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Ghost Recon Review
developer: Red Storm Entertainment
genre: Action Strategy
P233, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 12, 01 (released)
|» All About Ghost Recon on ActionTrip|
The market for squad-based tactical shooters has certainly grown over the years. It all started with Delta Force and Rainbow Six; then came Rogue Spear, and most recently Bohemia's Operation Flashpoint. Each of these games attempted to achieve the most realistic warfare experience, and each glorified a particular unit in the U.S. army.
This time around, the Ghost Recon squad's been put under the microscope and the task of bringing this deadly unit to the PC was undertaken by Red Storm Entertainment - the same bunch of programmers and artists responsible for titles like Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6 and Rogue Spear. As was the case with Rainbow 6, the developers decided to stick with Tom Clancy and his predictions for the short-term future of our planet, setting the game in 2008, in the time of a very volatile incident involving the Russian occupation of Georgia and the U.S. covert operations aimed at thwarting the Russian campaign. The brass is not keen to start an all-out war, so they're sending you as part of the elite Ghost Recon squad to serve as the first line of defense, and at the same time, to strike deep inside the enemy lines and assert the American presence in the region. Seeing how those Delta's are doing in Afghanistan, this type of covert operations becomes even more current and it confirms at least some of Tom Clancy's predictions regarding the future of modern warfare.
If I had to describe Ghost Recon in just a few words, I'd call the game a Rogue Spear modification with a simpler and more intuitive interface, and the type of gameplay that was seen in Delta Force and Operation Flashpoint - wide-open spaces, lots of vegetation, and plenty of shooter searching.
Ghost Recon is best described as Red Storm's attempt to rival the success of the aforementioned titles. Rogue Spear and Rainbow Six were primarily focused on CQB, while Ghost Recon relies mostly on its outdoor missions and the fact that most of the firefights occur in open areas, like: jungles, fields and wide city boulevards.
Fans of the R6 series will undoubtedly notice many tried and proved game design techniques that have made Red Storm's previous games so popular. Namely, I'm talking about the great gameplay dynamics, some very detailed recreations of world's hot spots, and of course detailed environments and player models. It seems as though Red Storm has taken all the best features from their previous titles and crammed them into Ghost Recon, giving the game a familiar, yet refreshing look and gameplay feel. Besides applying all the known tricks of the trade, Red Storm worked very hard on making the interface as non-intrusive as possible, and luckily, they did one hell of a job at it.
Ghost Recon's Interface is the smoothest I've seen in any of the titles in the genre. The squad commander controls are a breeze and it makes moving the units around painless and fun to do. It also presents the perfect balance between tactical and pure-action gameplay, which is essential for creating an entertaining squad-based shooter. There's absolutely no learning curve for the controls, unlike what we had in the R6 series. The easy and functional interface, together with Red Storm's experience in designing this type of games, makes Ghost Recon one of the most intense games in its genre; on a par if not even better than what we've seen in Operation Flashpoint. There are clearly some major differences between the two titles, as Bohemia leaned more towards creating a realistic sim. game, while Red Storm concentrated on creating the best-possible blend of tactics, realism and pure action. That is not to say of course that Operation Flashpoint didn't feature some gripping action; it's just that Red Storm placed more emphasis on the gameplay dynamics than Bohemia.
However, in their attempt to create a fast-paced tactical shooter, RS went a bit too far, and made some inexplicable design decisions and oversights, which unfortunately cast a shadow on this otherwise very fun title. All of these slip-ups make the game seem less believable and immersive than its gripping action and great controls might suggest.
The idea for the Ghost Recon maps was to create a blend of environments suited for outdoor and close-quarter combat, which were supposed to keep the player on his toes at all times. Further more, the designers decided to somewhat restrict player movement by making large portions of the map inaccessible, so that they could prevent them from wandering on the map for too long. If you ask me, this move's done more harm than good to the game. Ghost Recon features a great tactical mini-map, so there's no way one could get lost on the map, and feeling restricted in a game that is supposed to be about great distances, forests and whatnot is in my opinion not the right way to go; it just ruins the illusion of live combat that this type of games is supposed to generate. To add to this feeling of "being in a linear and limited game world," the engine doesn't allow you to jump, and even the mildest inclines are "unclimbable." HA! A bunch of hotshot soldiers cannot climb even the smallest hill?! That really ruins any sense of realism players could ever get from playing Ghost Recon. Hiding in thick bush and grass is great, but what about when I need to jump on this small rock??
Then, there are things like getting stuck on a small wooden chair: there's virtually no interaction with the environment, apart from bullet holes and broken windows; things like bad path finding on the part of your teammates, and the same AI behavior that we've seen in Rogue Spear (it's OK, but not good enough to compensate for the other aforementioned drawbacks).
The graphics in Ghost Recon are one of its strongest assets. The models are extremely detailed and excellently animated; the lighting and shadows are perfect and together with trees that swing on the wind and lush vegetation they create a very realistic and believable outdoor ambient. Also, the particle system works very nicely, especially when bullets start hitting different surfaces like wood and stone. The sounds are just as good, and the soundtrack is atmospheric and inspiring (it sounds a bit like the tracks from the Gladiator soundtrack). The only thing that kind of bothered me regarding the graphics is the relatively small poly count of the rocks and hills in comparison to the player models. I guess certain trade-offs had to be made here, so that the game wouldn't turn into a major hardware hog...
Finally, I should also mention that Ghost Recon has great replay value because of the awesome multiplayer games. And when you take in account the fun single-player levels, I really don't see any reason (yes, even with the drawbacks) why fans of the genre shouldn't dish out their cash for it.
8.4 Very Good
Great visuals, interface, and fun gameplay (that's what it's all about);
Certain design decisions and engine drawbacks take away the illusion of being on the outdoor battlefield and are at times plain frustrating. Teammate path finding.
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