by James Sterrett
Article Type: Review
Article Date: October 28, 2002
Product Name: Ghost Recon
Category: FPS Tactical Shooter
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: Released
Min. Spec: Click Here
Files & Links: Click Here
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Island Thunder puts us in 2009. Castro is gone from Cuba and democratic elections are underway, but a shady party is engaging in terrorist activity to try to shut them down. Who you gonna call? Ghost Recon! Island Thunder puts the Ghosts through a series of eight new missions which cover the process of shutting down the insurrection in a neat and tidy manner. If only it were so simple in real life!
|One ordinary field, with bullets. |
Any worries you may have about the quality of Island Thunder can be put aside: it’s a great mission pack. The eight missions cover widely varying settings, from plantations and forests to beaches and towns. All of the maps are carefully built, look wonderful, and actively entice you to explore their nooks and crannies. The missions themselves vary from assaults to defences to hostage rescues, and in one notable case produce a confusing and entertaining mix of simultaneous attack and defence. In terms of quality, there’s nothing to complain about. Island Thunder lives up to Red Storm’s usual high standard.
|Hit the beach! |
Complementing the missions are in-game intros and outros for each mission depicting your team inserting and extracting via helicopter or rubber boat. While the concept sounds cheesy, careful choices of cuts and camera angles ensure that these are, in fact, choice bits of eye candy that do a good job of setting the mood.
|A helicopter insertion. |
As in other games in the series, you can earn specialists for completing bonus objectives. Two are noteworthy and new: a soldier on exchange from Germany who carries the MM-1 grenade launcher, an excellent weapon for medium-range explosions despite its disappointing rate of fire. The other packs a silenced M-4 with a tight zoom, making it a great tool for silent, long-range kills.
|Anybody home? |
Three of the others are familiar, packing the MP-5SD, OICW, and M-16/203, while the sixth carries the new SD-25 sniping rifle. The sniper would be more useful if the visible range of the maps were greater. As matters stand, you’re usually better off with an assault weapon or the silenced M-4. However, you’re likely to wind up relying heavily on these specialists. While you can assign five skill points to every soldier you start the game with, the specialist’s skills are significantly higher than those of your initial crew.
|Time for some shopping. |
Those thirsting for new multiplayer maps won’t be disappointed with the five new maps. Notable among them are a small but pretty tourist island with moving sailboats and flocks of birds, and a “hunting lodge” map with several small islands and a dam. Other maps include an island covered in small paths through sugar cane with a sniper’s hilltop in the center and an urban marketplace whose many lines of fire should keep it as brutal as Desert Siege’s Art Gallery.
|The Hunter's Camp MP Map |
In addition, Island Thunder packs in two new multiplayer modes: Behemoth and Cat and Mouse. In both, the first player to score a kill becomes the special player: either the behemoth or the mouse. Also in both modes, the special player scores points for being the special player and for getting kills, while other players lose points for kills of players other than the special player. However, in Cat and Mouse, the mouse gains no additional advantages, while in Behemoth, the behemoth gains strength with every kill. Those of you out to prove your mastery of l33t ski11z in deathmatch should find these thoroughly entertaining.
|Sneaking through the forest. |
The fly in the ointment is the short duration of the new installment. While the eight new missions are well designed and reasonably difficult, it nonetheless took your intrepid reviewer less than six happy hours to play through them. Eight missions fits the Red Storm formula, in which the main game has fifteen missions and the expansions have eight. As before, this formula feels like they’ve figured out how to position the expansion right on the borderline of being too little bang for your buck. It’s true that any developer faces a situation of “cheap, lots, good: choose two”, but the Ghost Recon series seems to have balanced hard away from “lots” without being exceptionally “cheap”. The result is certainly very good, but the quantity may feel thin for your buck.
|The boats and birds move on this map. |
- CPU: 1666MHz Athlon
- RAM: 256MB
- Video: GeForce3 Ti 200
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