Review by EyeSRY29

"Great squad shooting, online or off"

Ghost Recon is a tactical first-person, squad-based shooter that was released last year for the PC. While it received praise from several game reviewers, it had numerous problems, including lackluster AI, poor pathfinding, weak graphics, and an ugly interface. While the Xbox port of Ghost Recon is fundamentally the same game, numerous improvements have been made, most notably the inclusion of Xbox Live support. It would have been nice to see more improvements, but Ghost Recon is still an enjoyable game nonetheless.

Ghost Recon's story is very Clancy-ish, as it pits you against the Russians in the year 2008, who are trying to reestablish the good ol' Soviet Union. Your squad, the Ghosts, has been sent in to prevent the Iron Curtain from rising again. The story is told through mission briefings that occur before the missions in Campaign mode, he real meat of the game. The story, however, is not important, but the actual gameplay is enough to maintain interest.

When you begin a game in Ghost Recon in Campaign mode, your objectives, as well as a map of the area where you will be fighting in, are outlined for you. Each mission has a few primary objectives, as well as a secondary objective, that if completed, will unlock a new specialist to put in your squad. Specialists are stronger and better than the ordinary soldier. After you finish going over your mission, you will be taken to a screen where you can select and equip the soldiers in your platoon. Your platoon is divided into two squads, Alpha and Bravo. You can select from the four classes of soldier; rifleman, support, sniper, and demolition. You can also specify what equipment you want your squadmates to carry, such as a weapon and a silenced pistol, or a weapon and extra ammo. If a soldier can survive a mission, he is given an experience which you can assign to one of four categories; weapons, leadership, stealth, and strength, which actually have an effect on the game. However, if a soldier dies in combat, all his points are lost.

Once you've finished with your platoon, you are thrust into the terrifying world of real-life combat. Unlike in other shooters, it only takes a couple of shots-or one well-placed shot- to kill off a squad member, and you are always outnumbered by bad guys. Fortunately, Ghost Recon gives you a number of devices for survival. Pressing the left trigger will bring up an platoon interface and a map. In order to get your squadmates to move at all, you need to place waypoints on the map, which will have them move to that location if they can. They can also be told to aviod combat whenever possible, stop and defend whenever attacked, and other combinations. You can also use this menu to take control of one specific soldier, and the other five soldiers are smart enough to protect themselves.

Unfortunately, there are problems exist within Ghost Recon's AI. Most notably, the pathfinding needs work. In some situations, you'll need to enter indoor and confined areas such as farmhouse and caves. In these situations, you can't order soldiers inside the building, leaving one squad to stand around outside and get shot while another one goes in. Soldiers will attempt to enter buildings two at a time, walk into walls, and block your path. Another problem is how quickly the mission can turn around. You'll be running around with your platoon, then four out of your six guys will be wasted by a grenade. As a result, gameplay can devolve into inching forward, saving your game, and repeating, in fear of getting a soldier wounded, since you can't heal your boys on the battlefield.

During combat, however, you'll be glad you're carrying those soldiers around with you. Your squadmates will often notice enemy soldiers before you do, because they can be hard to see in the foliage. When this happens, they'll start attacking or report their location to you, depending on your settings. At times, it seems as if your squadmates are shooting at nothing, because you won't be able to see anything.

Xbox Live online multiplayer is where Ghost Recon is at its best. A game such as Ghost Recon is better played with a voice communicator than a keyboard, and it makes the game seem more realistic. Rather than typing in awkward one-liners such as ''i c 1'' or ''i got 1'', you can now yell ''I see one!'' or ''I got one!'', and it only makes the game more addictive. Although you have to hold down the White button in order to talk at all, this problem is insignificant compared to the overall fun factor.

While Ghost Recon is definately not a bad-looking Xbox game, it's by no means an impressive looking one either. The character models for your soldiers are the highlight of the graphics-they look good and animate realistically. The sky, while it looks okay, is flat and unchanging, and textures that are viewed up close are blurry. An excessive amount of fog exists, making it difficult to see enemy personnel from far off.

Fortunately, Ghost Recon excels in its sound quality. The musical score has a patriotic theme and is pretty catchy, but there isn't any music in-game. Sound effects are so realistic, you'll jump out of our seat if an enemy soldier pops out of nowhere to gun you down. Unfortunately, your squadmates have a limited amount of speech, and it quickly becomes repetitive.

Despite its problems, Ghost Recon is worth a rental to check out its approach to squad-based combat. Live owners should definately try it out, and anyone who likes a deep single player game or who wants to play with friends will also enjoy it.

Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Length: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/05/03, Updated 01/05/03

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