Written By: Will Schaeffer
Welcome to Havana, Cuba in the year 2009, Cuba no longer is under the thumb of Fidel Castro, and finds itself in big trouble. A “drug-funded warlord” is intent on sabotaging the country’s first real election in half a century. This is where you come in, part of The Ghosts – an elite division of the U.S. Army Green Berets – your mission is to stop the warlord from taking control of Cuba and becoming the next Castro.
Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (GR: IT) could possibly be the best squad-based shooter online experience ever. With the inclusion of Xbox Live onto the title, it certainly becomes one of my favorite games for the Xbox. Just like any other Xbox Live game, you can use the headset and have a friends list spanning every Live-Enable Game. The ability to work as a team against an enemy is exciting, and creates a sense of realism and comradery, which is just about unparalleled.
The 13 multiplayer maps (12 before the addition of a thirteenth level a week ago) span everything from jungles to urban to desert to an oil refinery. These maps allow you to vary the types of guns you can use from the four different types of soldiers (Rifleman, Support, Sniper and Demolitions). Each of which have about ten weapons, ranging from snipers (Sniper) to heavy machine guns (Support) to light machine guns (Rifleman) and even to anti-tank weapons or grenade launches (Demolitions). Each weapon has a “sub-weapon” you can choose with it, these vary for each type, (Like only the Demolitions Expert can carry anti-tank rockets or Demo Charges) but almost all generally include options to choose extra ammo, grenades or a pistol. The many variations let teams set up a diverse unit (Made of three guys) that’s much more powerful than one with only M-16s.
As always, you can find games with either Opti-Match or Quick Match, or you can make your own. There are a ton of options when setting up your own games, such as the cycle of levels, “kit restrictions” (ie: no guns or sub-weapons (kits) are allowed to contain explosives, which may lag the server) and other stuff. You’ll also be able to choose from three different types of games, Cooperative, Solo or Team. Solo and Team are all human players attempting to destroy each other, In Solo its every-man-for-himself, and in Team your Team must destroy the other team (Duh). In Cooperative you are on a team with other human players, and must face a very smart AI. You do this in one of four modes, Mission (Complete all of the objectives), Firefight (Destroy all of the enemies), Recon (Get to the evacuation point without losing anybody), or Defend (You have to guard a circle from the enemy, if one of them reaches the center of it, you lose). With all of the different types and modes of game play, and the many different kits, game play is extremely varied, and doesn’t get old. Also don’t forget that there is Split-Screen play and the ability to link up Xboxes for when your friends aren’t online or you have visitors.
Controls for the game work very nicely. You can use the D-pad to make your character stand, crouch or lay down. The R-Button fires, The L-Button brings up a map (Except on Split-screen play, which is for 2 players), the black button switches your rate of fire, during online play, the white button allows you to speak, X turns on night-vision, A reloads, B switches to your back-up weapon, and Y switches between characters or re-spawns you after you die. And of course, the right trigger fires your gun. The only problem I had is switching between weapons, it takes a second or two, so if you’re under fire, you might want to run for cover before switching. Also, if your being shot, then you can’t move, crouch, stand or switch weapons, but that just goes with the whole point of the game, which is not to be shot at all.
Game play is downright awesome for this game, the single-player is still fun even after you beat it. However, it just doesn’t compare to multi-player, which is why this game isn’t worth buying for the other systems (Sorry for those of you who don’t own an Xbox). Multiplayer game-play freaking rocks, it can be fast paced, or a tactical hunt so that no one on your team dies. As mentioned above, the amount of options (Did I mention that you could have woman soldiers as well?) never allows the game to get old. Though don’t expect a normal FPS even though it is from the first person view, running into a group of bad guys will do nothing but get you killed, especially because your aiming goes down drastically when your on the move. There really isn’t much of a health meter, which adds to the realism, you’re either healthy, wounded or dead (Green, yellow or red on the guy down in the bottom left hand corner). A threat meter shows you where enemies are, this is done buy making the top, left or right side, or bottom turn yellow, so that you don’t know exactly where the enemy is, but you have a good idea, and when you get close enough, the center turns red so you know enemies are in the area.
Graphically speaking, this game can hang with the best of them. While the textures are very detailed, the environments are big, and filled with lush trees and bushes. Draw distances is horrible though, it tends to make you angry when buildings and bushes pop up out of nowhere, or when you know you can shoot farther than the draw distances allows (Mainly only in the Oil Refinery level, which is the new one). Overall though, there really isn’t anything too wrong with the graphics, and the game is generally too dark to see them, because as any Tom Clancy fan knows, the dark is your friend. When you fire a bullet though, it tends to look like its not going where you aimed at, but its not that big of a problem. Though the ground will kick up dirt when you shoot at it, and the bullet holes look realistic, I guess (I’m not sure how a bullet hole from an M-16 should look inside a voting center). The sound of the guns is realistic, and you can hear the bullets fly past you, or hit the ground.
In summary, GR: IT is probably one of my favorite games for the Xbox. The amount of options and awesome game play make it a really nice experience, though I think finding a game on Xbox Live can be a pain, and there should be an option to turn the threat meter off in Split-Screen (Like there is during Live play). It’s also for the PC, but I like the comfortable environment of my living room and the ability to talk in the Xbox version. This game definitely deserves a rent if you don’t have Live, and deserves to be bought if you do.