So, here we go. Ghost Recon is, honestly, one of the best first person shooters ever made, and this comes from a person who's played a lot of FPS games. Actually, I've played a lot of pretty much every kind of game, so...yeah. Just realize that I'm not completely clueless about the genre. So, what makes Ghost Recon so good? Well, it's got great visuals, tight, responsive, and easily adjustable controls, a decent AI (for a Tom Clancy game), overall awesome gameplay, and a classic Tom Clancy U.S. vs. the Soviets story (though this is hardly the focus of the game).
I'll start by following my usual formula and begin with the gameplay. You move around in a sandbox map, see enemies, and shoot them. There, that was easy, wasn't it? But no, in all seriousness, Ghost Recon has some amazing gameplay. If you've ever played a Tom Clancy game before (at least, a good one), then you're probably aware that, in essence, every gun is the golden gun from Goldeneye. Both you and your enemies may as well be wearing tissue paper, at least if you're using rifles. One shot, or rather, one hit, from almost any gun, is usually enough to kill anyone.
|Yeah, I think we all saw you coming|
If you're wondering how this could possibly be fun in a video game, the answer to that really lies in the AI, the visuals, and your own personal tolerance for frustration. Before I go on, that's something I should point out. These games (Ghost Recon and Rianbow Six) are often called the "thinking man's shooter," in part because they usually require more than just reflexes, but also because the "thinking man" is assumed to have more patience and a higher threshold before snapping and throwing their computer out the window then, say, "the raging buff jock man." I really want to make this clear, so I'll say again in yet another way: This is not a "run-and-gun" FPS. Which is not to say you can't play it like one (success rates vary), but it's not intended to be. This is a "scan the horizon, identify your targets, stealthily make your way to the position of your attack, then systematically wipe out all your enemies with a well executed plan" FPS. You know, that subgenre. So, with all this said, on to the gameplay (for real this time).
|Can you see the Russians? They can see you.|
|With patience and practice, you too can get the ever sought after "one-shot, four-kills."|
|Team selection screen|
The last thing I'm going to talk about with the gameplay is actually the gameplay as a whole. Now, I've been talking about how this is a cautious, almost strategic shooter, but what does all of this mean? Well, Ghost Recon is, undeniably, an exciting game. When you hear the bullets flying by, you know that you're only a few seconds away from death if you don't pull back or find the enemy immediately. But, more than that, Ghost Recon is a tense game. I like to joke and say that Ghost Recon is kind of like a horror game; it feels like death is waiting for you around every corner, and most of the time that's actually true. The big draw of this game isn't its action and excitement (though, as I mentioned, it does have those elements), it's the tension of the game. As you sneak up behind the enemy encampment, fully aware that you may have missed one patrolling enemy who could shoot you in the back at any second, that feeling you have is tension. If you were to take a stealth game and combine it with a horror game, the feeling you'd get from playing that game would be somewhat akin to this game. The result is fantastic. I don't even really like horror games, and I love this game. Anyways, that's it for gameplay, so now we just have visuals, sound, and game content.
|You have to admit; pretty darn good for 2001|
|On a side note, the weapon models in the game are really pretty nice|
The next thing is the sound. This'll be quick. There is little music in the game, all of it in the menus. It's not particularly good or bad, though after a while it gets old (in which case you can just turn your speakers down). Really, the music plays such a tiny part in the game that it is barely even worth mentioning. The sound effects are a different matter, though most of them are strictly practical. You can tell how close to you a bullet hit from how loud the sound was, you can how quietly you're moving (which has a direct impact on how easily enemies notice you) from how loud your footsteps are, and you can even tell whether you're at the limit of your endurance by how heavily you're breathing (endurance doesn't have a huge effect on gameplay, but it's still pretty cool). That's really it for sound. There's some voice acting, which is neither drop dead awful nor...drop dead amazing, but it's decent. It doesn't come up that much, mostly just brief confirmations of when you or a teammate kill an enemy. Honestly, while the sound effects are nice, the sound plays such a small role in the game as a whole that I'm not even going to rate it.
