IGN Review of Ghost Squad
Since SEGA's announcement that Ghost Squad would be coming to Wii, we've been in a constant love/hate relationship with the game. On one hand, Ghost Squad is one of the top light-gun games of the last five years, and is a no-brainer for any purebred shooter fan. On the other, it's a game that released in arcades back in 2004, and as such won't offer much on top of what gamers already may have experienced years ago for a handful of tokens. Still, once we got the title in office, tossed a controller to a friend, and ripped through the oh-so-familiar levels again, pure entertainment took over. Ghost Squad may not off a wealth of new material for gamers, but it certainly delivers in the fun department.
That isn't to say Ghost Squad is a straight-up port of the original arcade cabinet; it isn't. SEGA AM2 could have easily taken the original game, added IR functionality, and called it a day, but the team instead introduced new modes and options that - along with a competitive price point - really saved the experience as far as we're concerned. Ghost Squad is made up of only three levels in total, each about 15 minutes long, which basically equates to one chapter of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles; not a whole lot. How the game makes up for the lack of locales, however, is in the different skill levels of each stage.
Each of the three stages has 16 total levels of difficulty, which take the same architecture and scenarios, but change enemy spawns, events, and circumstances within that level. Like the extra scenarios in Umbrella Chronicles, these are made up of the same core, but are essentially 16 different versions of the same level. Team that with the branching paths for each mission, adding enough diversity to replay any given area three or four times to take each route, and you've got a game that seems a lot shorter than it is. Just know you'll be running through the jungle, storming one cottage, and sneaking around in Air Force One dozens upon dozens of times to see it all.
Most of what made Ghost Squad fun in the arcades is still retained though, as there's a huge emphasis on weapon management and mid-level missions. There are 25 weapons total, each with different attributes for a unique style of play, and you'll need to level your character profile up in order to gain access to all of them. Some guns (like the sniper rifle class) have the ability to pierce through cover, while others (such as the shotguns) rely on laying down huge burst of fire and getting multi-hit combos. As far as the mini-missions or "challenges" go, the game launches quick prompts telling you how the control works, and then expects you to execute on the fly. This could be as simple as holding A to free hostages during firefights, or as complex as using a one-shot sniper rifle to peg enemies at a safe distance. The game adds a ton of diversity in its 16 "levels" through these challenges, as an area that used to center around rescuing hostages can all of a sudden change to night vision to add difficulty, or go even farther and remove the hostages altogether for an entirely different type of challenge.
The emphasis on multiplayer also makes Ghost Squad a solid option for Wii gamers, with the newly-added Ninja Mode and Paradise Mode, as well as four-player party mode and some basic target practice training missions. Four-player is totally new, while Ninja Mode and Paradise Mode take the same core stages yet again and morph them a final time, having enemies replaced with hot bikini ladies or ninja assassins, and morphing weaponry and boss fights. So while the core game may feel like the countless other Dreamcast gun games from years back, Ghost Squad still tries to add a bit more content for those that may have already gone the distance with it.
Players should be warned, however, that - as with other Wii games of its nature - Ghost Squad doesn't work exactly like a light gun. Most Wii gun games thus far have used the IR as a mouse, having players hold the controller in a comfortable position and doing little more than steering a target around the screen, and that's the default feel with Ghost Squad as well. You aren't aiming at the screen, but the sensor bar. With the release of the Zapper, however, Nintendo is hoping to make these games feel more in tune with actual light-gun titles, though Ghost Squad did so with a simple calibration screen rather than rocking a plastic shell that is essentially a light gun placebo. Ghost Squad allows you to turn off the on-screen cursor, adding to the difficulty while offering a higher overall score burst. Rather than having players rely on guess work, however, the Wii-mote can be sighted in via an IR calibration screen, at least to a certain extent. Shoot the upper-left and bottom-right of the screen with the controller and you're in business, although it'll still have some issues throughout.
Since the IR works on triangulation, the center of the screen will be more accurate than the outsides, so while looking down the "barrel" of the Wii-mote will actually work, the cursor will get progressively farther from your aim as you near the edge of the screen in any direction. Also, you'll need to hold the Wii-mote (or Zapper controller) extremely level, as any tilt at all in the IR will result in skewed aim. As a final oddity, any forward or backward movement after calibration will also throw the triangulation off, so once you sight it in, you'll need to stay in that same position until you're done playing. It's a solid first effort in trying to truly calibrate the IR, but as fair warning to those looking to play Ghost Squad in the more traditional light gun mode, it still isn't perfect. Our suggestion for scoring massive points: Use the unlockable TM9V pistol with the "laser sight" as its special ability. You can turn off the cursor, and still have a tiny dot on-screen at the sacrifice of automatic weaponry or overwhelming power.
As far as the "fun factor" goes, Ghost Squad certainly delivers. There are a ton of options, some solid variation in each of the three 16-level stages, lots of customization in characters - unlockable costumes, weapons, and modes - and some solid multiplayer, all at a price tag of $30. Even the single player mode can be entertaining, as you can opt to play traditionally, or pick up a second Wii-mote and dual wield; something we grew to instantly love. In fact, party mode is also an extremely entertaining two player mode, as both competitors can rock two Wii-motes at the same time, allowing four guns blazing. Since Ghost Squad is also the spiritual successor to the Virtua Cop series (and Confidential Mission), you'll get the same cheesy dialog, the special rewards for quick trigger fingers or deadly precision, unlockable Virtua Cop outfits, and the same arcade feel as the famed series offered nearly a decade back. The visual presentation takes a hit, however, as the game runs in its traditional 4:3, offering only 480p to Wii component cable owners. To balance that, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection has been included for score uploads and online ranking. It's a simple addition, but definitely a good call, considering the amount of hardcore gamers out there that currently own Wii hardware. Ghost Squad may not look a step above the regular SEGA Dreamcast light gun games, but its fun factor is astonishingly high for a game now three years old.
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