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February 8, 2002
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 Overall Score: *96*ESRB Rating: Mature (M)

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 

by Ubi Soft  Reviewed by: Daniel Buck  


ScreenshotOverview

2008 A.D. Russia is under the control of a radical government whose main goal is the reunification of the former Soviet Union. They quickly swallow up the nearby regions, and are poised to invade further to the south and east. But, while the world collectively watches and waits, your job has already begun. You and your fellow Green Berets, sent to the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains, represent the new breed of warfare. Swift, silent, deadly, you are armed with the latest gear and ordnance. Your mission: quick surgical strikes into enemy territory, decisive victory, and all without the enemy even knowing you were there. You are known as “The Ghosts,” and rightfully so.

Ghost Recon, the latest strategic action game from Ubi Soft and Morrisville, NC’s own Red Storm Entertainment, continues in the grand tradition of realistic (as in “one shot, you’re dead”) first-person shooters. You know that the people who brought you Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear have a great track record, and Ghost Recon looks to add yet another notch to the already highly raised bar.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Ghost Recon operates like most first person shooters, in that it is optimally played with a combination of keyboard and mouse. There are a lot more keys used than in some other FPS games, and it would be in your best interest to learn most or all of them. Fortunately, the tutorial section at the beginning of the game gives you a chance to test out all of the weapons and ordnance you will be able to use in the field, as well as practicing your movement. Anyone new to this type of FPS would be well served in spending some time practicing there.

The game is squad based, with small, three team insertion units controlled directly and indirectly by the player. There are fifteen separate missions to be completed, with several different squad members to choose from. Each scenario has a list of tasks to be completed, as well as a secondary, optional task. Completion of the secondary task unlocks a Specialist, a player with above average skills and abilities. These characters can help out missions immensely. Also, successful mission completions gain skill points for your units, which can be used to enhance weapons skill, leadership, and other important attributes.

The controls follow a different standard from the ones normally used in first person shooters. There are a series of keys that allow for binocular/scope use, crouching, laying prone, running, peeking around corners, and many others. And since you’re controlling four different types of units (rifleman, support, demolitions, and sniper), you need to get comfortable with all of them. Remember, this isn’t a game where you can “tank,” one shot usually kills your highly trained team member.

ScreenshotThe “heads up” display is reminiscent of most first-person shooters today, with some differences. You have a small radar display at the bottom center, which shows enemy locations and gunfire warnings, as well as letting you know when you are within a certain distance from any enemy. The sighting reticule is much the same as in Rainbow Six, as it changes with motion: the quicker you move, the larger the reticule becomes, hence the more inaccurate you become. Especially for snipers, conservation of movement is critical, both for accuracy and for stealth.

There are also keyboard commands to control squad movement as well. These can control everything from strict movement (point A to point B), to other specialized movement such as laying down covering fire, moving in at all costs, or other more complex commands. You can also change view from one squad leader to another, and control that squad from a first person perspective. Artificial Intelligence in the game tends to be better than in other FPS titles, although AI in most games tends to need a lot of work. When I missed a target, he would drop to a prone position and begin to spray the area with bullets, but some nearby units didn’t react at all. While puzzling in some spots, it is a far cry better than some AI I’ve seen.

Multiplayer

Obviously, Ghost Recon’s squad-based tactics and gameplay lend themselves well to the multiplayer experience. Players can connect via LAN or can use Ubi.com’s Game Service to find Internet matches. As Ghost Recon is currently a very popular game, there are plenty of people online (worldwide) with many different types of scenarios available to be played. Currently, my favorite games involve team-based raids against the computer, but there are also Last Man Standing scenarios (a free-for-all which can be single or multiple elimination) and many other variations upon these themes. Games can be designed for all player types, whether they be “twitch” gamers or the more subtle variety, all can be served and find their niche.

At this point in the review, I was going to lambaste the Ubi.com Game Service for their buggy service as far as Ghost Recon was concerned. The two machines on which I installed and played Ghost Recon had general protection fault errors every time I attempted to play online using Game Service. A workaround on the host’s website fixed the problem temporarily, but I found myself having to reboot several times anyway. Apparently, though, whatever was wrong with the service has been repaired, because as of today I have not had a single problem connecting and staying connected to the service.

Graphics

The graphics are very good, though not exceptional by today’s standards. I noticed some grainy textures in many of the local scenarios, including some unfinished looking textures in both the training scenario and other spots. I also noticed several places where textures did not overlap correctly in outdoor missions. With that small nitpick aside, the graphics still hold up well, with excellent skinning and model work, realistic human movement, and well designed and laid out levels. Character motion, both for teammates and NPC opponents, is fluid and realistic, closely matching real human movements. Also, the vehicles are faithfully represented, and can receive realistic battle damage.

Audio

Fantastic audio effects and, more importantly, one of the first games I’ve played where they were a necessity to play the game effectively. With a good sound system, you’ll hear distance oriented effects like gunfire, nature effects like wind and rain, and other important sounds. Audio is extremely accurate in its representation and has been well rendered in the game. As befits a game where stealth is of the essence, every sound you hear gives you clues as to the location of teammates or enemies, as well as other important clues. Well done on this aspect as well.

System Requirements

PII 450, 128 MB RAM, 1GB HD space, 16MB 3D accelerated card, at least 4X CD-ROM. Believe me, you’ll need every bit of the minimum requirements in order to play effectively.

ScreenshotDocumentation

The sixty-odd pages that ship with the game are not only complete in all aspects of gameplay, but an essential read as well. No complaints here. It also contains a listing of all of your controls and how they work, so be sure to take a look at this.

Bottom Line

I was very skeptical before I received this title, considering how much hype this game received before publication. After several hours of play, I can honestly say the game meets, if not exceeds, all the expectations the hype engendered. Richly designed and well-balanced gameplay, adding new squad-based and tactical interfaces to an already complex style of play, Ghost Recon is the thinking man’s shooter. With hours of single player fun, the game is only enhanced by the sheer amount of multiplayer enjoyment possible. There are a few things I would like to have seen in this game: the ability to jump and the ability to grab ammo from dead opponents. Vehicles, while prevalent, weren't available to be controlled, just destroyed. Those small things aside, I am pleased with this game. This title looks to be the most popular FPS this year and with good reason. It scores a high 90’s and two thumbs up from me!

Review Posted On 4 December 2001.

 
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