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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2

Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Tactical Shooter
Players: 1-16
Similar To: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3
Rating: Teen
Published: 01 :06 : 05
Reviewed By: Ryan Newman

Overall: 7.5 = Good

 

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In the supposed future the North Korean military leaders have risen up against their fellow citizens, taking control of the country's military and seeking out massive arms to further their cause. As a member of the Special Forces unit known as the Ghosts, it is up to you and your allies to see that their plans do not come to pass. Similar to the last major release in the Rainbow Six franchise, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 is a slight departure from the original, retaining the core mechanic -qausi-realistic damage and squad-based - and streamlining everything as much as possible. What is a begrudging acceptance of the franchise's moving away from their original home on the PC to the consoles means a shift in how things are handled to more accurately work with the restraints and advantages of the new platforms of focus. The changes will definitely bother some while others will enjoy the less all-encompassing focus in favor of the faster pace.

Before messing with the default settings, it might seem as though Ghost Recon 2 is SOCOM 3. The planning aspects of the original are now gone and the player can no longer order troops farther than a few feet or with detailed instructions. Also new is a third-person perspective, giving the game a more arcade-y feel. The pace of the game is also much quicker than before. Now, players will issue orders for their squad to flank left or right, advance, suppress, hold fire, regroup, hold, and to handle do a handful of specific actions (manning guns, healing someone, attacking a vehicle, etc.). What you may have noticed is that all of these commands are for close-quarters combat, as opposed to the ability in the original to plan out elaborate setups to lure enemies out into ambushes or send men off on their own to act as obstacles. For those who feel the series has changed a little too much, they can always put the game back into first-person perspective to feel a bit more at home, though not much more.

 

The difficulty is really a key trait here, as it is in all the games of the Tom Clancy line. If you are one who is easily aggravated, this game is definitely not for you, particularly now, because the new environments mean death when it's not even clear there's danger present. There is a mini radar and a movement indicator near the targeting reticle, but the former does not always show positions and the latter is pretty general. Compound that with the fact that some missions have camouflaged snipers - which is actually startling to see at first, a piece of grass moving to reveal a man setting up his shot - and that there seem to be super Korean soldiers in the mix and you get some moments of 'oh what the (insert explicative)!?' To properly explain the enemy AI : if one were to take five random enemy soldiers, he would find that three of them are of adequate skill, but tend to have a fetish of running towards gunfire with reckless abandon, offset by the fact that they can take a good four of five rounds before dying. There would be two who seem to be oblivious as to what is going on and think the guy lying in the grass with a gun pointing towards them is there to say hello, and the last would be the SKS, the Super Korean Soldier - this is the guy who can get a headshot while running around a corner or up a hill and firing from the hip without stopping to aim, all while keke'ing at your death and inability to do a 360 while on one knee and take them out with your first shot. The problem with the SKS is that his exploits are not duplicable by the player. Also, since there is no blood - most likely to get the Teen rating - there is a Call of Duty: Finest Hour affect, in that it is hard to tell when an enemy is being hit or dead because the animations are similar.

While the commands may seem to favor fields of combat slightly larger than those found in Rainbow Six, they are actually used in wide-open areas. Most of the missions now take place in large forests, towns, and plants. The only real downside to the larger areas is that invisible walls and concrete bushes can make safe navigation a bit of a hassle, but the commands themselves never cause much trouble. Not only do most of the objectives not call for the Ghosts to be all that stealthy, they ask them to be downright Rambo-ish at times, mowing down wave after wave of assaulting troops. Actually, the missions that specifically featured this were often quite fun; whether it was fighting off enemies in the last defensible trench or going from side to side to plug holes created in the barrier surrounding a battlefield hospital, but the (frequent) times that this style pops up in the midst of the missions where stealth would be beneficial is when things get hectic to the point of aggravating.

There is one type of solo mission that is especially fun, though. It allows the player to use the new rifles that the U.S. military is looking to adopt in a few years; it has a camera mounted at the top, allowing the soldier to hold it around a corner, and, by way of a small monitor, see what's going on without risking a hole in his helmet. Going through a bombed out city with one of these bad boys is great, and so is the ability to call in airstrikes. An airstrike can be called in with a normal gun, but the fact this gun allows you to see the destruction from relative safety makes it the most entertaining choice for the bombings. The developers definitely took into account this guns lethality, too, as the enemy presence is stepped up to compensate.

