What would Metal Gear Solid be without the stealth? How about Grand Theft Auto without the carjacking? Final Fantasy without the fantasy? Gran Turismo without the cars? The answer? Well, it isnt crap, though its darn close. Its shallow. Shallow reproductions of said franchises with each missing their trademark elements. The heart of their quality, if you will. The PlayStation 2 version of Ghost Recon is this type of game. For some idiotic, ridiculous reason, developer Red Storm decided to completely alter an aspect that helped make Ghost Recon enjoyable to begin with. And, not to mention, they also decided to not include its most vaunted feature: its online play.
Ghost Recon is no SOCOM. In comparison to Sonys recent (online!) shooter, GR is downright ugly. The textures are low-res and bland, and up close are disgustingly muddy. The character models are no where near the quality of those in SOCOM, especially the enemies, who all look similarly low-rate. The animations of each fare quite a bit better, though still arent all that impressive. The only quality aspect would be the games effects, which are rather nice. Smoke trails from missile launchers and the night vision filter impress the most, though some are markedly poorer, such as the explosions. The framerate however is solid, a must for a first-person shooter, and never dips to anything close to an unplayable state.
At first I didnt want to compare Ghost Recon with SOCOM too much, as GR is a port compared to SOCOM being created for the PS2. Now, I just dont care. GR is in no way worth a single penny when a game like SOCOM is simultaneously on the market. The single aspect of SOCOM that was weak, its A.I, GR manages to do it one better. The enemy A.I is so appalling youll feel as if you could walk right up and shake the enemies hand before they even realized who you were. Friendly A.I is no better, where its commonplace for your team to wait until they can smell the enemies breath before they fire. Ridiculous! The latter isnt actually too large a factor as one would think, for the menu to control the two fire teams (you play as one and can give orders to the other) is so cumbersome youll give up on the whole team aspect after the second mission.
Worst however, are the two changes that Red Storm made to the game (for some strange reason) that I mentioned earlier. First and most obvious is the lack of online play which, considering upon release nearly half a million Network Adapters were sold, will unnecessarily hinder the games appeal. Not only did GR become the success that it did due to its online play, but it also would have made it the only online FPS on the PS2 for Christmas. Stupid move Ubi Soft. Secondly, the inclusion of a radar during missions, which when combined with your gun-sight lighting up upon targeting an enemy, completely takes away the suspension factor of the original GR on PC. It also happens to make GR very, very easy. Good thing they made those two changes eh?
GRs audio is on a totally different level than any of its other aspects. For one, its damn good. The score is solid, and fits with the patriotic do-it-for-your-country theme perfectly. The voicing is well done during briefings, though I wish there was more radio chatter during missions. But most impressive of all, are the games spot-on sound effects. Bullets slapping metal and wood, gear clinking on your characters body as he runs and other various ambient sounds all help draw you into the fray. My personal favourite was the near flawless reproduction of the sound tanks make, from the grinding of their treads to the squeaking of the main cannon repositioning itself for a shot.
Value-wise GR is decent, but said lack of online play prevents it from being near limitless. The inclusion of all the PCs Desert Siege expansion pack missions helps, as the mission total stands close to 20. The problem though is the missions in GR always played second fiddle to the more enjoyable online deathmatching. The missions as well are pretty short and damn easy, and once youre done those, thats pretty much it. The only slight saving grace is the co-op multi-play option, allowing you to essentially play through all the missions with a friend. And yet, while thats fun, it too doesnt last very long.
In my opinion, Ubi Soft releasing Ghost Recon in this state was a pretty lame joke. Why they thought the game would still remain fun despite losing its best features is beyond me. Yet, last time I checked the game has sold nearly 200,000 copies. So I guess it wasnt about the game after all, but more about the name. So, for all the rest of you still on the fence about it, just wait. Wait for Ubi Soft to release an ACTUAL Ghost Recon game, not this hacked-up wannabe. If you cant wait, then at least buy SOCOM, its infinitely better.