Full Review: Oh how I wish this game were a real ghost absent from vision?
Off the heals of its relatively poor port of The Sum of All Fears (TSOAF), Red Storm Interactive has finally seen fit to release a two year old port of a once PC blockbuster for the Gamecube, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. Although it's not nearly as bad as the aforementioned TSOAF, Ghost Recon definitely does have a string of problems that hurt its overall composure in a number of painful and overly simplistic ways.
Ghost Recon is a tactical squad based shooter where you'll be given command of two teams of three, as opposed to the PC's three teams of three, where you can assume the role of any soldier and issue orders to your squad from an in-game interface and eliminate the forces of evil as covertly as possible. Before each mission, the player will be given a choice of operatives based on the mission objectives. You will need to outfit the squad with the appropriate weapons and equipment to deal with any surprises or threats that the mission will entail. Does the mission outline that tanks are in the area? Then it might be appropriate to bring the appropriate tank busting tools. Defending a base? Then it might be wise to stock up on some extra ammunition and some heavy machine gun emplacements to provide an appropriate defense. The equipment each solder carries is vital to the survival of your team so choose wisely based on the mission outline.
Aside from outfitting your troops, it is your job to lead them into battle since their competence is on par with a carton of yogurt. You'll be assuming the role of your soldiers quite frequently to move them into position so now is the best time to develop a sense of patience since moving each soldier individually becomes a very daunting task. Although there are orders that can be issued rallying them to certain points on the map, soldiers will often ignore the orders and simply stand there until you return. Simply assuming the roll of the commander and ordering them to follow you is by far the best way to move them across the map to the next objective even though it's not nearly as efficient.
Despite the idiocy of your teammates, teamwork is still a central theme in Ghost Recon. Not every player in a team can be a sniper, but outfitting one for use on one of the two teams sure would help with early reconnaissance and taking out a few patrols before they even become aware of your presence. However, a sniper doesn't stand a chance against a hardened structure that needs to be breached and destroyed. That's where having a few able grunts that are fast and armed with flash bangs, M-16's and M4 machine guns come in handy as they can make quick work of any fortified structure. The same goes for defending structures and escorting hostages out of a hot zone. Each team should be comprised of individuals who have their own unique traits so they can benefit the squad in more ways then one.
In the field, aiming and shooting is a cinch with the control setup, even though the C-stick is a bit awkward to use for a first person shooter. After a little bit of practice, you'll be picking enemies off left and right, but that's only after you get used to the game's real world physics when it comes to running and shooting. A prone soldier is far more accurate then a crouching soldier who is far more accurate then a standing soldier. With that said, it's best if players take each mission slowly, completely examine your surroundings for enemies and take out each one without instance since your teammates will start to drop like flies without the proper cover. If you play the game properly on the hardest difficulty, they will die quickly. Its best that each member of each team returns home safely since each soldier is an asset to the campaign.
As was mentioned, the hardest difficulty is the only way to play this game properly with the right set of PC functionality. On the easier difficulties, normal for example, each team is given a radar that pinpoints the exact location of any threat on the level. Using this radar severely cheapens the experience and makes the game all too easy so long as you can aim properly without missing, but even then, missed shots are only seldom registered by the enemy AI and thus, they ignore them frequently. The crosshair also turns red as it is moved over a target making enemies who are otherwise impossible to see, visible even from the farthest distances with a machine gun without a scope. It's just another trick used in the game to make it far too simple and cheapen the whole team based tactical action that the game initially boasts.
One of the key elements of PC release of Ghost Recon was it's online play which allowed teams of players to confront each other on the virtual battlefield using the latest technology the US military could offer in the year 2008. Suffice it to say, the games were slow paced, but its strategic ideas afforded plenty of suspense and benefited intelligent players as opposed to run and gun tactics promoted by so many other FPS shooters in the world. On the Gamecube however, the online play is gone and that whole experience, which was essentially the PC game's bread and butter, has been totally eliminated. In its place, the developers have implemented a system on top of the single player campaign which unlocks each level upon their completion in the single player game in an all new split screen co-op mode. Although a feature such as this should be accessible immediately from the start, it definitely does offer a great deal of improvements to the bland AI since your friend can baby sit the other team while you manage yours. It's daunting for both of you, but nowhere near as trying as it is managing all six troops on your own.
Seeing as how Ghost Recon is over two years old, it's fair to say that the game has not aged well. Given the Gamecube's advanced hardware and features, it was to be expected that the developers would at least attempted to improve the visuals in some aspects and although they have included some minute details on the soldiers gear and textures, they have not improved anything else. At times the game even looks even worse than its PC counterpart. The animations of soldiers, particularly those in the distance, are downright appalling. Some of the enemies even appear to have 2 or 3 animations total until you move in to about 50 yards where they improve considerably. The framerate even hiccups from time to time when a number of soldiers and the enemy are on screen at once.
Aside from the player's animations and the relatively inconsistent framerate, Ghost Recon also features some very poor surroundings. Trees, sand, rocks, and buildings --all of it appears unbelievable and poor. Although the texture work on the buildings is rather nice and shows off proper weathering effects, they still appear out of place with the rest of the environment and creates a game that doesn't envelop you like its PC counterpart did.
The music in Ghost Recon is rather interesting from time to time featuring dynamic changes in song as different situations pop up. Encountering a soldier and gunning him down will feature tunes that rise to its peak until his heart stops beating where the music will finally fade away into background ambiance. It's a nice touch and adds just a bit more of a cinematic feel to the game. However, the sound effects that constantly drown out the music are very basic and uninspiring. Bullet sounds, explosions, and radio chatter ? it's all just too subtle and awkward for anyone to really fall into. Even with Dolby Pro Logic II support the game remains very flat and boring. It's just one of those things that doesn't necessarily hurt the already problem filled package, but it definitely doesn't help it either.
Even with its glaring faults, Ghost Recon is still the best tactical shooter out there for the Gamecube and is ten times better than TSOAF. Players looking for a tactical shooter fix on their Cubes will do well to at least give this one a rental. Otherwise, faithful fans of the PC version and its online multiplayer along with fans looking for a good FPS game will find nothing to see here. Move along to greener pastures filled with Timesplitters 2, Red Faction 2 and others.