Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
We always knew Ghost Recon, while a great single-player game, would come into its own online. And we also knew it was never going to rival Counter-Strike for popularity. The tension is probably greater than any other multiplayer game, with the vast open spaces making you feel like a sitting duck most of the time. And after a couple of cases of seeing the world spin round and finding yourself lying in a heap in a pool of your own blood without a clue where the headshot came from, you’ll find menace behind every tree, rock and doorway. But this is still a game for the hardcore crowd.
There are enough modes to satisfy everyone though. From the usual deathmatches and rescue missions to the more interesting co-op missions. The biggest innovation is that you can control a team of bots as you would in the single-player game against someone else with a team of bots, or go through missions as part of a human squad with a leader.
But you get the feeling that the game hasn’t really taken off (while there were up to a thousand players a couple of months ago, the average is well below half of that now) and that most of its innovative features are being left unused. It’s hard to find a co-op game where you can go through missions with people on your side, and there’s never a sense of having a leader who is drawing up strategies.
I expect the real hardcore ghosts (the ones who set up clans and protect their servers with passwords) do all this and more, but most people are content to be dumped on a map and start shooting.
The various options (respawns or lack ot them, arcade mode) can make each game very different, though I usually found that respawns were set to infinite and people treated it like a quick blast of Serious Sam. As is so often the case, lag is a big problem if all you've got is a 56k modem, and the demands of the massive environments make this all too obvious. The game is played through Ubi Soft's client software, Ubi.com (not unlike Microsoft's Gaming Zone), which is not ideal but does the job, although the servers do tend to disappear from screen from time to time. You can sometimes spend as much time getting into a game as you do playing it.
Rogue Spear veterans will enjoy it more than those seeking Counter-Strike-style thrills, butthen Red Storm know what their fans want: realism, one-shot kills and maximum tension.
As long as you have a decent connection, Ghost Recon really shines in multiplayer. Even though the game demands a slower and more tactical approach, that does nothing to make it a less exhilarating experience.
Download Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
Alot of ink has been spilled chronicling, explaining and commentating on the terrible events ot September 11, and a PC games magazine is no place to analyse them further. But there's no denying that the terrorist attacks have had an effect on the games we play. Not only have many of them been canned, delayed or modified because ol in-game terrorists or recreations of the twin Towers, there's also something eerie about playing war games while there's a real one going on.
Thill this one is Tom Clancy-emlorsed just makes it oven stranger After all, this is the man who told ns about a Japanese terrorist Hying a 747 into Capitol Mill and an Ebola attack from Iran (in Executive Orders, ol which a him version is likely to be cancelled). He also described Arab terrorists planting a nuclear bomb at the Super Howl (in The Sum ot All Ferns, another unlikely adaptation which is still in production). It's not surprising the CIA is rumoured to have contacted him and other thriller writers so they can prevent future book plots from happening in the real world.
As for the plot of Ghost Recon, it takes place in 2008 and involves a rebellion in the Georgian republic which escalates into an international conflict between Russia and the US/UN alliance, apparently because those damn Ruskics are trying to start a communist regime all over again. It's all very confusing, but you don't really need to concern yourself with it too much. All you need to know is who to shoot and what to blow up. In a brilliant stroke of foresight, developer Red Storm decided against making the enemy a Middle Eastern rogue state (an idea which was discussed) and wisely dumped you in the cold green hills of the Union Formerly Known as Soviet rattier than some Arab mountains.
In case you haven't gathered from the screenshots, this is a team-based tactical shooter in the Hidden & Dangerous and Operation Flashpoint mould, but there are some pretty significant differences to those titles. Anyone who's played Rainbow Six or Hogue Spear will be immediately familiar with the feel of the game although this time the close-quarters interiors have been replaced with massive outside locations, and the anti-terrorist squad makes way for a new Special Forces unit from the US army known as ghosts. Probably so-called because, like most soldiers in team-based shooters, they keep ending up dead.
