reviews\ Nov 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon - XB - Review

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a part of an elite group of specially trained soldiers that are so swift that they are known only as Ghosts?  In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon not only will you get the chance to do this but you can also join gamers nationwide with the Xbox Live feature to see if you truly belong in the service of freedom or terror.


You are in charge of the Ghost unit from the very start of the game’s main mode, Campaign.  Also available are Quick Mission (filled with several different game types) as well as Training and the Multiplayer mode.  Those familiar with the PC game will find that this version is not at all different.  The Training mode still teaches gamers the basics in weapon handling as well as team management.  And the Quick Mission still offers game types like Firefight (your squad is up against another squad on the map), Recon (get your team to an extraction zone alive), Defend (find and defend an area) and Mission (offers a mini-mission). 


The Campaign’s premise is interesting: The year is 2008 and a radical ultra separatist group has violently seized power of Moscow in order to re-establish the old Soviet empire, thus sending the republics to the brink of war.  Suddenly, Russian tanks find themselves strategically placed in the Caucasus Mountains and the Baltic forests.  Knowing this threat cannot be tolerated; America sends a special-ops group known as the Ghosts.  Armed to the teeth with the latest firearms and other advanced technology, the Ghosts are sent in to take care of this mess once and for all.


Gamers start out by listening to a mission briefing that lays out the objectives for your team of Ghosts to accomplish.  Then, given the situation, you assemble your team--choosing through a list of riflemen, snipers, support and demolition experts.  You can also equip them with all the necessary items you think they might need for any given mission.  For example, if the mission requires you to bring down an enemy SAM (Surface to Air Missile) site then it’s a good idea to equip your demolition expert with a kit that includes something explosive enough to destroy it.


Since you’re in charge of the team, a command interface--complete with a map of the general area--can be accessed to issue orders to your team.  Unlike the PS2’s SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals, your commands are limited but are sufficient nonetheless.  You can order them to hold a position while you and your support expert scout ahead.  Or, if you find yourself in quite a jam, you can order them to your location at all costs.


The game’s controls make good use of all the buttons on the controller, allowing every action from reloading to crouching to be more readily accessible.  This just allows gamers to concentrate on the mission or the firefight.  Using the directional pad you can have your team crouch or fall flat on their bellies for a more stealthy approach.  Depending on the given situation, you can approach an objective using stealthy tactics or rush into it using your heavy firepower.  


While the modes provide hours of single player fun, the heart of this game is its ability to offer a really enjoyable selection of multiplayer modes.  You can choose to play the game with a friend using one Xbox console or use the System Link option to play with up to sixteen players on more than two consoles.  However, while all of this is great, it’s the Xbox Live support that will have gamers hooked.  There are literally dozens of multiplayer modes either option you choose--from cooperative games (Mission, Firefight and Recon) to team games (Last Man Standing, Search and Rescue, Hamburger Hill, Domination and Siege) and solo games (its you against everyone).


A visually impressive treat, Ghost Recon’s graphics are nicely detailed when it comes to the terrains.  Gamers will be impressed how each massive map is even more massive as you’re moving along it.  Your team might be holed up in the remains of an abandoned gas station with trash scattered everywhere or the misty embankment of some beautiful stream in the countryside.  Suddenly somebody tosses a grenade and it explodes magnificently, sending black smoke and debris up in the air.  Your sharp-looking comrades move so fluidly and realistically to meet the attack that you might just find yourself smiling at the brilliance and beauty of this.


Unfortunately that uplifting military-type march and intense soundtrack only plays in the game’s main menu and the briefing at the end of each mission.  Still there’s nothing really to complain about seeing that the game still excels in sound effects.  The gunshots sound so much harsher and sharper here than other first-person shooters.  The massive environments also come complete with detailed sounds such as the harsh winds that blow through the land or the occasional pecking of a woodpecker.  All of this just works nicely.


Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is an amazing piece of work that is worthy of being in any die-hard gamer’s library and since it can be played online, there is nothing really more to say then: Buy this game immediately.   With its entertaining game modes, great graphics and multiplayer options, you can’t go wrong.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.0
The complex controls are simplified to the point that accessing all the available functions are more satisfyingly quick, thanks to the faster loading times of a console like the Xbox.  The game’s controls could have been very complex since the game is based on a computer game, but the control scheme does work.  Aiming, for example, is not at all that difficult compared to other first-person shooters and moving the aiming reticule at moving targets is a lot more smoother. 


Mission-wise, the game offers multiple objectives that require your team to secure a certain area or locate a radio to transmit coordinates to your superiors.  The objectives are listed before each mission and are also available in the Pause screen.  


Graphics: 8.9
The graphics in Ghost Recon are actually quite similar to the PC version with its smooth textures and detailed environments.  The Republic of Georgia in the gorgeously lush Caucasus is just so beautifully detailed that gamers will probably stop what they are doing and just admire the surroundings.    The game also makes great use of weather effects such as morning mists or rainfall that just add personality to each location.


The player models are also nicely detailed enough that you could make out all the equipment they carry if you examine them carefully.  They also move realistically whether its running or lifting up their weapons to take careful aim at the enemy. 


Sound: 9.0
A pulse-pounding soundtrack plays during the game’s main menu and mission finale briefing . . . and that’s about it.  Still there’s much more to this game’s sound than just a great score.  Just as the graphics makes great use of weather effects, the sound does the same.  You can hear the wind through an open window of an abandoned shack and the leaves of a tree rustle loudly as a strong window blows through the valleys.  The weapons have a powerful ring to them like the sniper rifle as the shot echoes and slowly dies off.


Difficulty: Medium
The single player missions offer quite a challenge that never goes beyond frustrating, in fact, the challenge the computer-controlled opponents put up is actually perfect.  While it might be odd that some of the enemies have the uncanny ability to just appear on the map, others are found patrolling the area, still unaware of your presence.  If you pose enough of a target, they will attack by taking cover and shooting at you.  They too will make good use of a sniper and have your team pinned down.


Concept: 9.0
Based on the highly popular PC game, the Xbox version is its exact duplicate with all the great elements--including online play--fully intact.  Part of the appeal of the game is the emphasis on teamwork and the tactical strategies you are free to come up with for each given situation you are placed in.  All the decisions are placed on your lap so you are not restricted to following direct orders.  If you’re ordered to take a bridge, you may do so by using any means necessary--there is no superior officer to guide you through it. 


Multiplayer: 10
Even SOCOM for the PS2 cannot touch all the multiplayer options this game has to offer.  First off, there’s the option to play the various game modes with a friend (seen in split-screen fashion) using a single Xbox console.  Then there is the System Link play, where you can hook up multiple Xbox consoles using a hub for play with up to sixteen players.


Gamers with Xbox Live support, though, are in for the real multiplayer treat.  Not only are there several different game types that can have gamers teaming up for co-op games against other gamers, but also you can use the headset communicator to talk to your team.  With so many players online, gamers will find no trouble joining or starting a game.


Overall: 9.5
Sure to be an instant classic with online gamers, Ghost Recon is an enjoyable jaunt in the realm of tactical combat that should not be missed.  Even if you’re not a subscriber to the Xbox Live service, this game packs quite a punch with plenty of modes and missions.  If you are a Xbox Live subscriber, this is the game the service was truly designed for.  Either way, this is one hell of a game.


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