|Well, RSE finally
released a demo for Ghost Recon, and I think I speak for
everybody when I say it totally blew me off the ground
and into deep space. Rainbow veterans will recognise several
aspects of it, but there are a lot of refreshing changes
as well. Ahh, where to start, where to start...
3dfx Voodoo 5 5500 64MB AGP
At first sight, the graphics look a lot like Operation Flashpoint
(or at least they did on my machine, as the graphical detail
settings all defaulted to the lowest possible - and I usually
run OFP with reasonably low detail settings). After some tweaking,
however, things looked brighter.
|The graphics in Ghost Recon are
unlike anything I've ever seen before. The details
in both models and textures is simply stunning,
and is easily on par with the best stuff out there
(first thing that springs to my mind is Max Payne).
But it doesn't stop there; remember the top-notch
motion captured animation that brought (and still
brings) Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear to life? Well,
Ghost Recon has them too - only countless times
better! The operatives walk, run, crouch, go prone,
crawl, fire and much more, and it's all smooth and
good looking. The famous trees are indeed beautiful
as they sway in the wind, the muzzle flashes are
looking better than ever, and the detailed shadows
makes everything come to life.
Kudos to Ghost Recon Sound Engineer Jeffrey Wesevich on this
one. People have said that the sound effects in Ghost Recon
are amazing, and indeed it is. I found this quote in an October
GhostRecon.net news article:
"Guns, bullet hits, footsteps, crawling,
explosions, tanks, shell brass bounces ...."
The firing sounds are great, from the cracking
of an M16A2 on semi-automatic fire, to the chattering of an
M249 SAW emptying a clip into a wooden shack. The bullets
hitting the wooden walls, and the thuds as they drill into
the tangos that get in the way. Neutralise a tango with the
bolt-action sniper rifle, work the bolt and hear the bullet
casing hit the ground. Unload a 40mm grenade from the M203
and hear the satisfying boom as dirt is tossed into the air
and the ground shakes. You have to hear it to believe it.
|This is what makes
or breaks the game I suppose. Eye and ear candy will only
last so long, and that's when you realise that Ghost Recon
is, a damn good game. I'll be honest though - when I first
played it I didn't think too much of it for some funny
reason. Perhaps because the graphics reminded me so much
of OFP. After some tweakage, a look at the key setup and
a second go I started seeing some similarities with the
Rainbow Six series, but also several new things as well.
Now, even if you liked Rainbow Six, you're
not guaranteed to like Ghost Recon. One of the most obvious
differences is that the emphasis is now on medium- to long-range
combat, and good old CQB has suffered because of it. In the
demo mission there are a few buildings where you get to run
in and blast everybody with a full-auto M4, but most of the
time you'll be shooting tangos at 30+ metres (rough estimate).
You'll also notice that the tangos no longer have the annoying
habit of hitting you in the eye with an AK47 on full auto
from across the map. Instead, you will more often than not
find yourself laying behind a rock while bullets are flying
past your head.
Movement is also slower, and.. Well, I'm
not quite sure how to describe it. Whether due to lousy agility
or too much heavy gear, the operatives are a tad difficult
to control at times, and the old "Dodge-bullets-by-strafing-left-and-right"
trick from Rogue Spear won't work here. The reticule is also
more sensitive, so no more holding that right mouse-button
down to run, 'cause that'll send your aim three barn doors
So what about the in-game planning,
you say? Well, it's in-game, and it's planning.
The entire command system is actually fairly
intuitive. The map is brought up either by holding
the left Shift button, or by hitting left Ctrl
(which is a toggle key). There are three buttons
to the left of of the map, as well as three
tabs above it, which are used for selecting
team Alpha, Bravo or Charlie. Accompanying the
buttons on the left are three buttons that decide
the teams' movement mode (Halt, Advance and
Advance at all Costs), and three buttons that
lets you designate Rules of Engagement modes
(Recon, Assault and Suppress). You set waypoints
simply by selecting a team and clicking on the
map. The course will automatically adjust if
there are obstacles in the way.
There is also a Soldier tab on the extreme
left of the command window, which removes the map and brings
up a list of the teams and their operatives. From here you
can select any of the six operatives and assume command of
them (you can also go through the lot of them using the Page
Up and Page Down keys).
Key setup. While the basic moving and shooting
is done pretty much like in RS, you no longer switch between
weapons and kit items using the 1-4 number keys. Instead,
hitting the Tilde (or, for those of us without US keyboards
- the key above TAB) key will switch between your two items.
The first one is always your weapon (this, by the way, is
decided by the type of operative you select - you cannot assign
weapons to the various operatives as in RS), and the other
is everything from a sidearm to an M-136 anti-tank rocket
launcher, to a pair of binoculars. This 'secondary item' can't
be freely selected either, but each operative has several
kit alternatives. For example, the Demolition experts will
have the choice of demolition charges, fragmentation grenades
and the M-136 rocket launcher (with an M4 as primary weapon),
whereas the Assault guys will have things such as a Beretta
M92-SD, a pair of binoculars, fragmentation grenades and the
M203 underslung grenade launcher.
I've only tried this briefly, but it was a great experience.
I didn't have any major lag problems (on the other hand, we
were two guys in the same country, and the host was on ADSL),
and the new respawn system really wasn't that bad. We both
got two respawns, which would be pretty much the same as if
we had four operatives waiting at insertion point.
What's there to say? Ghost Recon is a definite winner. It
simply rocks. The graphics (which look good even when they
aren't set to max detail), the sounds, the action. It's all
there. And this is only the demo...
7 November 2001