Hit The Red Target
If there is one thing that the war campaign against the Taliban has taught us. it's that real life is much more forgiving than games. If you showed the same degree of accuracy in Ghosl Recon as the US has displayed in their bombing of Afghanistan, it would be game over within seconds. There's no room here for a 'whoops, we seem to be five miles off our target and have hit a Red Cross building instead' approach. Right from the word go you are left to the mercy of the elements, fighting against rain, snow and wind, with nothing but trees and rocks to cover you. If you spot a group of enemy soldiers you better be damned sure you hit them, otherwise they're going to be counting the bullets out of your body back home.
The initial effect is a bit disorienting if you're used to opening a door, peeking round the corner and creeping along the carpet, as you'd do in Rogue Spear or in that other great team-based tactical shooter, SWAT Here you're dwarfed by a vast expanse of sky while land stretches out in almost every direction. Many of the missions - there are 15 in all -take place in wooded areas, and Red Storm has taken great care to recreate the real thing. Forget about the trees in Flashpoint, those sickly messes of brown and green smudges. In Ghost Recon the trees look like they could produce oxygen as they sway in the breeze, and even lose leaves when you shoot through them. The forests feel alive with sound and breathing nature; this is probably the closest a game has come to simulating a trip to the woods. But what does it feel like to play in them?
Well, first I should tell you that there's more to the game than trees. Missions are varied and take place in foggy marshes, snowy cities and ruined villages. Objectives are all standard fare, such as rescuing downed pilots, blowing up bridges and tanks and clearing areas of enemy forces. Needless to say, a gung-ho approach will have you dead within seconds. This is a game that requires plenty of tactical thinking. Thankfully, the obnoxious pre-mission planning from the Rainbow Six series is gone, replaced with a flashy ingame command system. At the stroke of a key you can bring up a tiny map, where you can give orders to your three teams, made up of a maximum of six soldiers overall. You can give them waypoints, tell them to lay down suppressive fire, go into recon mode or cover an area for enemies. The action doesn't stop while you're in the command map, but it doesn't take long to get used to it and tell your soldiers what to do. There are also a group of hotkeys that control their stance and movement, making it easy to lay ambushes.
Guns Last All Summer Long
You are only ever in control of a single soldier, but you can jump into any of the others whenever you like. This is important because, although you can give orders, you need to do much of the shooting yourself. This isn't a criticism. If you could just sit back giving orders and letting your team do all the work it would be a very boring game. Artificial intelligence has recently got a lot of bad press, thanks mainly to a rather dreadful Spielberg movie, but the AI in this game is well balanced. Enemies are not so intelligent that they're impossible to kill (their hearing on the medium difficulty setting is bad enough that they don't all come running when you fire a shot) but they're smart enough to take cover and lie down, and the fact that they're not always deadly accurate with their shots just makes them more realistic. Because the nature of the game isn't inclined towards arcade shooting, the kind of sharp AI present in Half-Life wouldn't work here anyway. Similarly, your computer-controlled team members are smart enough to take cover and shoot down enemies within sight (unless you've put them on recon mode), but not so good that you can send them ahead to take care of business while you sit back.
The difficulty is balanced equally carefully. It's not so hard that you get stuck in an impossible situation, but not so easy that you can just Rambo your way through it without some creative tactical thinking. The game is really more about coordinating attacks and getting your men in the right positions at the right time than it is about first-person shooting skills.
Dot To Dot
As in Operation Flashpoint you spend much of your time shooting at little dots on the horizon. Thankfully, you can use a sniper right from the start so you can zoom in and see who you're killing. Even so, this is more likely to turn the enemies into visible human shapes rather than make their heads cover the screen. I'm sure it's realistic, but it's a shame that you don't get to see the detail of those enemies up close until they're corpses littering the ground. For the same reason you don't often get to see their great death animations, where shot soldiers grab their stomachs and whirl to the floor in a perfect motion-captured demise.
