So you've been waiting patiently for a solid tactical first person shooter to be released for the Gamecube and now Ghost Recon has arrived. It's had success on the PC and Xbox so how could you go wrong? Well that's a good question until you actually sit down and start playing. It's not long before you realize that there are a number of serious gameplay issues that manage to take a great game and turn it into shooting fish in a barrel.
For tactical shooters, having a solid AI is critical since that's what makes controlling a squad of soldiers challenging. If all you have to do is walk one guy around and shoot all the enemies without difficulty, it's not a tactical shooter. Sadly enough, it appears Ghost Recon fits into that category which is confusing since the PC version didn't have this problem. You'll notice soldiers standing and firing without moving or taking cover. All you do is walk near them take a shot and move to the next. What makes it worse is the radar that alerts you to enemy presence, reducing their ability to sneak up on you or set up an ambush. In addition, a problem like not requiring a line-of-site to kill an enemy further simplifies the experience.
One of the reasons the Xbox version was so popular was because of its online capabilities of which the GameCube version has none. It does allow for multiplayer missions once the mission has been completed on single player but the AI problem comes into play again. There is also a deathmatch option, which is entertaining, and probably the only multiplayer option to get regularly used.
As far as the graphics and audio, they perform as expected with few surprises. The original game was made in 2001 and the graphics on the Gamecube reflect that. The audio however aged better with a number of sound effects that do help to immerse you somewhat in the game.
Ghost Recon's biggest problem is an apparent lobotomy from the PC version. A lack of online capabilities doesn't help either and generally leaves the game with little to offer in terms of a tactical shooter.
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When Sony released their Network Adapter back in August, I fell hopelessly addicted to playing SOCOM on line. I have always been a Half Life/Unreal Tournament type of guy so the slower, more realistic gameplay of Ghost Recon took some adjustment. Many, many, many hours later, I can't see myself going back to the unrealistic shooters. When I started reading about Ghost Recon, I knew I was going to love the game because while similar to SOCOM, it fixed a number of my gripes. Throw in Xbox Live support, and I just knew this game was going to kick Sony's game from my rotation.
Ghost Recon plays very differently depending on your choice of single player versus on line. The single player mode is quite complex, allowing the player to issue commands to a squad of 5 computer-controlled teammates. Once you get the hang of commanding your troops, the fun really begins. Missions seem to have just the right mix of complexity and length. The game also does a great job mixing up the environments. One mission will have you battling your way through a city and another mission has you slogging your way through a foggy swamp. Aside from the complexity of commanding troops, my only real complaint with the single player game is the computer controlled players kept killing the enemies before I even saw them.
The on line mode was what really had me excited. The abundance of multiplayer options was mind-boggling. Five buddies and I had coordinated a time to meet up the night of November 15th (Live launch) for a 6-player coop game. Without going into details, our 6-player game never happened because of one thing' lag. Once we figured out how to create a room and get all of us together (this took about 30 minutes in itself), people started joining the room and things started to go down hill. Voice communication was the first thing to go. We finally started up the match, the map loaded and we were ready to roll. I used the headset to formulate a plan but I got no response from the other players. I tried to walk and I did not move. One player dropped out of the game and I was able to start moving, yet still no voice. I walked around a bit until I came up on an enemy and I opened fire. The enemy stood there, unaffected by my rain of bullets. Again, bit by the lag bug. We finally had the person with a 384k upstream DSL connection host the game and we were able to play with a maximum of four people, with little lag. To be fair, we played again the next night, three people on a cable connection and it was better, but it was just inconsistent. Plus, trying to find a random game is like pulling teeth. Sometimes it works and other times your search comes up empty.
On line gripes aside, there is no denying this is one decent looking and great playing game with amazing audio. Whether playing through the solo missions with your AI controlled platoons or playing on line with friends, you will constantly be treated with the sounds of war unlike you have ever heard before. Walk into a parking garage and hear you footsteps and gunshots echo and ricochet. Hide behind a rock and hear the bullets chip away bits of the rock around you as keep your head down, avoiding enemy fire. The list goes on and on. Graphically, the game looks good but could still use a little work. There is no denying it'you feel like you are part of each and every mission. The environments and character models really suck you in. Some items were a bit blocky and the trees were pixilated, although the swaying effect was cool, but this never detracted from your experience. I just wish my soldier was able to walk over items in the environment because it is frustrating to walk around every little rock on the ground.
This game would be a recommended buy all the way were it not for the lag and terrible unintuitive set up screens. I don't know if I should blame this game or the Xbox Live service. The real downer is when we were able to play together, it was a blast'one of the best Live games going'but getting to that point will try the patience of even the most docile gamer. When Microsoft said they were not going to release the Live service until it was ready to provide a consistent gaming experience, I applauded them for not rushing a product to market to cash in. I just hope they are working on things still because if this is the consistent experience, they are going to lose customers.