Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Xbox
Developed by Red Storm Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
The Ghost Recon games on the Xbox have been very popular and with good reason too. Whilst the games were originally on the PC they made a very smooth transition to the Xbox and the Xbox Live support meant that it was always going to be a firm favourite with gamers who like to play online. Bearing this successful transition to the Xbox in mind then it was a wise decision by the developers to change the formula for Ghost Recon 2. The changes are not small either and they are quite significant. Many would say this is a recipe for disaster but the changes that have been made make for one hell of a game that's a worthy sequel in every way you could imagine.
Ghost Recon 2 is set in North Korea. The country has suffered a devastating famine but instead of putting the humanitarian aid to good use and feeding the people, one of the generals is instead using the resources to increase the size of his army. With China being suspicious of military activity in North Korea they decide to block sales of arms to the North Koreans and in turn the North Koreans have turned to Russia to form an alliance. With famine still causing chaos and food riots now taking place, the blame for the famine has been placed on China and attempts to invade sections of China are made. China has agreed to a multi-national army to come to it's protection and the Ghosts have secretly been sent in to try and diffuse the North Korean threat before it gets out of control.
We mentioned at the start of the review that some major changes have been made to the Ghost Recon formula and the biggest of all is the transition to third person from a first person perspective. Surprisingly this change actually works well very and it makes the game more suited to the Xbox. Those who demand to play in first person mode will be happy to learn that you still can if you want to. The tactical planning, so often a trademark of previous Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon titles has all but disappeared. Previously if you were killed you would just switch control to another team member but now if you are killed it's game over. This may seem like the game is more difficult but that's not really the case (although you still have 3 others with you and you can issue simple orders to them) as the third person view allows you to be more aware of what's going on around you plus you can also see the presence of your enemies on the radar that's in the top right corner of the screen. Indicators are also present to show you which direction an enemy is firing from. Ghost Recon experts can turn these aids off though (and as we've just mentioned return to the first person view if desired) and both experiences are just as good.
In addition to the main campaign there's the quick mission which can be played in Recon, Firefight, Mission, Lone Wolf or Defend mode and of course multiplayer modes. You can play 4 player split-screen mode or have System Link games for 2-16 players. Of course most will prefer the Xbox Live play for their multiplayer action. Xbox Live play is once again a key part of the Ghost Recon experience and it has to be said that it's very impressive. There are too many modes to mention but the all important co-op play is present and allows you to play missions, Recon, Firefight and Defend modes all co-operatively. You'll also find Last Man Standing and Hamburger Hill modes available too. In fact you'd be hard pushed to find a better Xbox Live experience than that which Ghost Recon 2 offers. There's even support to setup your own clans which is superb.
Ghost Recon 2 might not be the best looking shooter on the Xbox but it certainly looks very good. The most noticeable difference of course is the new third person view and this allows you to appreciate the smooth animation of your character. Comparing Ghost Recon 2 with Ghost Recon is an amazing thing. Ghost Recon didn't really look that good and Ghost Recon 2 looks much, much better. The game looks like it was designed for the console rather than simply being ported to it. The levels are surprisingly big and they are all well detailed. Pop-up was an issue with Ghost Recon with tufts of grass etc. just appearing as you got closer. In Ghost Recon 2 the environments look a lot more realistic and pleasing to the eye. Load times are also pleasingly short when compared to many other titles in this genre. The inclusion of the Havok 2 physics engine means the explosions are going to look as realistic as possible which further enhances the impressive appearance of the game.
Until now this review has been glowing with praise for Ghost Recon 2 and rightly so because it's an excellent game from top to bottom. However when it comes to how deaf gamer friendly Ghost Recon 2 is it goes a little pear shaped although it's far from disastrous. The games cutscenes aren't subtitled which means you'll miss out on the information they contain. Thankfully you can skip them and you might just as well because they are useless without subtitles. The tutorial is not subtitled either although you can progress through it by following the blue icon, known as the objective indicator, on your mini-map and you do receive text instructions although I was surprised to find how much verbal content is not shown in text as the tutorial is always a key part of the game. Personally I would just learn the controls and skip the tutorial. During the campaign you'll see hints appear in text which is a small consolation but comments from your comrades are not shown in text. Your objectives (well an abridged version of them but enough to inform you of what needs to be done) appear in text as they are given. You'll also receive a text message to say your objective has been completed. A radar and enemy indicators enable you to keep track of your enemies and make it more comfortable for deaf gamers than the previous Ghost Recon games. The game also makes good use of icons and you'll see icons to indicate an object can be picked up or that a comrade needs a medic. Of course you could argue that the Xbox Live modes don't really favour deaf gamers because of the reliance on voice communications but as we've said before this is a problem with the Xbox Live service in general in that keyboards are not supported so text chat is practically impossible to implement.
Giving a score to Ghost Recon 2 has given me a dilemma. On the one hand it's very disappointing to see the game isn't subtitled and yet on the other hand the game is more deaf gamer friendly because the visual feedback it provides in terms of icons, enemy locations on the mini-map/radar means that at least you have a good idea of where your enemies are, which is less frustrating than in the first Ghost Recon title. In the end I decided on the score below because despite the cutscenes and tutorial not being subtitled, it's still a very enjoyable game. It's not the same experience as Ghost Recon but it's still a great game. Many will find the game more accessible because of the changes that have been made and fans of the first game will still find that there's a lot to like even though some key elements of what made the Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon series what they are, are not there anymore. Online play is again excellent but it may prove to be tricky with many gamers relying on voice communication. However as we've just mentioned that's a current problem with the Xbox Live service and not Ghost Recon 2.
Game Rating: 8.3/10
Ghost Recon 2 is simply an amazing experience that hits the spot both online and offline. The series definitely needs to be subtitled though.
A lack of subtitles takes the shine off what is a superb game.