This is one of the main problems with the graphics. The wide-open spaces don't allow much room for detail - except for the trees - and it's all concentrated on the brilliant models. But there's only so much time you can spend looking at your own team members. The engine also has its limitations, as evinced by the rather heavy fogging effects. Don't expect to snipe someone at the distances you could in Project IGI. The wide outside spaces also make it hard to always know what's going on, and you could easily find yourself under fire without having a clue where it's coming from. When this happens, unless you find cover pretty sharpish, you'll experience a rather painful death which will have you recoiling from your mouse as it you'd been hit yourself. You can almost feel the bullet kicking the life out of you before you thud to the ground in an expanding pool of crimson. But, while death nearly always arrives with a single shot to the head, you can also get injured. Each of your soldiers' bodies is divided into zones (simplified versions of JC Denton's in Dens fx) so you can see where you've been hit. Get shot in the leg and not only will you slow down, you'll hear your own gasps of pain, making you wince with every step.
You do get some help in the way of a threat indicator - a sort of soldiery spider sense - which shows you the general direction of the enemy and tells you when you're really close to them. It also shows you the direction you're being shot at from.
Like I said before, it's not all trees and forests. Night missions work well, but they're short enough so that the green night vision doesn't start to irritate your eyes. The best levels are the ones based in cities, where you have the benefit of windows to snipe from (and from where you have to pick off enemy gunners), cars to hide behind and the sort of surroundings most of us feel more comfortable in. You usually get closer to your enemies in urban settings too, so they don't become distant dots so much.
This Food Is A Gift From The People Of The Usa
But while Ghost Recon has nothing to do with terrorists or the Middle East, it still feels a bit sinister to be controlling US soldiers infiltrating another country, and shooting soldiers in order to 'sort out' that country. Especially when you get things like this in the briefings: "There are plenty of refugees in the streets and we want to keep collateral damage to a minimum." After seeing some of the collateral damage in Afghanistan it's very difficult to suspend your disbelief and pretend you're just playing at soldiers. This is, as I've already mentioned, more of a hardcore simulation than a fantasy shoot 'em up. Remember that the Rogue Spear engine, of which this is a heavily modified version, is being used by the US military to train their soldiers. It makes you wonder about the future of these kind of titles as they get more and more realistic. For the moment though, Ghost Recon is good enough for you to push any moral dilemmas aside and concentrate on team-based tactics and good old shooting reflexes. And it possesses the main ingredient so essential to these types of games: no matter how many times you die, you keep coming back for more until you've cracked it.
Ghost Recon comes with a few nice RPG touches
At the start of the game you have a pool of soldiers to choose from - riflemen, support, demolition, sniper - and each one has stats in four different attributes: weapons, stealth, endurance and leadership. Every time a soldier survives a mission you get a point to spend (two if he or she manages a lot of kills, which is a nice bonus). Not only can you can start building characters straight away, but you can relate to them more than usual. In addition, completing secondary objectives unlocks specialist characters who excel in their field and make your job easier later on. These make you realise how important the RPG system is. Not only do you notice significant improvements in your movements, speed and accuracy, you also get some better weapons. The sniper rifle in particular is much better than your initial one and just makes the challenge all the more rewarding.
Ghost Recotfs multiplayer game should keep everyone happy
The multiplayer game allows up to 36 people to take part spread out across six teams. As in the single-player game, there is a command interface, but only one person per team can give orders. When they die, the game automatically promotes the next in line and if you don't agree with their tactics you can vote them out. But the biggest innovation, and the thing that should elevate Ghost Recotfs online status, is the ability to lead a group of A! soldiers against other human opponents also leading a computer-controlled team. So you don't need 36 people to start massive battles. We'll let you know how this works in practice when we review it in the online section. You can also play through the single-player game with your buddies. If the whole team ethic doesn't appeal to you however, you can still go at it solo. Online modes include Hamburger Hill, where you have to control a zone of the map for the longest time possible; Last Man Standing, Search and Rescue and Sharpshooter, where the player with most kills wins. Take your choice.
The flood of squad-based combat games is officially upon us. After spending a few hours in the s*** with the latest title in the long-running Tom Clancy series, we've got a bit of declassified info for all you civvies out there.
