Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (Wii)

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon for the Wii is the type of game that is bound to make ‘core’ gamers and Ghost Recon purists roll their eyes and sigh in disbelief at the ongoing ‘casualization’ of their favorite mature, hardcore games. Ghost Recon for Wii is not a squad-based third-person shooter as you might expect based on the franchise’s history, at least not in a traditional sense. Instead, it’s an on-rails tactical shooter. *Gasp!*

Before you jump to a snap judgment and repudiate Ubisoft for dumbing down another franchise, though, let me quickly tell you that Ghost Recon for Wii is an unexpectedly intense and engaging shoot-‘em-up, and if you can toss away any preconceived ill feelings you may have conjured up about this not being a ‘real’ Ghost Recon game, you’ll be in for one thrilling rollercoaster ride of light gun action.

Per usual for a Tom Clancy game, Ghost Recon explores a plausible, though entirely fictional, global military conflict, in this instance placing you in command of a two-man special forces team – the Ghosts — on a mission to Moscow to stop a rogue group of Russian ultranationalists stirring up trouble in the region.

To that end, you embark on a campaign through 12 missions, fighting alongside an AI squad mate or a live second player in drop-in/drop-out co-op to take out every last enemy that stands in your way.

The basic gameplay mechanics are clearly rooted in the arcade light gun genre, as each mission pulls you along on a set path through a linear environment and tasks you with the lone goal of pointing the Wii Remote like a gun (Wii Zapper is recommended) and lining up your targeting reticle to pick off enemies that pop up on the screen and engage you in scripted patterns. The controls are easy to grasp and the targeting is precise, and the weapons look, sound and feel powerful when fired. So the game covers the basics well.

But Ghost Recon does more than present itself as a glorified shooting gallery. Sure, there is a simplicity and shallowness to the gameplay, but there is also an underlying sense of timing, rhythm and tactical thinking to every shootout that differentiates this game from other rail shooters and ties it in with its series brethren. The gameplay is on rails, but you are in control of commanding your squad from cover point to cover point by pointing and clicking on-screen indicators to facilitate progression through each level. Both soldiers stack up on each other behind cover and move and attack on the same screen, and when playing cooperatively, there is strategy involved with having players provide covering fire for one another and having one player move ahead to another cover point so you can attack and draw fire from two vantage points.

Co-op is definitely the most fulfilling way to play this game since you can verbally plan out who attacks certain enemies and build camaraderie battling side by side with a friend. But the game is equally enjoyable as a solo experience, and fortunately the AI does a commendable job filling in for a live player. At times your AI companion will sit back and let you do all the heavy lifting and occasionally fail to come to your aid, and sometimes you will die because of these lapses. But in general, when you need help most, he covers your back and is more than capable of clearing out a screen full of attackers when you stop to reload or hunker down with low health.

Ghost Recon also does a good job of mixing up play styles and enemy types to prevent the gameplay from falling into predictable patterns, and even on the medium difficulty setting the game puts up a respectable challenge. You don’t just hold down the trigger and spawn the battlefield with bullets. You have to be judicious with your attacks and wait for just the right moment to peek out of cover.

Much of the gameplay does involve hiding behind cover, popping out to fire off a few rounds, ducking back down to evade incoming fire, and repeating until the area is clear and you are free to advance to the next waypoint. But in between these standard shootouts are true on-rails blast-a-thons in which you mount a helicopter chaingun or hitch a ride on a drone and mow through large armies, as well as stealth missions that require you to use silenced weapons, hold the Z button when changing cover points to walk quietly into position without attracting attention, patiently monitor enemy movement patterns, and, when most opportune, quickly clear the screen with pinpoint headshots before one of the enemies is able to raise the alarm.

Enemies grow more and more challenging over the course of the campaign too, starting out as stupid grunts that stand out in the open waiting to be killed and gradually evolving to the point where they use cover, strafe side to side, dodge and roll to evade fire, begin wearing body armor, and come at you with new weapons, such as grenades, missile launchers, sniper rifles and remote-controlled bomb drones. Tanks, large drones with force fields and attack helicopters also appear as mini-bosses throughout.

Sadly, this gameplay variety doesn’t carry over into the visuals. Graphically, I really don’t have any complaints on a technical level. Yes, the level geometry is incredibly basic, and yes, the textures and colors have that drab, washed-out look common amongst Wii games. But overall, the details in the environments, characters and weapons are quite strong, and the engine performance never falters. The problem is that too many of the environments and enemies look all too familiar, and eventually the missions sort of blur together and become visually monotonous as you go from one war-torn city street to another and kill the same-looking Russian troopers over and over.

The forgettable graphical presentation is ultimately forgivable, though, because by and large the game is loads of fun to play and has a lot of content to offer for the spend. The 12-mission campaign lasts between four and six hours, which is fairly long for a rail shooter. Plus there are in-game Achievement medals to prompt additional replays, along with an Arcade mode which allows you to play cooperatively or competitively through individual missions with the purer arcade mentality of racing against a timer and building a kill multiplier to amass high scores. You can’t play with other players online unfortunately, but Arcade mode does come with online leaderboards if you feel like uploading your scores to see how you stack up against other Ghosts. Famous Ubisoft stars also make playable character cameos if you have the skill to unlock them – so far I’ve unlocked Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell and Scott Mitchell from Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and there are still a few more blacked-out portraits I have yet to uncover.

And eventually I will unlock all of these characters, because I just can’t stop playing this game. What I initially thought was going to be another ho-hum third-party Wii release has turned out to be a platform favorite of mine. Scoff at Ghost Recon Wii for being a rail shooter if you must, but I say check it out!

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Pros:
+ Action has an exciting tactical flow and rhythm
+ Nice variety of missions and objectives
+ Excellent co-op design, and also great fun playing solo
+ Multiple difficulties, Achievements, unlockable characters and Arcade mode add great replay value

Cons:
– Co-op AI fails to pitch in on occasion
– Bland, samey environments
– Campaign story is generic and forgettable

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 11/16/2010
Genre: Tactical Light Gun Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (local multiplayer only, plus online leaderboards)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!