Ghost Recon: Island Thunder
Games With the Tom Clancy stamp always guarantee realistic action in fictional but believable scenarios, but this expansion pack veers dangerously close to fantasy. In the year 2009, Castro has finally gone to the big communist cigar in the sky, Cuba is having its first proper elections in yonks and the Americans are free to parade about waving the flag for democracy. Yeah, right.
After the unexpected brilliance of the first add-on pack, Desert Siege (which, unlike any other expansion, actually improved on the original), Island Thunder has a lot to live up to. In many ways though, it represents a step backwards. Yes, there’s the usual tweaks and improvements, such as slight graphical adjustments, the introduction of short cut-scenes showing you being dropped off by chopper or boat and a few new multiplayer modes, but none of it is that noticeable.
While Desert Siege's wide-open levels in the baking sun transformed the game into something different, Island Thunder is much closer to the original, with forests and swamps providing the setting for the predictable base infiltration and rescue-the-downed-airmen missions. And, although the Al has been improved (enemies retreat and use cover, while your team mates behave less erratically), it’s the Cubans’ unnatural and frustrating accuracy that drives the difficulty levels even higher. It was a problem in the past, but this time they seem to have homing bullets. It’s still an excellent game, and the tension is undiminished, but Island Thunder seems an unnecessary addition to the series.
Download Ghost Recon: Island Thunder
It had to happen sooner or later with the growing number of Xbox players, the improvements in online play, and the vast collection of Tom Clancy based games to choose from. Island Thunder finally finds its way to the Xbox and Ghost Recon fans couldn't be happier.
The first thing one would notice about Island Thunder is how much the graphics have improved. A much more vibrant show of colors with an impressive horizon all appear much clearer and crisper then its older brother.
The game itself is a solid title with regards to single player, but the real meat and potatoes of this title is the multiplayer aspect. The game comes complete with a nice selection of multiplayer maps as well as new and improved equipment (weapon load outs and camouflage). Of course, players can go at it in several classic multiplayer modes like everyone's favorite, Last Man Standing, and the exciting Co-op. But this title offers a couple new modes for online enjoyment including a nasty little game called 'Hamburger Hill'? involving trying to defend the center of the map. Last man standing still holds as the most favored multiplayer mode, however.
As for the single player, die-hard fans will already know the story about a Castro-less Cuba and the upheaval that follows. This expansion isn't as long as the original Ghost, but does offer up some exciting missions that will keep you up until the late hours. One of the game's strengths is how you can get into the fine details as little or as much as you would like. Want to custom equip and select each member of your team? Go ahead, but if taking that much time to play isn't your cup of tea, you can simply choose the game's automatic equip feature which equips your team with the necessary accoutrements needed to complete the mission.
My only real beef about this and every Tom Clancy game, PC or otherwise, is the inability to step over small rocks or other obstacles coupled with no jump function. I know for a fact that Green Berets can either climb or jump over objects over 11 inches high.
With a good single player game and awesome multiplayer capabilities, Island Thunder is a title that should at least be rented. For fans of the series, it's a must buy.
Ten-hut! Death just pried Castro's cold fingers from Cuba, and opportunistic guerillas seek to exploit the power vacuum. It's your job to bitch-slap the evildoers and make the besieged nation safe for democracy and McDonald's. But before you reenlist for a second tour of duty with last winter's best-selling Ghost Recon, be warned that Island Thunder is more of an update than a true sequel. It's a standalone port of a PC expansion pack, and all of the first game's flaws stand uncorrected. You're still stuck with the same angular hills, jagged bushes, and bare buildings; strafing so slow that you'd swear your soldier's wearing cement boots; and a wearisome mix of overanxious squadmates and predictable enemies. Put bluntly, the singleplayer game is merely OK. Thankfully, it's a whole 'nother war online. Single-shot kills make life precious, foes truly fearsome, and friends an utter necessity. Do the five new multiplayer maps and additional weapons make Island Thunder worth your while? Yes, if you dodged the last draft. Right now, Ghost Recon is the best tactical shooter Xbox Live has to offer. Veterans, on the other hand, might expect these perks free of charge. If you do decide to deploy, however, publisher Ubi Soft promises more downloadable support down the line. React accordingly.
The fact that Ghost Recorfs gameplay still appeals to me--even though Island Thunder is really just more of the same and its graphics are painfully dated--is a testament to how enjoyable this squad-based shooter is. Though you can beat Island Thunder's eight-mission single-player appetizer relatively quickly, multiplayer is a heartier meal. The new maps and different gameplay modes offer a great deal of variety, making online play incredibly fun--at least when you're on the right side of the ballistics distribution. Still, there isn't a great deal of bang for your buck. The promise of extra downloadable missions and maps in the future is encouraging, but I'd feel better recommending Island Thunder 'd it ran for $29.99 rather than $39.99. Ghost Recon aficionados will want to visit Island, but everyone else should consider waiting for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3.
Besides an excellent interface for commanding and switching between your computer-controlled teammates, single-player Island Thunder performs like just another nameless recruit: Controls are decent, the graphics barely passable, and the mission objectives and enemy A.I. merely sufficient. It's fun to build up particular soldiers' attributes with points you earn from completed tasks, but the game never gets so difficult that you care when one of your troops gets killed. Online, however, Thunder deserves a salute for its wide selection of match types and well-designed multiplayer maps--the burned-out bases and beachside cabanas make for great playgrounds. It's no SOCOM (PS2), but it's as close as you'll find on Xbox.