Ghost Recon, one of the Xbox Live launch titles, allows up to 16 dogfaces to go out on the field all at once in four squads of four. (For those keeping score at home, that's the same amount of online players as SOCOM on PS2.) This is big news for console gamers with broadband connections, but the online-enabled won't be the only people seeing some action. With LAN support and two-player splitscreen, Recon is ready for anything.
If you've ever played any of the Tom Clancy titles, you know that this is more than just some blow-everything-to-hell shooter. We should know; we tried that approach in one mission, and the tank we were sent in to destroy wound up plastering us with a 125mm shell between the eyes. That's right, soldier; you'd better start using your head for more than holding your helmet in place!
Each time playing, you've got to pick the right squad members and weapons, and use stealth to your advantage whether you're playing against human opponents or taking on the computer. And when you do take up arms against the artificial intelligence, you'll find it just as tough as real-world opponents. "There are a lot of enemies on each of the maps, and they're working together against you," says Gary Stelmack, Ghost Recon's lead designer. "Just when you think you've got 'em pinned down, you'll get flanked." The A.I. also runs on random patrol patterns. One time, you might see five terrorists staking out a position after you've cleared a ridge, while the next time, there won't be a bogey in sight.
That same intelligent A.I. controlling the enemies is also put to good use for your own troops. Your computer-controlled teammates are smart enough to cover your six. When we stranded our squad in a clearing, they knew enough to drop to a crouch and await their next order.
Another key element is the ranking system that encourages you to complete the single-player campaign. Finish all the tasks, and you unlock 50 bonuses ranging from extra characters and weapons to new maps, game modes and cheats. You can then use them against other people online. "Your opponents will be able to see your unlocked weapons," says Stelmack, "but they won't have access to them. That's when they know who to watch out for on the battlefield."
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.
2008 A.D. Russia is under the control of a radical government whose main goal is the reunification of the former Soviet Union. They quickly swallow up the nearby regions, and are poised to invade further to the south and east. But, while the world collectively watches and waits, your job has already begun. You and your fellow Green Berets, sent to the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains, represent the new breed of warfare. Swift, silent, deadly, you are armed with the latest gear and ordnance. Your mission: quick surgical strikes into enemy territory, decisive victory, and all without the enemy even knowing you were there. You are known as 'The Ghosts,' and rightfully so.
Ghost Recon, the latest strategic action game from Ubi Soft and Morrisville, NC's own Red Storm Entertainment, continues in the grand tradition of realistic (as in 'one shot, you're dead'?) first-person shooters. You know that the people who brought you Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear have a great track record, and Ghost Recon looks to add yet another notch to the already highly raised bar.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Ghost Recon operates like most first person shooters, in that it is optimally played with a combination of keyboard and mouse. There are a lot more keys used than in some other FPS games, and it would be in your best interest to learn most or all of them. Fortunately, the tutorial section at the beginning of the game gives you a chance to test out all of the weapons and ordnance you will be able to use in the field, as well as practicing your movement. Anyone new to this type of FPS would be well served in spending some time practicing there.
The game is squad based, with small, three team insertion units controlled directly and indirectly by the player. There are fifteen separate missions to be completed, with several different squad members to choose from. Each scenario has a list of tasks to be completed, as well as a secondary, optional task. Completion of the secondary task unlocks a Specialist, a player with above average skills and abilities. These characters can help out missions immensely. Also, successful mission completions gain skill points for your units, which can be used to enhance weapons skill, leadership, and other important attributes.
The controls follow a different standard from the ones normally used in first person shooters. There are a series of keys that allow for binocular/scope use, crouching, laying prone, running, peeking around corners, and many others. And since you're controlling four different types of units (rifleman, support, demolitions, and sniper), you need to get comfortable with all of them. Remember, this isn't a game where you can 'tank,'? one shot usually kills your highly trained team member.
The 'heads up' display is reminiscent of most first-person shooters today, with some differences. You have a small radar display at the bottom center, which shows enemy locations and gunfire warnings, as well as letting you know when you are within a certain distance from any enemy. The sighting reticule is much the same as in Rainbow Six, as it changes with motion: the quicker you move, the larger the reticule becomes, hence the more inaccurate you become. Especially for snipers, conservation of movement is critical, both for accuracy and for stealth.
