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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm (smallest logo ever)
Review By: Jared Black
 
Developer:  Red Storm
Publisher:  Ubisoft
# Of Players:  1-2 (8 online)
Genre:  Squad-based FPS
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Card, USB Headset, Network Adaptor
Date Posted:  5-12-04

As far as PS2 ports are concerned, Ubisoft has a history of adapting to the console as well as possible.  Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was an excellent conversion that cut out all of the right stuff to make the game playable without sacrificing what really made it fun.  On the other hand Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 wasn’t quite what I hoped for, but it still ended up a respectable effort as well.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm.  While it isn’t terrible by any means, it’s clear that the game could’ve been so much more.

Half of this game is a port of the Xbox’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder, which itself was a port of the PC expansion pack, while the other half is the Jungle Storm campaign featuring eight new missions.  In essence, that makes this version two expansion packs in one.  Each campaign is separate from the other, with only minimal connection between the two from a storyline standpoint.

Whereas the Rainbow Six franchise finds players mostly moving from small area to small area indoors, the Ghost Recon series focuses mostly on outdoor combat in large areas such as jungles and cities.  The reason the Ghosts exist at all is to quietly sneak into a hostile area, carry out assigned objectives, and get out.  Often these objectives involve tactical strikes on key assets (like rail lines) or rescuing hostages. Two teams of three soldiers each comprise the Ghosts, including specialties like snipers and demolitions.  By nature the game is slow-paced, as it’s important to maximize use of camouflage, long-range attacks (mostly snipers), and careful planning.  Bringing along at least one sniper is always advised, as a large number of enemies can be eliminated before they ever spot the Ghosts.

The first problem with the PS2 version lies in A.I., both enemy and friend alike.  Teammates occasionally get lost in the massive terrain, forcing the player to backtrack to retrieve them.  I’m not talking about a team member that’s hurt (and therefore slower by design) either, but simply those that get lost and end up running around in circles or standing in place.  When the team manages to stay together, shortcomings in their A.I. will show up in other ways.  In the Military Camp mission (which features a complex in the middle of the jungle) I found a teammate emptying all of his bullets into the steel wall surrounding it.  Apparently he could see the enemy, but didn’t realize that he couldn’t shoot over the wall.  Several times teammates would relay some information to me (ex: “Got armor” when seeing a deadly tank), then repeat it over and over and over and over and over again for no obvious reason.  Enemy A.I. suffers as well.  Nearby enemies will often react to a sniped comrade by just standing there and not taking cover, making them easy prey.  They also have horrible aim for the most part, which sorta betrays the whole purpose of a game that has soldiers dying realistically with one well-placed bullet.

Another sign that the game has been dumbed-down for the PS2 audience lies in the targeting system.  Even on the hard setting it’s easy to snipe a target, despite the fact that the shot appears to have missed altogether.  With a regular assault rifle, the player can often fire wildly at an enemy several hundred yards away and eventually kill him (although it does waste a lot of ammo).

There have been several improvements made in this version though, most noticeably in the interface.  It’s now possible to set waypoints in game by simply pointing to an area and telling the other team to go there.  This allows for much more precise control than doing so on the map, although that option is still there and useful when traveling over long distances.  Also, any soldier can be controlled in an instant by simply pointing to them and pressing Select whereas in the Xbox version the player had to cycle through soldiers (sometimes wasting precious seconds) before getting the one he wanted.

Unfortunately, Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm also suffers when taken online.  Like the PS2 version of Rainbow Six 3, the number of players allowed on a map has been reduced to a measly six.  It doesn’t hurt as much (since it’s more realistic), but the stuttering lag I encountered every single time I played online does.  It also lacks the benefit of downloadable content, which on Xbox offsets many of the extras this game comes with.  Granted, it does require paid access to Xbox Live to get that downloadable content.

Another area where this game suffers is in the horrible graphics.  The Ghost Recon series has always (on consoles at least) had rather utilitarian graphics, but this time they’re simply ugly.  The Xbox version did a decent job of hiding the low-polygon environments, but here it’s painfully obvious.  Surrounding mountains are painfully angular, buildings are basic, and the general terrain has many sudden drop-offs (where there should be a smooth slope) as well.  There’s a lot of seaming in most environments as well.  Textures are blurry, and character models are blocky (although not nearly as bad as everything else) and move in herky-jerky fashion.  There’s also a bit of draw-in, although I’m willing to overlook that given how large each area is.  Perhaps worst of all, the vegetation (which looked merely average on Xbox) looks bad here.  It’s awfully 2D, and crawling through a bush for cover reveals flat textures on the outside and nothing on the inside.  At least the framerate stays relatively consistent.

The sound remains strong, with all of the realistic sound effects you’ve come to expect from a Clancy game.  The music is typical military stuff, and teammates deliver enough chatter to keep the player informed without getting to chatty (which wouldn’t be appropriate in this kind of environment).

HIGHS:

  • It’s still Ghost Recon, which means you’ll love it if you dig this sort of thing.  I played through both campaigns (and would’ve even if I didn’t have to review it), and I own the original Island Thunder.
  • Good sound effects and music, like all Clancy games.
  • It does at least include a playable online component.

LOWS:

  • It’s still Ghost Recon, which means you’ll hate it if you don’t dig the slow pacing and realistic head shot = death gameplay.
  • Graphics have never been this series highpoint (except perhaps in the PC original), but at least they were passable before.  Here they’re simply terrible.
  • Weak online mode in comparison to the Xbox version.
  • I don’t remember the A.I. having this many problems before.

FINAL VERDICT:

It should be obvious to any Clancy or military-themed fan by now that Xbox (with Live subscription of course) is the place they need to be, as all console Clancy games this generation have been superior on Microsoft’s platform.  If you’ve stuck with the PS2 this long though, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm provides another decent port that’s just different enough from SOCOM and Rainbow Six 3 to make it worthwhile. 

Overall Score: 6.0

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