Ghost Recon 2, the sequel to the Xbox game of the same name, follows the story of a Black Ops squad of soldiers as they attempt to prevent a North Korean general from gaining control of nuclear weapons. Ubisoft has made several improvements over the original, which makes for a more dynamic, entertaining, and faster-paced game. On top of this, the story is told through a CNN style news special in which the members of your squad are retelling their stories of conflict. They’ll directly convey events from a specific mission, after which you get to play through it in an oddly entertaining reverse chronology. It is a unique way to present the story and makes the whole experience considerably more enthralling as you actively try to keep squad members alive because you’ve already seen them recounting their success.
The most significant change that Ubisoft has made to the game is the move from a direct first-person view to an additional third-person option. This is a grand idea, as it makes it easier to move through environments, spot enemies, and find cover. Plus, there are many commands issued to your squad that utilize hand signals; this often requires your character to be bodily visible. The gameplay has a faster pacing than in its predecessor, and it is definitely less stealthy sneaking and more frenetic shooting. This is only when comparing it to the original, though. Compared to any other shooter, Ghost Recon 2 may be considered slower paced; this comes from the fact that the game is so realistic. All it takes is one or two hits from your enemies and you’re dead. You have to be very, very careful as you move through the various areas. This reviewer learned to use cautionary tactics the hard way, though; you see I’m the guy that runs into the thick of the action with all guns blazing. Apparently, if I were in a real war I would be one of the first casualties – nothing more than bloodthirsty cannon fodder. In Ghost Recon 2, the key to success is proceeding with trepidation while using any available cover to provide fire protection.
The game controls are easy to use. Moving your character(s) through the environments is completely intuitive by using both of the thumb sticks. Aiming is often a big problematic issue for gamers, but here it is both smooth and effortless. However, when using the missile launcher, it will not allow you to fire until you are positioned just right. This is, of course, a pain in the butt – especially when you have a lethal gunship chasing you and are forced to stay on the move. Luckily, though, you have a trained elite squad accompanying you that always watch your back.
Speaking of which, another neat aspect of the controls comes in the form of issuing orders to your troops. You can tell them to plant explosives, shoot at certain designated targets, hold their fire, and take cover, as well as a few other nifty commands. Oh, and you can also order air strikes! All you need do is choose a target and call for an inbound strike. This attacking feature is extremely useful in areas where you get pinned down by enemy forces. The AI in the game, for the most part, is done very well. On their own, your fellow squad members will almost always do exactly what you need them to. If they don’t, you can get them swiftly back on track through the aforementioned commands. The enemies are pretty intuitive as well, as they take cover, toss grenades, and generally react as a real soldier might.
Overall, there are 15 missions in Ghost Recon 2’s single-player campaign, which provides around 10-15 hours of concentrated gameplay. This can be greatly increased through considerable replay value and the multiplayer aspects of the game. While the missions themselves remain the same, enemy personnel don’t always appear in the same locations, which makes things pleasantly variable each time you play through the missions. In addition, you can choose different types of soldier classes. You can go through the game as a sniper, and then try again as a gunner. The different weapons you have access to through the various classes really alters how the gameplay throughout the missions. For example, if your current weapon doesn’t have the range you require, then before starting a mission you have access to a selection of other weapons assigned to whichever character class you are currently playing as. This helps adjust any of the classes to fit better with your playing style. Aside from weaponry, you also have night-vision goggles and a cool technologically advanced gun camera that lets you peak and fire around corners without getting unceremoniously shot in the head.
When you consider the incredibly large amount of multiplayer options, the game’s replay value increases tenfold. There are three game types where you play solo against other players, seven co-op games in which you work with others through various scenarios ranging from firefights to recon missions. In Co-op you can also play through the missions from the single-player game – which is awesome – and it allows you to use more complex strategies during your assaults. Lastly, there are six squad missions where you work with your squad to defeat other squads in games consisting of defending an area, rescuing hostages, or simply destroying the opposing enemy squads. With the Xbox Live option, this game looks to have a long-lasting appeal with the on-line community.
The graphics in Ghost Recon 2 are a gigantic improvement over the original. The environments are extremely well rendered, as are your squad members. The scenery is not repetitive, which is a huge bonus. Nothing is worse than running through areas that all look alike. The forest areas provide a nice contrast to the gray concrete of the military bases in the game. These aren’t the best game graphics you’ll ever have seen, but they are certainly well realized and deserve to be duly noted.
The real treat in Ghost Recon 2 comes in the form of its audio. Holy crap, this is a seriously loud game! Once you become immersed deep in the heart of the fighting, things can get pretty crazy. The sounds alone are enough to cause you to feel a sense of disorientation; helicopters zoom low overhead, jets drop devastating air strikes, explosions destroy environments, gunfire echoes and resonates, distant wounded call and scream?you get the aural picture. But what really makes the sound stand out is the contrast it portrays. Things can get become unusually quiet by comparison to the frantic battles but, just as you’re adjusting to it, the explosions start up again. The audio is definitely a high point of the game. The voice acting is right up there, too, both in the CNN style cut scenes and in the actual game. Without a doubt, the audio in Ghost Recon 2 is super-duper!
Ghost Recon 2 is definitely an improvement over the original – which was not exactly a bad game itself. The controls are executed well, which makes the gameplay close to terrific. The new third-person view is what really helps the game work so well, and Ubisoft should be applauded for changing that particular aspect of the game. The graphics are always nothing short of decent, but when you get into the thick of battle it is the audio that really stands out. The game offers a realistic combat experience, which is impressive, enveloping, and damn hard. Indeed, it needs to be said: This game is difficult. That’s no exaggeration, either; it doesn’t even have an Easy setting – just Normal and Difficult. Difficulty aside, if you like action and/or combat-oriented games, Ghost Recon 2 is definitely worth a shot. Heck, it’s worth a whole clip!