Sequel, expansion pack, it’s so hard to tell the two apart these days. Let’s just call Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm the latest instalment in the squad-based tactical shooter series and leave it at that. It includes the Island Thunder campaign, which was previously released on the PC and Xbox, as well as a PlayStation 2 exclusive campaign, aptly named Jungle Storm. Sounds like a deal to me. Let’s check it out.
Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm sees our elite team of U.S. Army Green Berets transported from the cold regions of Eastern Europe to the tropical climate of Cuba. The year is 2009 and Fidel Castro has long since passed, putting an end to his Communist regime. The island nation is on the verge of its first free election, but a drug-funded warlord has other plans for Cuba’s future. Enter the Ghosts, deployed to Havana to ensure the integrity of the Cuban elections by thwarting any attempts of sabotage.
In the wake of the events of Island Thunder, Cuba settles into a fragile new state of normalcy. Meanwhile, the always-precarious situation in Colombia explodes as the ceasefire between guerrilla groups and the right-wing paramilitaries collapses in a flurry of gunfire and car bombings. Colombian intelligence, working with its Cuban counterparts, has discovered that the driving force behind the new wave of violence is the same group that supported Priego’s uproar in Cuba. The Ghosts are sent into the Colombian interior, to the find the source of the uprising and eliminate it once and for all.
Both the Island Thunder and Jungle Storm campaigns consist of 8 missions apiece that will task your squad to seize and secure vital locations, capture high-ranking enemies, rescue hostages and eliminate any opposition. The hot and hazy setting of both campaigns means that for the most part, you can leave your night-vision goggles at home. If you think that’ll make things difficult, you might be surprised how quickly you can run through each of the story lines, even on the elite difficulty. The single-player campaigns are relatively short jungle warfare affairs, and a couple of the Colombian missions are peculiarly similar to those in the original Ghost Recon.
On the flipside of the coin, Jungle Storm breathes new life into multiplayer with a total of 31 maps to engage the enemy within, whether in co-operative, solo or team-based modes, via Split Screen or Network Adaptor. This is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time in Jungle Storm, be it defending a base from waves of FDG soldiers or playing a game of Last Man Standing with your buddies. The only downfall is a maximum of eight players in any one game, which means no more than four-on-four battles. Meh.
Jungle Storm introduces a number of new weapons to the battlefield. The SR25 SD rifle will quickly become a favorite for snipers, as will the M4 SOCOM for riflemen. There’s even a new grenade launcher for the demolitions expert, the MM-1, but you’d be well advised to bring along a handgun as your secondary weapon since the MM-1 launches grenades and grenades only. I still would have liked to have seen a few new items added to the mix, such as proximity mines or smoke grenades, but in all I was pleased with the new kit additions.
Jungle Storm is the first Ghost Recon instalment to support voice commands. With use of a USB headset, you can change the rules of engagement and issue orders to your Alpha team, Bravo team, or both teams, using two or three word commands such as “Alpha team Cover fire”, “Bravo team Defend”, or “All teams Withdraw”. Not only does it help save potentially valuable seconds on the battlefield by not having to bring up the command interface - despite often having to repeat the commands before they register - but it also adds to the immersion level of the game.
Another new feature is the ability to select targeted teammates. By moving the reticule over one of your squadmates and pressing the select button, you can instantly switch to that soldier. It’s an interesting addition but one that is no less of a hassle than using the command interface, particularly since the AI can be shoddy at times, making it difficult to locate a teammate, let along target them.
The last new feature is an eye icon near the bottom right-hand corner of the HUD. It indicates how visible your squad is. You can become less visible by crouching or going prone and moving slowly. Another interesting addition but again, one I paid little attention to during the game.
Jungle Storm does little to bring the Ghost Recon series up-to-date visually. In spite of this, the atmosphere remains pretty intense. Compared to the Xbox version of Island Thunder however, Jungle Storm comes across with more of an arcade feel. Aurally, Jungle Storm doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The same voice clips, ambient noises and sound effects are used, but they do contribute to a heightened tactical atmosphere. With that said, the series is in dire need of a spit shine.
If you’re looking at Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm from a single-player perspective, you’d be best off making it a weekend rental. The two single-player campaigns are relatively short and not particularly challenging, even on the highest difficulty setting, and the AI can be frustrating at times. On the other hand, if you’re looking to take your tactical skills online, Jungle Storm breathes new life into the Ghost Recon experience with 31 new maps. As long as you fall into the later category, and you can overlook the dated visuals, Jungle Storm just might be worth a tour of duty.