And finally, we get to talk about the multiplayer. There are a number of options available for multiplayer: you can play over LAN or over the internet. There are multiple game modes, including standard deathmatch scenarios and also a few others. The game supports up to 32 players (8 soldiers on 4 teams), though I've only had the chance to play it with 4 (and I wouldn't suggest doing a deathmatch with anything below that number). That said, the co-op multiplayer has to be the best thing about it, and it could even be debated that it's the best thing about the game. Co-op, to the best of my understanding, can be played with up to 8 players (one team), and, quite frankly, it's awesome. As I said, I've only had the chance to play this with 3 other people before, but it was immensely fun (and yes, I do love LAN parties). Me, my brother, and 2 of my cousins all played it in the living room one night, and I remember it as one of the best multiplayer experiences I've ever had. It's still a little hard for me to pinpoint the exact reason for it being so fun. Maybe it was the ability to coordinate attacks on groups of enemies from all sides. Maybe it was the ease of mind of clearing out a building with the help of a friend. Like I said, I can't really say what it was, exactly. The bottom line, though, is that if you've got a friend (three or more players are preferable, but you can do it with two) and a couple of computers, this is probably the best you can do for a co-op multiplayer FPS.
Now, this game is not without its little irks. For example, there are 4 unit types: Rifleman, Support, Sniper, and Demolition. There is little difference between the soldiers themselves (except for how they look), but each class can choose between 4 weapon kits. Every kit is a mirror of the other class's; you get a primary weapon, and then grenades, a sidearm, extra ammo, or a support device (claymores, sensors, etc.). There are also specialist units you can unlock, and each of them has their own special weapon. Sounds pretty standard, right? What, then, is the irk? Well, the complaint I have with it is that you can't just pick your weapons freely. What if I want to use a machine gun and a non-silenced pistol (because they do more damage)? Why should having a grenade launcher stop me from taking a sidearm? There is already a considerable amount of freedom in weapon selection, so this is not so much a "problem" as it is just a complaint. Another very similar complaint is that you can't pick up enemy's weapons. Considering that when you run out of ammo you can't get any more, and also considering that your sniper may have gotten picked off in that last clearing and now you need someone to scan that clump of trees there, such a feature would have been much appreciated. This, again, is not a problem, but a complaint. I think I've only ever run totally out of ammo with a gun once in all the times I've played the game, and also considering that the sniper's death could probably have been avoided by simply moving him around the clearing. Still, it just would have been nice to see it in the game. In the same vein of complaint, you also cannot customize your appearance. Even just being able to change your face camouflage (there are a few variations, so soldiers don't look like clones) would have been a nice little feature. And lastly, the game could use a map maker/random map generator. While I am pretty sure that there is downloadable fan made content (if you know of any good sites, post a comment and let me know), unfortunately there are just 16 maps that come with the base game, and these are the same maps as the missions. This is probably the only thing about the game that is an actual "problem." Between multiplayer, single player campaigns, single player quick missions, and the firefight and recon options, each map has a lot of replay value. But the fact remains that there are still only 16 of them. There are two expansions for this game, neither of which I have, and I get the feeling that if I had them, any replayability issues would be over. Like I said, they pack an astonishing amount of replay value into each map, so if I had even just 16 more, I'd probably never get bored of them.
Overall: Ghost Recon is one of the best first person shooters I have ever had the pleasure of playing. It's fun, it's tense, it's got great gameplay, it's got a nice realism to it, it's got a great multiplayer, and it even looks nice.
Gameplay: 9/10 The gameplay in Ghost Recon is exceptional. The AI is balanced, the maps are fun to fight on, the controls are great, and the action is nerve-wracking. While the ease of death (I say that like it's such a passive thing. I'm sorry, I meant "While the mass-slaughtering...") of both the player and the enemies (mostly the player) may ward some off from this gaming gem, I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to try something different from the wild "run around and shoot whatever moves" FPS games that are so common today.
Visuals: 7/10 Like I said before, this game is not the most striking, visually. Still, it by no means looks bad. It's a 6/10 if you add the fact that nothing really gets in the way of playing the game, and a 7/10 if you add the great experience camouflage adds onto that.
Sound: --/-- As I said, sound plays such a tiny role in this game that I can't really rate it. The sound effects are nice, though, and do sometimes add to the tension.
Game Content: 9/10 Even with only 16 maps, this game has plenty of content. Between the single player campaign, the quick mission option that lets you to a basic team deathmatch with bots, an awesome co-op experience, and 3 difficulty levels for each, you won't be bored of this game for a long time.
Game Rating: 8/10 Ghost Recon is a great game. If you consider yourself a fan of first person shooters, you should try it. If you consider yourself a fan of tactical games, you should try it. If you consider yourself a fan of video games in general, you should try it. Really, if you can get past the difficulty, one of the richest FPS experiences available waits for you. With a great single player, a great co-op, and a lot of death in between (both yours and the enemy's), I highly recommend this title.
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