Missions that require solo play can be pretty harrowing with those SKSs to worry about, but those that let the player's squad accompany them tend to be only slightly less difficult. The allied forces have improved a bit, and are actually quite good now, often spotting hard-to-see enemies and taking them down with little difficulty. Since the Ghosts seem to have cutting-edge body armor, they can take a few rounds before dying. What is pretty cool is that they can also be healed, either by the player or by another member of the team. I am curious about one thing: the game is played with levels being introduced by way of a show called Modern Heroes, a History Channel-style special where mannequin-esque troops recall their experiences that lead to the beginning of the missions, but I was never able to find out if someone who died in combat would be in a cutscene later. Seeing as how there is no real penalty for the death of a squadmate, I would assume not, but I could not find it in myself to complete a mission with someone dead to see what would happen. The ability to make sure everybody comes out alive is refreshing, and it is made possible because the player can now save anywhere. As opposed to R6 3, where a save just meant playing from the beginning of one portion, a save here means an actual save, as in you start from the same position at which the game was saved, and there are no limits on how many times the game can be saved. I can only assume that this and the fact that the missions are mostly scripted are to help alleviate some of the frustration from the player constantly being outnumbered and the enemy having vehicles handy to assist their infantry, and they do, but what would also help is for the volume not to automatically increase for the gunshot that spells your doom and the radio chatter from central asking about your status - it's like when a commercial comes on and you wince from how loud it was - since the ambient sounds are low, you've got your volume turned up a bit. Also, unlike the original, the player does not gain control of another squad member if he dies - the death of the controlled character means the end of the mission.

There were a few problems I had with the weapons and teammates that were pretty consistent. In regards to weapons, the bazooka refused to cooperate with me. I thought I might need to aim at a certain point on a vehicle or be a certain distance, but it seemed that it would only go off when it felt like it. There was one mission, the aforementioned trench one, in which you are charged with letting no enemies through: well, I was aiming at a tank rolling past my location for a good twenty seconds and, despite clicking fire about ten times, not once did it fire, while other times it would fire the first time. What saved my hide more than once was the ability to tell my troops to fire on an approaching vehicle. The problem with this is that the button that tells them to do an action, which is described at the bottom of the screen ('Attack Vehicle'), is also the button that tells them to advance, so you can rush to a break in a line and telling a teammate to man a gun, but an unexpected dip in terrain can suddenly sends him charging into enemy gunfire. I would have also liked for them to hold their position until told to move, but they would automatically regroup whenever I fired a round. Other than that, though, the controls and new system work surprisingly well, they just call for patience and a steady hand.

I cannot recall Ubisoft ever doing poorly with the online portions of their games, and Ghost Recon 2 is no different, although it does have some slight blemishes, like Black Arrow's performance problems. There are solo, co-op, and squad options, as well as the ability to play over a system link. There are the usual types of options - no respawns, certain weapons, etc. - to be chosen, and there are plenty of people to play against, as well as stat tracking. The only thing I am not a big fan of is that when selecting class and weaponry, the player is vulnerable to enemies for however long the host wishes. You have the ability to choose your spawn point in some cases, but most of the time people would just stay slightly off to the side and shoot whenever I was getting my gear together. Since the maps are generally good, I would like to play more, but it really put a damper on things when most of the hosts had invulnerability set for a few seconds. There is also the ability to play the game in split screen on one system with all the bells and whistles, which is appreciated and was taken advantage of.

Like most games these days, Ghost Recon 2 uses the light bloom effect. Also like most, it looks good here. Despite some minor framerate fluctuations and bland enemy designs, there are some striking scenes, especially in one multiplayer level with a bombed out city in the midst of a rain storm. The music is not bad, but it takes a back seat to the radio chatter and environmental sounds. The chatter, aside from the last call, can be hard to hear at times, but that is not too troublesome. The third-person view actually makes the game look pretty good, and the sound being focused more on the actions at hand keeps the atmosphere feeling right.

Overall: 7.5/10
You will love it one minute and hate it the next. With the patent Clancy AI that keeps the player on his toes with extremely difficult objectives, plenty of enemies, and a hint of randomness, Ghost Recon 2 also has a new streamlined approach to bring the series in a fresh direction. With fifteen missions, many of which are done well, the difficulty serves as a way of extending the experience. A solid online component is there after the campaign to add longevity. It stumbles a little while it gets used to its changed gameplay, but it makes for a fun, if sometimes frustrating, time.

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