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Ghost Recon: Island Thunder

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16 (Online/LAN)
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

By now, even the most illiterate of gamers is no stranger to the name Tom Clancy. Beginning with the original Rainbow Six and continuing with the more recent Splinter Cell, games based in the Tom Clancy universe have always brought a little more to the table than your standard action game. The original Ghost Recon was an early favorite of many Xbox Live gamers and continues to be one of the most popular games on the system. Despite its successes, the game was still marred by bugs and glitches. Ghost Recon: Island Thunder continues the pace set by the original and also manages to fix many of the glitches that plagued it.

If you played Ghost Recon, then you know what to expect from Island Thunder. It's nothing that will blow you away, but it's definitely worthwhile. Character animations are handled nicely and feature a good blend of animation and detail. The same goes for the game's outdoor environments, which feature big, lush jungle areas for you to explore. There's also quite a bit of varying terrain, which makes for interesting gameplay situations. You never know who could be over that next hill or behind that tree. The audio is kept realistic and minimal. Gunfire and other weapons sound as realistic as they come and the only music you're likely to hear during missions is the static-filled chatter of your squad mates.


Gameplay:

As with all Tom Clancy games, Ghost Recon: Island Thunder presents an interesting, politically charged adventure. Island Thunder takes place in Cuba shortly after the fictional death of Fidel Castro. Obviously, this has thrown the political atmosphere of the area in shambles, making the area unstable. You once again control the Ghosts, a highly trained Army Special Forces unit, as you go into the heart of the storm and try to bring stability to the area.

Even though Ghost Recon has long been hailed for its Multi-player modes (and rightly so), the game also manages to offer a fairly deep and intriguing Single-player mode as well. Island Thunder is more of an upgrade to the original than a true sequel, so it's significantly shorter. Overall, everything plays just as good as the original, but with a few modifications that were left out in the first game. One of the nicer updates is the availability of more 'kits' this time around. The number of soldier types you can put in your outfit has also been expanded. Twelve of these new classes are available right off the bat, while you can unlock six other new ones over the course of the campaign, provided you meet certain mission goals. These new types lend themselves well to the game and add another layer of depth when making your team. The developers have also thrown in an option that lets you upgrade the stats of your soldiers and improve their skills.

Multi-player modes have also returned and have undergone some improvements. Co-op mode is back, which allows two people to play through the main campaign together on one Xbox. A sixteen-player LAN mode is also available, as is the real star of the show, the sixteen-player Xbox Live mode. Once online, you can choose to play in either Solo, Team or Co-op modes through a number of match types like Mission, Firefight, Defend, Recon, Cat and Mouse, Sharpshooter, Hamburger Hill, Last Man Standing, Domination, Search and Rescue and Siege. Most modes are aimed towards team play, but a few also offer Deathmatch options. Island Thunder also offers a generous selection of new maps to play through and will offer new ones in the future via Downloadable Content.


Difficulty:

Though Ghost Recon: Island Thunder is still a planning intensive game, the difficulty level has been slightly reduced. The game is still a challenge, but there won't be quite as many broken controllers this time around. Most, if not all, of the campaign missions cannot be solved by simply running in and lighting the place up. Instead, you'll have plan out how best to use your troops' skills. Teammate AI has also been improved and also offers scalable parameters so you can make sure they do exactly what you want them to do.

Game Mechanics:

The trickiest aspect of squad-based games is adapting a workable control scheme. Thankfully Ghost Recon featured a very manageable one, which has been carried over. Ordering your squad around the field is very easy and even newcomers to the series should have few problems picking it up. An excellent tutorial is included to help players get their bearings. Overall I found few problems with the scheme, and those I found were simply due to my ignorance of not reading the manual. Slowly navigating my troops through the wilds of Cuba was very smooth and was handled nicely.

If you're a fan of the original, then you've probably already snatched this one up. If you hated the first, Island Thunder may be enough of an upgrade that you could give it another shot -- but overall it's the same great game with a new Cuban flavor.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Microsoft Xbox Freedom Fighters Microsoft Xbox Gladius

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated