Ghost Recon may be set in 2008 but the events depicted throughout the game could have taken place anytime over the last decade: such are the turbulent times we live through. The new war of peacekeeping and political manoeuvres involves far more than just standing guard, as any recruit to Ghost Recon will gladly testify.
Devised by Tom Clancy (Splinter Cell) you are the leader of the Ghosts, an elite group of American soldiers who are unofficially involved in the Georgian conflict. Russia has seen fit to return to its old ways and has started a campaign against former members of the Soviet Union. Several former Soviet block countries have fallen and Georgia is next in line, however peacekeeping forces are already in place to ensure that Russia progresses no further. America has also instructed its military to unofficially cause as much disruption to the invading forces as possible, and this is where the Ghosts come into play. War is always unpredictable and soon the Ghosts become a vital faction in the war against the Soviet forces, which spills out into new countries.
The missions themselves are well designed and feature a variety of possible situations and goals, which you must complete with additional target being available. The need for covert war and maximum disruption is highlighted by the fact that rarely will you face the enemy head-on, instead due to your minimal numbers you must use stealth and surprise to your advantage, thereby minimising casualties. One mission may have you purely on recognisance whilst the next may need you to protect peacekeepers or extract downed airmen. Some would argue that each mission plays exactly the same, despite the various goals and although I would agree initially, you need far more than being able to shoot to progress in Ghost Recon. This feeling isn’t helped by the environments, which for the first few levels take place in the lush countryside of Georgia. Eventually you move into more urban locations and arctic environments – each requiring different tactics and such progression improves the game greatly.
Nothing is left to chance with releases such as these, which go back to the successful Rainbow Six – having built a reputation for authenticity and real life situations. If you have played Rainbow Six or even Special Ops then you will be on familiar territory with Ghost Recon. There have not been any dramatic changes to the game play, which is very reminiscent however the package feels more rounded and far more accessible in comparison to Rainbow Six. Whereas that game relied heavily on tactical planning, this element is greatly reduced, as here you will need to react to unforeseen situations. The ease at which you can control both teams is subtle and extremely easy to utilise. Both teams have three soldiers and your group will automatically follow your lead, directing the second team is simply a case of pressing down on the analogue stick and they will immediately move to wherever your sights were pointing. The misconception that games such as Ghost Recon require a complex control system or keyboard is easily shattered by the excellent control system we have on display here. The squad AI underlines the atmosphere and player involvement, as your comrades will deal with enemies within their field of vision efficiently. The only real hindrance comes when you need to go in and out of rooms, as bottlenecks form and you try to brush past the obstacle, otherwise known as your teammate.
Although the events are structured in a similar A to B scenario without any freedom of choice the illusion is much improved: sizeable levels, numerous enemies and a greater sense of involvement. Earlier this year I reviewed the successful Conflict Desert Storm release and whilst thoroughly enjoyable the scripting was far more recognisable. The emphasis with Desert Storm was on team play and being able to switch, Ghost Recon does contain a similar feature but the focus is firmly on leading both Alpha and Bravo units through the missions. On the easiest difficulty setting it is possible, and perhaps too straightforward, to clear the first few levels whilst taking the role of the sniper. The enjoyment of sniping is a strange concoction of guilt and pleasure: even if the sights are sometimes misleading. Each member of the team has unique abilities and you can equip each as you see fit before the mission begins. How you progress is largely down to how much emphasis you put on preparation and tactics during the mission. For instance one mission may require you to deal with armour, therefore your demolitions expert must be equipped with a suitable anti-tank weapon, and as you cannot pick up weapons from fallen comrades – don’t put him at point until it is necessary.
Having experienced the Xbox version of Ghost Recon, when initially faced with the Playstation 2 release I wrongly believed it would be totally inferior. Despite lacking Dolby Digital and Xbox Live support, Ubi Soft has fashioned a version which holds firm under scrutiny. Sound plays an important part in communicating with Bravo & Alpha teams, and stereo does an effective job of conveying the tension and need for stealth at all times. Some of the textures and detail are evidently reduced but there is no loss of speed or visual distance, and experience is almost as good.
Normally I wouldn’t spend much time reviewing the special features included in a release, however after Panzer Dragoon Orta, these sections can be extremely worthwhile. UbiSoft has crafted a collection of special features, which enhance the Ghost Recon experience. Here you can view detailed information on the Ghost division, soldiers, weaponry and other utilities, medal information and history, design sketches and interviews. This pursuit of authenticity sets it apart from other shooters including Conflict: Desert Storm.
Ghost Recon is ideally pitched towards the fans of the genre, but is far more user friendly and forgiving to new recruits. To date this is the best example of what the genre can offer and is an ideal starting point for those interested in the science of modern warfare.