STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (Xbox)

Saturday, November 20, 2004.
by SilverOak

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Box art This game brings back a flood of memories.

Memories of endless games of Army as kids with my brother and our friends in the woods near our home. Armed with sticks fashioned to resemble rifles, and a good amount of imagination, we would group ourselves into teams and try to sneak up on our opponents in order for the decisive kill. Shouting and yelling who we had shot and who in our opinion was ?dead?.

Memories of countless nights playing Ghost Recon and Ghost Recon:Island Thunder until the early hours of the morning. Once again teaming with friends to defeat our similarly minded counterparts, and once again yelling and laughing at those who we had shot and beaten down.

It?s time to make new memories?.the Ghosts are back!

When I first got a peek at Ghost Recon 2 during the Houston preview, it was a semi-rushed experience more consumed by note taking and jockeying for Controller Control from wild eyed teens excited as I was to be able to play.

With five to six hours of multiplayer under my belt and a couple of the single player campaign maps completed, I am even more excited that this game is finally out and ready to play.

Exactly as Ghost Recon and Ghost Recon:Island Thunder both play, the gaming is divided between your Single Player (SP) and Multiplayer (MP). The SP mode has six different game types to choose from in, Campaign, Firefight, Recon, Mission, Lone Wolf, and Defend.

Lone Wolf is the neat new game mode that has fans of the GR series excited. Your character is alone in the mission you select, but this time around he has a new toy for his new North Korean friends. The weapon is known as the XM29 and it is one bad boy.

Based on a real life developmental combat rifle, the XM29 is outfitted with both M16 rounds and a grenade launcher, and to help the warrior of tomorrow even more, a gun camera and the ability to have your grenades ?airburst? over the enemy with devastating effect.

The camera is activated by pressing the Black button. Depress your right thumb stick and you?re viewing the camera. Using your D-pad, you can hold the rifle either around a corner or above your cover without exposing yourself to gunfire. Airbursts from the grenade launcher can be accomplished easily by using your rangefinder, tapping the Y button to lock the distance in, and moving the reticule above the cover your enemy is hidden behind. Congratulations, you?ve just become a one man army! Pressing the Black button again deactivates the camera mode and returns you to normal mode.

As an example of the rifles effectiveness, after playing the map ?Airfield? in Campaign mode, I changed into the Lone Wolf mode and played the same exact level without my squad as support in half the time. Because of its combat power, Lone Wolf can be deactivated by the Host in MP games as an option in the menu screen. However, it should make for some very interesting games of teams of players going up against one or two gung ho Ghosts.

The deep Campaign Mode consists of 15 missions set in the grim scenery of 2011 North Korea. In a very unique way of seeing what has to be done before you actually do the work, each mission is started with a sort of historical ?after the fact? mode by a television host on ?Modern Heroes?. You are shown video interviews from the battles combatants and then inserted into the mission itself in the role of Captain Sam Mitchell. Switching between members of the squad is no longer possible and really is not needed with the addition of voice commands over the Xbox communicator, and D-pad toggling that can be used for silent hand signaling. Allowances to select the squad?s weapons are what we were granted and that?s all I really need.

Your squad of Ghosts is made of four members including yourself. I found the verbal commands much easier to use and surprisingly easy for the team to act on. After coming upon a bridge support that needed to be detonated, I simply rested my reticule on the support, spoke ?place demo charge?, and the team went to work while I covered them with suppressing fire. Commands such as ?flank left/right?, ?regroup?, ?hold?, ?suppress?, and the all important ?medic? can be given to the team as well.

Upon beginning my Campaign I immediately noticed the difference at which events were happening. No plodding action with this game, the action is quick and so is the AI, yet you still must move at a measured pace against foes who are smarter and outnumber you. You?ll have limited success in trying to run and gun the enemy, instead, your greater success will come by being cautious. If you do find yourself in a tight situation on the ground, Ubisoft has granted us the power to call in an airstrike on tougher targets. Bringing down an immense bridge span and seeing soldiers come down with the bridge has to be experienced to be properly appreciated.

When setting up your game profile, one choice you?ll be given is the point of view you?ll like to see the action from. A third person ?over the shoulder? view and the standard first person view are your options although after seeing the action through your third person view, it will probably be your selection as it offers the best view around corners and over objects when lying prone. Either way, you can change views during the game as well if you find a particular situation calls for a better view.

