Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Review
Ghost Recon’s shooting gallery action is shallow and repetitive, but it still manages to provide some entertainment.
- Moving and shooting create a satisfying rhythm
- Wii Zapper controls are great.
- Shallow shooting action
- Enemies are either dumb or annoying
- Friendly AI is limited.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon may be a recognizable name in the world of video games, but you shouldn’t judge this book by its cover. The story of international conflict is a pale shadow of the eponymous author’s work, and the intense, gadget-fueled tactical combat featured in previous Ghost Recon games is nowhere to be found. This is a cooperative on-rails shooter. You move through the streets of Moscow, with an AI or human companion, but the only freedom of movement you have is the choice of when to move to a new cover position. Your weapons aren’t terribly exciting, and most of your enemies seem to yearn for the sweet release of death. Ghost Recon is shallow and repetitive, though there is a good amount of fun to be had here. Moving from cover to cover and shooting hundreds of soldiers has a pleasing rhythm, and your enemies and weapons provide enough variety to help keep things from getting stale. It may not be much more than a military-themed shooting gallery, but Ghost Recon provides a good amount of light entertainment.
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The reason you have to go to Russia and shoot a lot of bad guys is revolution. A rogue leader and his cranky band of ultranationalist soldiers are stirring the pot, and you have to help calm things down. There are a few cutscenes and a lot of mission briefings. The former aren’t good enough to make you feel you’ve been rewarded for beating a level. The latter–like when your commanding officer tells you to “keep it on the down low” during a stealth mission–make it clear that this isn’t exactly a taut international thriller.
You play as a two-man unit, either cooperatively with a local friend (there is no online play) or with an AI buddy. Most of the time, you are both stacked up behind cover, peeking out to shoot enemies and ducking back to avoid getting blown up or shot. You progress through the levels by pointing at bright chevrons that mark cover points and pressing a button to relocate. You can shake the remote to scurry and slide into cover or hold the aim button to walk slowly and shoot. Though you move independently of your partner, you can never move more than one cover point past his position. Usually, it’s a good idea to eliminate all the enemies you can see before moving, but sometimes, it’s worth the risk to gain a better angle or to live a little bit dangerously. It can be fairly repetitive, but it’s also possible to find some simple satisfaction in the rhythm of clearing enemies, advancing, clearing more enemies, and advancing further.
Vanquishing your foes individually is not very difficult; even if you don’t land a headshot, a couple of bullets to any part of the body should do the trick. They do shoot back, however, and if you get caught out when they are shooting, you take damage. You can heal, provided you haven’t run out of health power-ups, but if you take too much damage, you’ll be bumped back to the last checkpoint. As you progress, you encounter more evasive and trigger-happy enemies, including some powerful and pesky specialists. Enemies with rocket launchers or riot shields are dangerous but relatively easy to deal with; the engineers are a different story. These jerks hide behind cover almost all the time and send little remote-controlled cars strapped with explosives toward your position. The cars are easy to destroy, but they keep coming like clockwork until you manage to kill the engineer. If one slips through while you’re trying to clean up other enemies, you take a big health hit–in addition to feeling pretty annoyed. You can mitigate this frustration by shooting the cars when they are near your enemies and watching the explosion cause collateral damage.
There are also vehicles to contend with, like helicopters and heavily armed drones, but as long as you stay in cover when their attacks hit, you’re safe. The only thing cover does not protect you against are enemy tanks, so you have to be quick with the Zeus (a target-seeking rocket launcher) when they appear. Tank encounters are more intense than most; the Zeus has to be aimed at a target for three long seconds before it can fire. During this time, you are vulnerable, and getting shot resets the targeting sequence. It’s best to take out as many enemies as you can before taking on the tank, but you only have a limited time before the tank wheels around and blasts you to smithereens. The friendly AI generally does a good job of killing enemies throughout the game, not just picking off nearby enemies but also using long-range weaponry and grenades to good effect. However, though it plays a reasonable support role, you can’t always count on it to protect you during tank encounters. And though you have the option to let the AI wield the Zeus, it’s not consistent enough to handle the responsibility. These sections highlight the shallowness of the otherwise decent AI, but fortunately, they are fairly rare. You can also use a time-slowing power-up to help you gain an edge in these situations or in any encounter when there are a lot of bad guys.
Though you shoot more vehicles than you operate, there are true on-rails sequences when you man a helicopter-mounted minigun or take control of a mobile drone’s weapons. These sections are massacres in which you seemingly kill entire battalions during the course of a few minutes, and the unabashed slaughter offers a nice change of pace from the more methodical cover-based action. The campaign lasts for more than a few hours, depending on the difficulty level you choose, and as you progress, you unlock levels for play in Arcade mode. In Arcade mode, you play through excerpts from campaign levels and are scored for your performance. Shooting and killing enemies earns you points, and chaining together kills without taking damage increases your point multiplier. You can play competitively against a friend or the AI to see who can post the highest score, or you can play cooperatively to combine your efforts. It’s fun to try to outgun a buddy, and the online leaderboards offer targets for those who enjoy competition.
Ghost Recon isn’t a pretty game, but the main characters are animated well and the visuals are sharp enough for you to see and shoot enemies’ heads that are peeking out from behind cover. There is no blood or gore (enemies disappear soon after they are killed), and grenade explosions add a strange bit of levity to proceedings as they often send enemies flying 40 feet into the air. Despite the small freedom of movement, the whole game feels like a familiar on-rails shooter, from the predictable enemy movements to the fact that the Wii Zapper is actually the best way to play the game (though the Remote and Nunchuk also work well). Though the action isn’t terribly engaging, it manages to provide a good amount of solid, if shallow, entertainment. It may have little in common with previous games in the franchise, but Ghost Recon is a fine way to have some fun pointing and shooting.