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Review: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon

Reviewed By: Bill Stiteler

Review Date: February 24, 2003


Genre: Tactical first-person shooter
Format: CD
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Mac Publisher: Aspyr Media
System Requirements: 450MHz G3 processor, 128MB RAM (256MB if running Mac OS X), 1GB available hard disk space, ATI Rage 128 with 16 MB of VRAM or better video card
Network Feature: Yes
3D Support: Required
Retail Price: $49.95
Availability: Out Now
Rating: M for Mature (blood, gore, and violence)

As I've pointed out before, I think I may be the only Macintosh game reviewer who has actual military experience. But, until Tom Clancy makes a game about hanging around the Reserve Armory for a weekend listening to your sergeant tell the same boring stories and sexist jokes, I won't be able to give Tom the accolades for realism that others have seen fit to heap on him. If that was being all I could be, I'm leading a very sad existence.

Anyhoo, Clancy has a new game out by the name of Ghost Recon. Its amazing premise? We're fighting the Russians. The Russians! Something tells me that Tom, like all the old soldiers, longs for a day when we had the Russians to hate and we didn't have to worry about whether we were hurting the feelings of the people that were trying to kill us. So anyway, Russian nationalists have taken over the country, and are trying to rebuild the Soviet Unions. The U.S.'s response is the "Ghost" team, stealth specialists who work inside enemy territory, defusing hotspots before they explode. I suppose that would make them the avante garde of the Army, but that conjures images of a special Army Interpretive Dance Division, which would be a very different game indeed.

Ghost Recon, and the included Desert Seige expansion pack, are cast in the mold of Clancy's Rogue Spear game, but with one very important difference. In Spear, half of the game was analyzing intelligence data, preparing your team, and then laboriously plotting your plan on the mission map to achieve your goal. In GR, the preplanning is abandoned for directing your teams on-the-fly in the field. Holding down the shift key brings up your command map, with a very simple interface for directing your squads, as well as what attitude to take (defense, aggressive, etc.) while on the way.

Your team is given several primary and one secondary objectives to achieve in each mission. While solving each of the primaries is necessary to finishing the level, accomplishing the secondary is necessary to unlock specialists for later levels, who bring skill levels and unique abilities and firepower to your team. My question is, what were these jerks doing before the mission? What, was the Ghost Recon team not good enough for them before I managed to capture the terrorist leader after wiping out his camp?

The artificial intelligence (AI) of your squads is pretty good, but not perfect. There are times when they'll accomplish their goals perfectly, and others when they will literally run screaming towards the enemy shouting, "Shoot me! Shoot me!" Well, okay, not "literally," but you watch some of the crap they pull and tell me they don't have a death wish. Fortunately, in addition to commanding them on the fly, you can also take command of any team with a simple keystroke.

The AI of the enemy, however, is the best I've ever seen in a shooter. There's still the occasional glitch where you nail an opponent, and his friend standing right next to him doesn't react, but for the most part your foes are very clever, using terrain to their advantage, and sneaking up on you before opening fire. Add to this the fact that a single bullet can kill you, and Ghost Recon becomes a game where you have to be aware of your entire environment. Unlike Rogue Spear, which took place mostly inside buildings with narrow hallways and doors, Ghost Recon features many outdoor scenarios. This gives the enemy a lot of terrain into which they can blend, and they will. The graphics are good--they'd better be with the video requirements this game has--but the enemy is often in a situation where they're waiting for you to show up. The first group you run into, in fact, has a dug-in machine gun emplacement that's practically invisible until you know where to look for it. And unlike the counter-terrorist Rouge Spear, you don't get any idea of where the enemy will be until you spot them. Or they start shooting you. Usually the latter.

All of this adds up to make Ghost Recon a more hectic, you-are-there experience than Rogue Spear. It also makes the game a heck of a lot harder, and Spear was no easy game to begin with. With Spear it was a matter of revising your plan, but with Ghost Recon, enemies have a somewhat random placement, which means that if you get wiped out on the first try, there's no guarantee you'll be able to use your experience the next time. Ghost Recon is a "hobby game," one that you have to spend a lot of time with to master, especially if you plan to take it online to play against other humans. Still, with its simple yet deep user interface and relatively new way of looking at and using squad-level combat, it's well worth the time of those willing to invest in it.

Now if they could only develop a game based on the Army Reserves. I ask them only to remember the Genesee Cream Ale in the Dr. Pepper machine.


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