Jumping from playing Halo 2 online to Ghost Recon 2 online, I knew what I was getting into and that it would be like cold water to hot water, but just how good it would be still came as a shock. My first game was squad elimination. We crept slowly as none knew anything about the map so it was deathly quiet. Flipping on my night vision by tapping the X button, I was able to see clearly without the fluorescent green color that some games have with their NVG?s. With the size of the maps, you simply cannot go running about madly as you don?t have much of an idea where the enemy could be coming from. Shots fired into a body result in real and quick damage and not so much dancing around. Checking our maps by pulling the left trigger button we were able to let our teammates know our location by grid locations labeled on the map. A great help and a novel idea to coordinate attacks and defenses.

I discovered there are quite a variety of MP games to choose from in the online menu. Co-op with you and up to three friends can help to defeat smart AI in different scenarios such as Mission, Defend, or Firefight. Solo pairs you against every other player in the game in a free for all.

Squad games are what most people enjoy and there are lots of game modes to choose from. Domination, Hamburger Hill, Siege, Sharpshooter, Last Man Standing, and Search and Rescue. All of these modes were in the previous GR series and have not been tweaked or changed drastically since then. What I did notice was the lack of information on the running tally of who had shot whom that you really need in team based games. Without that info, teammates are forced to rely on communicating even more on who they have killed. Surely Ubisoft will remedy that omission quickly.

After you log into your Live account, you have the option of Quickmatch, Create Match, or Optimatch. If you choose to create a match, as Host, you have all the tools and options at your disposal in order to set the game up exactly as you and your room of players wants. Just find the rule that you want to edit, hit the X button and make your changes without having to change rooms for different game types?it?s all on the fly!

I counted sixteen maps available on the MP game modes, although as I understand it, there are even more maps available in the SP mode. That?s a heck of a lot of maps and game types that combined will and should keep players busy.

Respawns are no longer even an option in the Siege mode, but are enabled in all the other MP game types. In the previous GR series, the Host could modify the spawn number more detailed, but this time around you either have them or you don?t. Spawning period shouldn?t be a problem with the option of respawning at three points in your teams controlled area. Campers of spawn areas will certainly have to work harder at their evil craft to beat this huge improvement!

When I first fired up the game at home, I was immediately struck by the beautiful attention paid to detail in the maps. It was as close to watching a movie on your TV as I have ever seen a video game come close to. When the wind picks up, trees sway in the wind. Rain falls and makes splashes on the ground. When you?re shot at, bullets hitting the ground around you kick up dirt. Simply put, Ubisoft outdid themselves in their graphic efforts. HDTV 480p support is not offered by the game, but not playing on an HDTV myself, I still found the picture to still be remarkable. Glancing over at teammates you see each piece of their issued equipment hanging on their body and then moving in relation to their movement, and if in third person view, watching yourself reach around your body to find an ammo clip and reload your weapon is super realistic.

On one map I found myself in a rocky area that bordered on a woody treeline. Walking about on the bare rocks I headed for the woods and relative safety of shade. The trees had shed their laves on the ground and like many of our lawns, leaves were thick on the ground in a colorful carpet. So struck by the change in the detailed ground environment, I failed to see the nearby enemy who quickly shot me down.

Besides a hail of bullets in that treeline, what also struck me immediately was the sound of the game. For those of us who have never been in combat before, I can only guess that this must be what it sounds like. Bullets flying by, mortars and artillery blowing up near and far, the voices of your squad letting you know the state of things as they see it?in typical grunt humor. While running, you can hear the fabric of your uniform and the clanging of your equipment. Rain is heard splattering on your uniform and streams actually gurgle as they pass by. I had my cheap surround sound system turned on so I can just imagine what those of you who have the nicer audio setups will hear. Digital Dolby is supported by the game resulting in an awesome experience to someone wanting to immerse themselves into the game.

The menu interface for all players in MP is already receiving a lot of criticism for its problems. No speaking icon next to the persons name in the lobby, and no notification when someone comes into the game after it has started. At the top of the list of concerns?it seems that when scrolling down on your list, before getting too far down, your selector bar pops back up to the top of your list. Additionally, a folk are complaining that logging into and out of a game is balky and difficult. Ubisoft is aware of these issues and will be making a patch available as they have done in previous releases. Hopefully sooner than later.

I am admittedly biased in favor of the Ghost Recon series so this was a real thrill when this game was released and after playing the past few days I am even more happy with this latest release. They do have some patchwork to do as far as menu interface and Lobby environment go, but as a friend remarked to me recently, ?we don?t buy games for their interface, we buy them for their gameplay?, and gameplay is where Ubisoft?s talents have shined brightest.

Do yourself a favor, place this game on your Christmas ?wish list? and maybe St. Nick will make you smile on Christmas morning with your copy of Ghost Recon 2.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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