There are also keyboard commands to control squad movement as well. These can control everything from strict movement (point A to point B), to other specialized movement such as laying down covering fire, moving in at all costs, or other more complex commands. You can also change view from one squad leader to another, and control that squad from a first person perspective. Artificial Intelligence in the game tends to be better than in other FPS titles, although AI in most games tends to need a lot of work. When I missed a target, he would drop to a prone position and begin to spray the area with bullets, but some nearby units didn't react at all. While puzzling in some spots, it is a far cry better than some AI I've seen.
Obviously, Ghost Recon's squad-based tactics and gameplay lend themselves well to the multiplayer experience. Players can connect via LAN or can use Ubi.com's Game Service to find Internet matches. As Ghost Recon is currently a very popular game, there are plenty of people online (worldwide) with many different types of scenarios available to be played. Currently, my favorite games involve team-based raids against the computer, but there are also Last Man Standing scenarios (a free-for-all which can be single or multiple elimination) and many other variations upon these themes. Games can be designed for all player types, whether they be 'twitch' gamers or the more subtle variety, all can be served and find their niche.
At this point in the review, I was going to lambaste the Ubi.com Game Service for their buggy service as far as Ghost Recon was concerned. The two machines on which I installed and played Ghost Recon had general protection fault errors every time I attempted to play online using Game Service. A workaround on the host's website fixed the problem temporarily, but I found myself having to reboot several times anyway. Apparently, though, whatever was wrong with the service has been repaired, because as of today I have not had a single problem connecting and staying connected to the service.
The graphics are very good, though not exceptional by today's standards. I noticed some grainy textures in many of the local scenarios, including some unfinished looking textures in both the training scenario and other spots. I also noticed several places where textures did not overlap correctly in outdoor missions. With that small nitpick aside, the graphics still hold up well, with excellent skinning and model work, realistic human movement, and well designed and laid out levels. Character motion, both for teammates and NPC opponents, is fluid and realistic, closely matching real human movements. Also, the vehicles are faithfully represented, and can receive realistic battle damage.
Fantastic audio effects and, more importantly, one of the first games I've played where they were a necessity to play the game effectively. With a good sound system, you'll hear distance oriented effects like gunfire, nature effects like wind and rain, and other important sounds. Audio is extremely accurate in its representation and has been well rendered in the game. As befits a game where stealth is of the essence, every sound you hear gives you clues as to the location of teammates or enemies, as well as other important clues. Well done on this aspect as well.
PII 450, 128 MB RAM, 1GB HD space, 16MB 3D accelerated card, at least 4X CD-ROM. Believe me, you'll need every bit of the minimum requirements in order to play effectively.
The sixty-odd pages that ship with the game are not only complete in all aspects of gameplay, but an essential read as well. No complaints here. It also contains a listing of all of your controls and how they work, so be sure to take a look at this.
I was very skeptical before I received this title, considering how much hype this game received before publication. After several hours of play, I can honestly say the game meets, if not exceeds, all the expectations the hype engendered. Richly designed and well-balanced gameplay, adding new squad-based and tactical interfaces to an already complex style of play, Ghost Recon is the thinking man's shooter. With hours of single player fun, the game is only enhanced by the sheer amount of multiplayer enjoyment possible. There are a few things I would like to have seen in this game: the ability to jump and the ability to grab ammo from dead opponents. Vehicles, while prevalent, weren't available to be controlled, just destroyed. Those small things aside, I am pleased with this game. This title looks to be the most popular FPS this year and with good reason. It scores a high 90's and two thumbs up from me!
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.
Snapshots and Media
- Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force
- Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction
- Armed and Dangerous
- Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
- Brute Force
- Call of Duty: Big Red One
- Codename Tenka
- Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
- From Russia with Love
- Full Spectrum Warrior
- Quake II
- SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Fireteam Bravo 2
- TimeSplitters 2