Ghost Recon 2

Format: Xbox

3 307210 174604
Age Restrictions: 16+
26 November 2004

North Korea, 2011. You lead the Ghosts - the most cutting-edge ground force in the world. Your orders: Disable a rogue Korean military faction before it triggers full-scale nuclear Armageddon. Welcome to the war of tomorrow...

Ghost Recon 2 (or to give it its full title: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2) represents a huge leap forward for the series. There are so many alterations to the first instalment that you'll probably not realise that it is supposed to be the same franchise.

The plot, for what it's worth (you'll only really be interested in getting down and dirty with the bad guys - not on the back story): In the wake of one of North Korea's worst famines, food riots begin rocking the countryside, and the rogue North Korean general assumes complete control of the army. Blaming China for the famine, he begins charging north to seize Chinese territory with tacit support from its new Russian ally. China moves to respond, but limits the level of escalation, fearing open conflict with Russia and a possible nuclear exchange. Instead, China officially agrees to a multinational force to safeguard the China-North Korean border. Unofficially, the Ghosts and other special forces go in. Their mission: cripple the North Korean threat and depose the rogue general.

The graphics, gameplay and sound are all outstanding. But there are some issues I had with this release. My biggest gripe is that it is too damn hard. There is very little freedom to explore your terrain. You have to get in, complete your orders and get out. And it is not possible to complete another mission, or level, until you have satisfactorily completed the current goal - each level has a number of goals you need to complete in strict order. There is also an element of trial and error to the gameplay. Get killed (which you will be doing time and time again) by an unknown sniper, and when you reload your game you'll get a chance to spot your enemy before he cuts you down. Thank heavens then, that you can save the game at any point - you may find yourself being killed time and time again while you try and work out how many enemies are shooting at you and the best way to take them out.

Another annoying elements is the fact that your squad can be pretty stupid. I lost count of the number of times I had the enemy all lined up in my gun sights, only to see one of my team running in front of the cross-hairs as they also attempted to take out the bad guys.

The controls were also a bit of a pain. It took me a good three or four levels to get used to the buttons. But even then, in the heat of battle, I had a problem remembering which was the correct combination of buttons to order my men to advance or retreat.

There is also a gun camera, that can be used on certain weapons, which allows you to see around your hiding place without your enemy picking you off. In theory it sounds great, but for some reason they were still able to shoot me, even though I was hidden behind a solid barricade. I'm assuming that they could still shoot my gun hand, but it wasn't clear.

But these moans don't detract too much from what is a realistic and engrossing game of strategy. And while this frustrates more than rewards, it is certainly a game you will want to come back to time and time again - but only in short bursts.

Nick Smithson

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