Review by Gruel

"This expansion is as smart as the US trying to poison Castro via Ice Cream"

Ghost Recon was a decent squad based shooter on the PC. It had some noticeably buggy AI, and some other major problems, but it still ended up as an all right shooter in my opinion. In early 2002, the first expansion to Ghost Recon, Desert Siege, came out which supposedly patched up a few bugs and other AI problems, as well as include extra single player missions. In this second expansion, Island Thunder, more AI problems and more missions are promised for us. Enough of my crappy intro, let’s take a look shall we?

Everybody took care of Russia and everything is good to go from the last game, but now there’s big trouble in little Cuba. Fidel Castro is now 137 years old with his communist regime as powerful as ever. It’s up to you, the almighty US Top-Secret Division #35284a to knock them out.

Assuming you played the first Ghost Recon, you’ll be safe to know that most of the controls are still in tact. The training missions from the first game are still included so you can get use to anything you forgotten. GR keeps most of its acclaimed realistic aspects in tow such as manual reloading, and keeping a low stock of weapons. The same command cluster also returns, and it’s still a bit tricky to use. Your squads will go to locations where you tell them not to, and at times you feel like you want to throw your monitor in a rage!

The AI of your comrades is just like the original, in other words, it’s still as bad as Speed 2. Just as how they left Keanu out of the sequel, they still left out that good AI of your troops the developers at Red Storm has been promising us. Yes, your almighty, top ranked sniper, decked out in the state of the art camouflage will do his usual walk out in the open; get gunned down by an enemy nowhere to be seen. I take Aspirin #1 in frustration.

One nice thing to know about the new missions in Island Thunder is that the areas have a bit more wide open space, and more objects to dodge behind in heated confrontations. That same realism is here, where one well placed shot will leave you down for good. Most of these come from the well concealed snipers in Island Thunder. The GR tradition continues where most of the foes will be well hidden, and will take a while to find before you advance. While fans of Ghost Recon applaud for the boost in realism, I yell “screw you” as I take Aspirin #2 after dying damn near ten times before completing the first mission.

One minor improvement is that Island Thunder now has a few missions available for you to start practicing in Quick Mission mode right off the bat. You still have to beat all of the eight new missions to unlock them for use any time Quick Mission mode, but it’s nice to know whenever you want hone your skills on the war front, there’s always a few missions from older games up for the pickings.

The best inclusions in Island Thunder are the addition of five new maps designed exclusively for online play. These new maps are fun as hell to play, but if the multi player support for Ghost Recon wasn’t so lousy. I haven’t been growing too fond of GR’s online gaming service, Ubi.com. Lately, it’s near impossible to get a game going. You’ll get lots of disconnects and drops right away in game play, and this lousy interface for Ubi.com doesn’t help one bit either. Red Storm should take a page out of Blizzard’s battle.net service as I take Aspirin #3.

Island Thunder runs on the same requirements as the first Ghost Recon. This is mostly due in part to most of the recycled graphics from the previous two installments. Little things have been improved, like the already great character models have more detail to them. Other than that, everything more or less looks the same as before. One thing I’m still ticked about is the fact you still can’t see your weapon! I’m still trying to figure out why they don’t have graphics up for any of the weapons during game play. Is it too much to ask for Red Storm to stop sitting on their asses and fix this?

Oh yeah, remember how in past games where if you saved your game, you couldn’t manually load it from in game menus, but had to wait a couple minutes in loading times by quitting out of the game and doing it from the main menu? Yes, it’s still that way, here’s an Emmy to Red Storm on “lack of hearing gamers input” as I take Aspirin #4.

The sound is also mainly recycled from the previous titles. Your soldiers give you the same acknowledgments you’re use to hearing as you command them through the missions. All the gunfire, ricochets, and bullet wounds sound the same as before. Another set of background music play while you navigate the menus in Island Thunder. This little song will grow on you as you, and matches the tone set in GR.

Each of the eight new missions that Island Thunder throws at us will take about a good hour to beat on the average. So don’t expect a long, in-depth single player experience. If you can get by the clumsy interface, then expect to log in plenty of hours in online multi player. The new multi player maps included are well worth your time to check out.

RATINGS

Graphics: 5.1
Sound: 7.0
Game play: 4.1
Replay Value: 5.7

Overall: 5.4

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder doesn’t fix the main gripes I had with the first game, and it’s a damn shame. The eight new campaign missions, and five new multi-player maps may not seem like much at all, but it’s reasonable enough for a $20 expansion pack. So unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series, you’ll want to avoid this expansion, as well as saving some money on the pain it causes.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 11/17/02, Updated 11/17/02


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