direction an enemy has fired from, and a danger alert. Even once you have mastered this useful little device you will still get a bit disoriented at times, and miss out on some of the action. Thankfully your team is smart, and at times is much smarter than you. The enemies are smart too though, so its not a cake walk. The guns are sometimes rough to aim though, being as no matter how slow you are walking you have lost all chance of getting a shot. You pretty much have to stop cold and wait for your cross hair to line up, and unless you’re a sniper you are still not guaranteed a shot. Another thing that we as gamers are not used to is the fact that moving in any other direction than forward is a slower form of movement. We are all used to our Unreals and Halos that give us ungodly speed in all directions. This will bring a bit more realism to the playing field. This game will hand you a whole handful of realism. Some of Red Storms best work resides in hit detection. Depending on where you shoot your enemy, they will act accordingly. If you shoot them in the hand they will shake their hand, and if you shoot them in the leg they will limp away, should you decide to spare their lives.

This game is graphically one of the better games on the XBOX. The foliage is one of the coolest, not to mention essential, parts of the game. The camouflage actually works well with the trees and other foliage, while you are not the only one that is wearing the gear to cover up yours blends the best. To give you a good example of how good the camo is in this game, there were plenty of times where the other two members of my squad have scared me because I could not find them and then all of the sudden they move out of some bush. The environments in this game are beautiful and extensive, easily providing plenty of places not only to explore but also to hide in. As pretty as the environments are, the real graphical abilities are shown off in the character design. Each character is done with very high detail, as the sniper dawns his bush setup this marks the first game that the “Bush on the Back” plan will actually work. If you go prone with the sniper, you are virtually invisible to the untrained eye. The only complaint that we have here is that we have no visual of the weapon you are currently holding. Other than that flaw the graphics far exceed today’ standards.

Ghost Recon will sound significantly better than most games merely because it supports in-game Dolby-Digital surround Sound, which will give any game more of a depth, but it is particularly helpful when you have no idea where your foe is when he opens fire on you, and he will. Ghost Recon nailed your basic movement and gunshot sounds. One of the things that really stood out to me was that if you get close enough to an enemy you can hear them talking to each other and carry a conversation, however the your team will also make some comments every now and again just to let you know you’re all on the same page. “I’m right behind you” is a very reassuring thing to hear when getting ready to break into an enemy stronghold.

When it comes to the multiplayer aspect of this game there are so many options to choose from. There is the most basic, which would be multiplayer on the same XBOX gaming console. You can do the campaign mode co-op or you can spring for a quick mission. These options stand available for both system link and Live, however live is the easiest way to get more people to play and one beautiful item called Voice Support. “Voden05, cover my back! I’m goin’ over the left hill dogg.” Put the commands into your own terms and communicate freely. I suggest doing the campaign mode with a friend online. Since they are not physically sitting next to you it initiates more of the realistic “radio” kind of feel to it.

As the best squad-based tactical shooter to date, Ghost Recon is definitely a title that is worth the price. If you were never really a fan of any Tom Clancy games, you might take a stab at this game with a five-day rental. However, if you are a die-hard Clancy fan, then you definitely need to get your paws on this one. With great gameplay, beautiful graphics, and amazing Dolby Digital sounds, and one of the best multi-player capabilities that I've seen this year, Ghost Recon can be named one of the biggest name titles of 2002, and possibly 2003.

Total Score 9.2/10

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