Reviewed: December 30, 2002
Released: December 5, 2002
In the late 90’s Tom Clancy decided to bring his unique style of political and military intrigue and suspense to the gaming world and Red Storm Entertainment was born. In 1999 Rainbow Six debuted and the FPS genre got a whole lot more complicated. With the introduction of clever game devices like “one shot one kill”, no in-mission saving, and the ability to preplan your waypoints and command the actions of your team, gamers actually had to start using their brains in addition to their reflexes. Gone were the days of storming into a room with a chain gun and mowing down hordes of baddies.
As with any successful game franchise, the sequels were forthcoming, and we saw new games like Rogue Spear and lots of mission packs and add-ons. But perhaps the single biggest contribution of this series was the multiplayer aspects. Red Storm games were responsible for the birth of such concepts as Clans (or teams), and even in 1999 when luxuries like broadband was only available in your office, people were installing second phone lines to support their addiction to this new online frenzy.
With each new Red Storm game the series continues to evolve, adding more realism, newer weapons, updated tactics, and new and exciting locations. These games are inspired by the works of Tom Clancy as well as actual missions, then designed and tested for authenticity by actual military experts, some of which are actual members of the teams you are playing. With such attention to detail you can be sure that each Red Storm game is going to be as thrilling as the last.
Ghost Recon recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and what better way to celebrate than to port it out to all of the next-gen consoles. While this transition may have worked on the Xbox something went terribly wrong during the PS2 port. Just because a port is possible doesn't make it a good idea and this is one game that should have been left on the conceptual drawing board.
Everything that made Ghost Recon great on the PC and Xbox has been stripped away to make way for some streamlined action game that has lost the core principles of what the original game was all about; teamwork and strategy. Things start to go horribly awry from the beginning when you find you are restricted to 8 men divided into two teams rather than the three teams and 12 men of the PC and Xbox versions. While you might think that losing four men isn't a huge deal in reality it changes the entire way the game plays. Imagine an NBA sports game where you can only have 2 players per team.
Rumors run rampant on the newsgroups about the reason for the missing third team, the most popular of which is Ubisoft's position that console gamers are either incapable or unwilling to master the complicated interface required to control three teams simultaneously. What a slap in the face to PS2 gamers everywhere. If your game is so hard that we lowly PS2 gamers can't figure it out then perhaps you should simply not make it for the system instead of crippling it to the point where nobody wants to play it anyway.
The entire interface got a PS2 facelift, perhaps to make it more accessible for the mentally challenged. You now have a radar that gives away the exact location of enemy soliders and you can zoom with every weapon, even the ones without scopes. This takes what little challenge was left in the game and throws it out the window. You can pretty much walk around and scan the radar and snipe the enemy before they are even aware of your presence. In essence, what was once a great game of stealth, tactics, and intense combat has been reduced to nothing more than a standard FPS shooter dressed in combat fatiques.
The PS2 version of Ghost Recon excels in the visual department surpassing the Xbox in quality and rivaling the graphics of the PC version. The framerate is smooth, most likely due to the lower resolution and less detailed textures resulting from the port to the PS2. There are excellent weather effects such as rain, snow and fog, but unlike the Xbox the fog is used for ambiance and not to hide the limited draw distance.
The interface is clean and simple, perhaps a bit too simple, and the characters all look and move great with fluid and lifelike motions and excellent death animations. The flashy graphics combined with the toned down gameplay all combine to give this title an uninspired FPS feel.
The music in Ghost Recon is limited to the non-gameplay portions; mainly the opening and during mission briefings. Once the mission starts you are left with realistic silence and some incredible ambient sound effects that heighten the sense of tension. With only the sound of wind and the rustle of grass or the occasional trickling stream, when a gun fires or a twig snaps you will definitely sit up and take notice.
The surround mix does a great job of creating environmental enhancing effects such as echos and excellent rain effects, and the spatial mix is very useful for locating enemy positions by the sounds they make. The voice acting is standard stuff, better than most games but nothing that is going to win any awards.
The 15 single player missions will take you anywhere from 15-20 hours to finish depending on how good a soldier (and leader) you are and how often you save your game. The Desert Siege expansion has been included which breaths some additional life (8 missions) into the title, but with such weak gameplay you will have trouble finding motivation to play the original campaign let alone any of the extra stuff.
The biggest setback is the fact that there is no online support. Ghost Recon is all about online play in strategic team matches, so when you are reduced to a two-player split-screen game things deteriorate even further. The PS2 modem released prior to this title, so the lack of online play is inexcusable and unforgivable. With SOCOM competing in the same genre and offering a stellar online experience, Ghost Recon will quickly fade into budget bin history before most people realize it has even been released.
In some last ditch effort to give this game some added value the designers have included some substantial behind-the-scenes documentaries on the making of this game. To my knowledge this is the only place you can find these movies, but they are hardly worth the cost of the game, even for the most diehard Clancy fan. If you must watch them then rent the game like you would any other DVD.
Normally I don't see games get this butchered unless they try to go to the Game Boy Advance. What was once a proud and shining title has now been stripped of everything that made it great. Gone is the strategy, the difficulty, the intensity, and worst of all, the online component that keeps PC gamers playing even today. Ghost Recon is a great game on the PC and the Xbox, but the PS2 port in no way represents the true potential of this title. Avoid it at all costs.