Ã¢â‚¬ËœDelta Three-One, this is Ghost Leader, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a go, hit Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem now!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ the opening cinematic rolls in on smooth, squeak-free wheels. Suddenly the music thunders, peaking in heavy rock staccatos. The quiet jungle-air is pierced by chopper blades and confused gunfire. Intrepid camo-cloaked marines run coolly in the shadows parallel to the chaos breaking out on the road, their mission objective within their sights. It is just another day for Ghost Team inside enemy territory, doing what they do best.
TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re back. Fans of the first Ghost Recon, in particular the Xbox port, will be delighted to know that everything they loved about the first has been fixed, expanded and adrenaline-soaked in this sequel. Likewise, Ghost Recon sceptics will shortly discover that developer Red Storm has solved many of the originalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest problems, and delivered the experience that may have seemed only promised in itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s predecessor. In short, Ghost Team now do what they do best - even better.
For the uninitiated, Ghost Recon 2 plays slow and tactical, using a combination of third and first person views to simulate your commanding role of elite special-ops team, Ghost. Those arriving fresh from Halo 2 may need to adapt to this slower pace, and at first this style might seem off-putting. Military realism is the winner of the day here, so donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect to pull off Rambo-style FPS bravado. A theme consistently evident throughout the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s presentation, from the documentary-style pre-mission clips (that explain the story and the mission you are about to embark upon) to the few shots needed to bring your body to its knees. Everything has been done to make you feel like a living-breathing Marine working in hostile terrain. And if you are not accustomed to this sort of realism it may take you a few missions to find your groove and really appreciate what the game has to offer.
Those who do stick around long enough are in for a treat though. The satisfaction of ordering your teammates to blast an enemy chopper out of the sky or man a machine-gun turret to mow down foes with ruthless efficiency is something that only GR2 players will properly understand. And this sort of rewarding tactical gameplay is in no small part due to the admirable controls. Pointing and tapping the Y-button will order your compadres to pull off a context sensitive command, which depending on the object in question can range from everything to advancing, protecting a team member, healing a wounded team member, attacking an enemy vehicle to planting a demo charge. Holding the Y-button will also offer a different range of commands, which includes flanking left or right, halting, or suppressing fire. The scheme is further aided with the use of the white button to regroup your team. It makes for a practical system that has been improved remarkably in user-friendliness over Ghost Recon.
The single player campaign mode spans roughly 10-15 hours to complete, varying on player skill level. The story is pure Clancy-esque, the sort of covert laced terrorist-party-crashÃ¢â‚¬â„¢nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢bash weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all come to expect in Tom Clancy games. Unfortunately, despite being presented in an attractive documentary-style send up, this romp through North Korea isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite as interesting as other Clancy brand work. However, the gameplay is still the main draw here and if you enjoy Ghost ReconÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brand of squad based strategy, then this will be insignificant, you are still in for a blast. Missions tend to be well varied and offer increasingly interesting terrain to crawl through, although occasionally hampered slightly by trial-and-error tactics. For instance, you might die a few times in the same spot before figuring out enemy positions on your next replay. While this might subtract somewhat from the realism, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spoil the fun, carefully taking down enemies and negating obstacles is still the main source of enjoyment. The squad and enemy AI in place is fairly unexciting, although completely workable. While fellow allies have a bad knack for walking into your own stray bullets they are for the most part very capable of looking after themselves, likewise enemy soldiers prove to be unpredictable and make for satisfying targets.
Of course if the incomprehensible screams of wounded North Korean AI doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get your blood boiling then you could always trade them in for human-brand swearing and trash talking over Xbox Live. At the moment, Ghost Recon 2 is certainly one of the better Live titles, supporting an eye-widening amount of multiplayer modes, guest players and support for up to 16 players in a match. In addition to solo and squad play, you can also play the main campaign mode in co-op online (you can play co-op normally in split screen too), a well-appreciated addition. Most people will agree that Ghost Recon 2 does play at itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best online, it was the primary draw for the original and now with Ghost Recon 2Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s improved mechanics and graphics, its blend of strategic teamwork definitely works wonders online again.
Although the network code isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t nearly as solid as Halo 2 at this point; the friends list hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been well integrated, glitches are still a little too common Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ Ubisoft will hopefully release a downloadable patch to fix a lot of these faults. In short, Ghost Recon 2 plays excellent online just as the series always has, and with a little luck it will be even better by the time you buy it, or not long after that.
But whether you are trashing Americans over Xbox Live or popping North Korean heads in single player mode there is little doubt Ghost Recon 2 makes the action some of the prettiest on Xbox. Actually Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ Ã¢â‚¬Ëœpopping headsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ might be the wrong term to use, considering the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s censor-friendly lack of blood, but this will hardly matter once you see what else the game has to offer. GR2 has captured the overgrown beauty of its forested North Korean locales perfectly; individual tree leaves and blades of grass all make up just some of the meticulous environmental detail. Cautiously wading through slow-surging rivers feels positively photo realistic. Enemy foes succumb to rag doll physics and all manage to crumple to the ground in a realistic manner. Although generally an eye-pleaser, the game falters with an occasionally sluggish frame rate, beginning the first mission just outside of the airfield in campaign mode feels notably slow and almost choppy, fortunately it usually picks itself up and these instances rarely effect the action.
But if the graphics are what set the scene for Ghost Recon 2, then the atmosphere must belong to the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s impressive sound department. Trekking into the chaos on the airstrip for the first time is an overwhelming aural experience; the endless Ã¢â‚¬Ëœrat-ta-taÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ of machine gun turrets coincides with the deadly ping of bouncing bullets; thunderous air strikes and mortar bombardments provide the ground-shaking backdrop to the action; wounded soldiers scream foreign profanities, and your own team salute you for accurate pot-shots, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœgood shooting, sir!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Unfortunately the music is less impressive, which primarily consists of the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own powerful metal theme that endlessly beats away throughout every menu. Although enjoyable the first few times it does become repetitive surprisingly fast, luckily the excellent sound effects and voice work means this will rarely bother you outside of menu screens.
From the otherwise excellent sound, to the detailed graphics and the gripping simulation gameplay, Ghost Recon 2 stands tall as a vastly improved sequel and one of the most well rounded games on Xbox. The single player hits hard and once clocked can be replayed in lone wolf mode, where you tackle the missions without the aid of Ghost team. Meanwhile Xbox Live owners are in for some nifty tactical team and free-for-all online action that stands in the upper-tier of current Xbox Live titles. Ghost Recon 2Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s slow life-preserving pace may not fly as well with quick-trigger Halo fanatics, but those looking for a strong simulation experience are going to feel right at home.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœLets move out, Ghosts!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