Ghost Recon feels like you’re stepping into the body of an old, grizzly vet who refuses to retire because he still feels like he has it in him to keep pushing forward. When compared to other modern era FPS games, the game will feel outdated when you first pop-in the disc, but in actuality, it’s advanced the tactical shooter genre significantly.
You’re a member of a four man team that doesn’t weigh you down; in fact more than half the kills you’ll register will be credited to your squad mates. You don’t have to carry all the weight, because your team actually supports you. The interface has vastly improved, with text overlay and targeting marketing that feels like you’re equipped as a future soldier – exactly as it should be.
Anyone familiar with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six or previous Ghost Recon titles will feel right at home. This is a tactical game that rewards teamwork over kill counts.
GAMEPLAY – 9/10 “Ghost Recon continues to advance the tactical shooter genre.”
If you’re familiar with Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon, the gameplay will feel very familiar. The system has seen minor improvements that streamline aiming, movement and an extensive cover system. The integration of cover-to-cover by holding down one button makes firefights significantly more engaging, as bullets whip past you. You see a similar style in Gears of War, but Ghost Recon felt easier to maneuver during firefights.
When you first load up the game, the weapons available to you aren’t powerful, but they get the job done. Their accuracy, power and control are strong enough to make you feel like a member of an elite squad, but it also leaves room for improvement. As you progress through the campaign and unlock new weapons and attachments, the full force of an elite squad begins to unfold.
Nifty new gadgets tend to set shooters apart, and Ghost Recon is no exception. The use of sensor grenades to paint targets (literally paints them bright red) gives you a significant tactical advantage. The UAV is a pocket recon machine that you can keep tossing into the air every fight if you so choose. Essentially, this game makes you feel powerful. This allows for tactical decisions that are a healthy mix of split-second decisions and thought out tactics.
Another small feature worth noting is the ability to roll sideways while you’re prone, which has proven to be incredibly useful (Yes, essentially you’re doing a barrel roll. Laugh it up). You don’t see small features like that being introduced into modern shooters anymore, and it’s a fresh change of pace.
GRAPHICS – 7/10 “It’s not impressive, but it gets the job done.”
The graphics lack the impression of other titles, but they’re nice and they get the job done. At first glance, it feels like a touched up outdated shooter. Once you start moving through the game however, you begin to notice that the art style strongly envelops you into the experience as a whole.
The animations are also well developed, and compete with the movement and cover system that Battlefield 3 introduced. When you’re moving from cover to cover, or characters are making movements (crouched, prone, etc.) it feels natural and realistic, you don’t see blocky or choppy movements that stick out like sore thumbs.
AUDIO – 9/10 “Radio chatter engages you the entire game.”
As a member of an elite force, intel is vital to your survival and the success of the mission. Radio chatter doesn’t only serve the purpose of engaging the gamer into the environment, but also serves as a tool for your squad to keep you updated on the environment. They will report enemy positions, the weapons they’re carrying, and how many civilians are in the vicinity to avoid collateral damage. You’re receiving feedback on how to approach a task without the need for visual contact, and it’s well executed.
The music that plays in the background will keep your ears busy, and it’s used to cue certain situations as they come up. Most people won’t even notice it’s there, but that’s part of the charm. Where the radio chatter serves a purpose, the music is mostly just white noise.
CHOICE – 10/10 “Gunsmith: The most customization I’ve seen in a weapon in years.”
It’s rare for a shooter to present such extensive customization options for each weapon provided. When I mean customization I’m not referring to Borderlands where you have a gazillion guns at your disposal and feel overwhelmed. With Ghost Recon, customization means you have options: Optics, Paint, Trigger, Magazine, Underbarrel, Gas System, Side Rail, Barrel, Muzzle and Stock are all torn apart and open to customization. You’re given the chance to craft together the perfect gun for your play style (Although most unlocks come from leveling up or completing certain missions and challenges).
If you don’t feel like manually customizing your weapons, you can use optimized presets using the D-Pad, it opens up four options: Control, Range, Maneuverability, and Power. These presets will load up the gun pieces that maximize that play style and allow you to jump right into the action.
ONLINE PLAY – 7/10 “Work as a team, or die alone.”
The online play provides the same development you’d expect from other current-gen shooters. You gain XP as you progress, and this in turn unlocks new modifications, outfits, weapons, etc. You can customize everything ahead of time, or make minor adjustments on the fly as needed. The three classes you start with are the Rifleman, Scout and Engineer. Each class provides unique support options for your team as one would expect.
Tactical shooters generally tend to depend more on teamwork than other shooters, and Ghost Recon is no exception. The online gameplay relies heavily on teamwork, and rewards you as such. If you’re able to team up with a solid squad that works well together, you’re going to have a blast. Otherwise, you might find yourself growing increasingly frustrated at run-and-gun commandos that hurt your team’s score.
I did experience some trouble connecting to online games and finding an active community, but this only happened to me a handful of times, and is likely a poor representation of the overall online community. When you compare it to the millions that play call of duty daily however, it feels scattered and small.
STORY – 8/10 “Tom Clancy.”
Most people don’t play a shooter for its story; fortunately games with the Tom Clancy brand tend to be more engaging than others. While you won’t find the story of a lifetime here, the character development is strong (when you hear one of them start to sing… you’ll know what I mean) and that plays a huge role in whether or not a story is enjoyable.
You won’t find the best story here, but it’s pretty damn entertaining. It will feel like you’re engaged in an action flick with an elite squad, and if you think about it, there’s really nothing wrong with that.
OVERALL – 8/10 “It’s an improved Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon. Isn’t that enough?”
This is a solid tactical shooter, and if you’re tired of run-and-gun games that all seem to play alike with different names, then you’re in luck. Playing Ghost Recon reminded me of Rainbow Six and how much I enjoy tactical shooters such as these. It looks like they’re taking this franchise in a great direction to re-establish its place in the tactical shooter genre.
There’s a solid blend of tactics, stealth and combat to keep the average gamer entertained, and the campaign is exciting enough to make it worth playing (unlike other shooters). You’ll also find a hearty multiplayer that has great potential under ideal circumstances, just don’t expect to be able to run-and-gun and survive while racking up the kills. Ghost Recon rewards teamwork, and that’s how it was designed to be played.
Enjoy Rainbow Six? Enjoy Tactical shooters? Want an upgraded version of Ghost Recon that finally did futuristic spec ops right? Then you’re in luck. This game has you covered. If you’re looking for a run-and-gun Call of Duty-esque regurgitation then this isn’t the place for you.
Griffyth can be reached at Griffyth@live.com for comments, questions or hatemail.