Ubisoft has carved out a profitable niche for itself with the Tom Clancy brand of games. From Rainbow Six to Splinter Cell, the military-themed offerings have drawn in millions of players looking for something more realistic and strategic than the standard shooter selection. And complementing both franchises is a third, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, which blends tactical shooting with over-the-shoulder squad-based action. The original Recon enjoyed critical success on the PC and Xbox platforms, but ill-conceived ports to PlayStation 2 and GameCube failed to captivate would-be Ghosts.
Ghost Recon 2 arrived late last year on PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Though the two games shared the same name, they were actually created by two different teams and showed significant design differences. For instance, the PlayStation 2 version of the shooter, which ran on a modified version of the Unreal engine, was set in 2007, while the Xbox build, developed in-house by Red Storm Entertainment, was a quasi-sequel whose story took place more than five years in the future. Predictably, Ghost Recon 2 shined on Microsoft's console, but received less than favorable reviews on Sony's.
The GameCube build of Ghost Recon 2 is a port of the PlayStation 2 version and therefore it shares nearly all of its strengths and weaknesses. What that ultimately means is that there is a solid third-person tactical shooter waiting to be found, but it's also one that lacks the depth and the polish that fans of the Tom Clancy games take for granted.
- The next installment in Ubisoft's hit Tom Clancy Ghost Recon franchise
- Set in 2007 shortly after a North Korean act of war
- Take control of a ghost squad deployed to infiltrate North Korean territory
- New over-the-shoulder camera system puts players in the action
- Fight like a soldier: strategy-based gunplay means gamers will need to think before they shoot
- Utilize a variety of different weapons to engage the enemy
- Solo and squad-based missions
- Command a squadron of ghosts using in-game instructions
- Fight through a variety of locales set in and around North Korea
- Runs in progressive scan mode
- Requires four memory blocks for saves
- No multiplayer mode
The GameCube version of Ghost Recon 2 retains most of the production values that graced its PlayStation 2 predecessor. The game opens with a crisp, clean full-motion animation that quickly and effectively explains the storyline. Apparently North Korea is gunning for trouble. After extended tensions between the United States and North Korea, the latter sinks a U.S. ship and then America has no choice but to deploy its Ghosts, an elite group of high-tech soldiers, to inspect the situation.
Although the GCN build shows signs of immediately polish, such as progressive scan functionality, it also displays a noticeable lack of care on the developer's part. As high-tech cool as the interface menus look, the load times for Ghost Recon 2 are horrendous, averaging between 30 and 60 seconds. Only the most patient gamers will repeatedly wait it out to advance through the title.
Ghost Recon 2 is a satisfyingly realistic shooter. Gamers expecting a fast-paced TimeSplitters clone are out of luck. In Ubisoft's title, strategy is every bit as important as gunplay. Players take control of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghost squad leader, as he guides his group through enemy territory. The action takes place using a unique over-the-shoulder perspective, but gamers can scope in for a quasi-first-person view at any time using a flexible zoom system. The objectives are sufficiently varied from level to level. In one, players may be asked to provide suppression fire for allies and in another, take out an enemy's base. But regardless of the goal, the method to accomplish the task is usually a marriage of using different guns, which are plentiful, and sending basic commands to the squad.
Ubisoft's Ghost Recon 2 is on GameCube both a success and a failure. The title has all the makings of a fun shooter. The overall control is respectably tight. Moving Mitchell and his team through the environments is intuitive and enjoyable, and switching between weapons and equipping gadgets like night vision are quickly learned and mastered. There's a certain sense of accomplishment gained having equipped a sniper rifle and blasted a faraway enemy, or with hurling a grenade into a crowded street and watching the carnage that ensues. In contrast, the process of being stealthy and of sneaking unto enemies and launching surprise attacks is also entertaining.
The problem, however, is that the game simply lacks polish, which puts a serious dent in any suspension of disbelief that players might temporarily experience. There's no getting around this unfortunate problem: the framerate oftentimes chugs. And frankly, that's an understatement. The truth is that the fluidity sometimes drops below 15 frames per second, which is so slide-show-slow that it actually has a profound bearing on gameplay. A huge disappointment. Meanwhile, while the graphic presentation is occasionally impressive, particularly during night sequences with the filtered green vision, characters are generally low-polygon in nature and lacking realistic motion. Next, while the squad-based action is on paper a nice addition, the implementation is weak due in large to poorly constructed group artificial intelligence. These guys aren't smart. They clumsily stumble around and sometimes get in the way. And finally, as great as the audio was in Ghost Recon 2 for Xbox, it's tinny and lacking umph in this GameCube port, which is unfortunate.
Though gamers who buy Tom Clancy titles generally seek realism, Ubisoft gets credit for providing alternate means of play for those who simply don't want to bother with the squad portions of the game. Players can choose to go through missions Rambo-style in Lone Wolf Mode, which sacrifices the squad and instead gives a single soldier the best in weaponry and accuracy. Alternatively, there's Firefight Mode, which loses the level objectives and challenges players to simply eliminate all the enemies on the map. Both additions are worthy; at the very least, they extend replay value and at the very most they may help better the game as a whole for some participants.
Sadly, GameCube owners hoping for a deep multiplayer experience are in for a sour truth. The GCN port of Ghost Recon 2 features absolutely no multiplayer mode whatsoever -- split-screen included -- despite the fact that both the Xbox and PS2 builds boasted online play.
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