Game Over Online ~ Ghost Recon: Island Thunder

GameOver Game Reviews - Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (c) Ubi Soft, Reviewed by - Stephen Riach

Game & Publisher Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (c) Ubi Soft
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Tuesday, November 30th, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Divider Left By: Stephen Riach Divider Right

Ghost Recon is by far the game I’ve logged the most hours playing on Xbox Live. I don’t care to admit how many hours I spent infiltrating the Republic of Georgia last spring; let’s just say it was a lot. Eventually I came to know every map like the back of my hand (hey, where’d that freckle come from?). It got to the point where I wouldn’t play co-op unless respawns were turned off (you’d be surprised how few people have the patience to play that style of multiplayer) and the team-based outings were becoming far too familiar. So I jumped off the bandwagon and enjoyed a Ghost-free summer. It lasted about six months, until the Island Thunder expansion raided stores. Suffice to say, I’m back on the wagon.

Ghost Recon: Island Thunder is a standalone expansion that 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.

For those of you who are new to the squad-based tactical shooter series, I suggest you check out our original review of Ghost Recon. For the rest of you, Island Thunder’s single-player campaign consists of 8 missions that will task your squad to seize and secure a plantation, clear a beach resort, rescue an air crew and, in one of the more challenging missions, safeguard the election process by defending a polling center. The hot and hazy setting of Island Thunder 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 the jungle campaign, even on the elite difficulty level. Couple that with a paper-thin dossier (the only unlockables are soldiers and cheat modes, all the maps and weapons are available right from the get go) and you’ve got a single-player component that’s a little on the shallow side.

On the flipside of the coin, Island Thunder breathes new life into multiplayer with twelve maps to engage the enemy within, whether in cooperative, solo or team-based play, via Splint Screen, Link Play or Xbox Live. Besides the aforementioned eight maps from the single-player campaign, Ubi Soft has included a handful of the more popular maps from the original Ghost Recon (yes, Embassy is one of them), along with a promise of five additional desert missions to be made available for download by the end of the year via Xbox Live for either single- or multiplayer use (two of which are already available). They’ve also added a scoreboard where you can track stat leaders in kills, hit percentage, etc. (although players can cheat by running through cooperative missions on their own, thus boosting their stats considerably). Last but not least, a small indicator in the bottom right hand corner of the screen has been included to show who’s communicating during the game; again, a welcome feature. It all adds up to the extension of one of the most engrossing Xbox Live experiences.

Island Thunder introduces a number of new weapons to the battlefield. The SD25 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 would have liked to have seen a few new items, such as proximity mines or smoke grenades, but in all I was satisfied with the new kit additions.

Island Thunder does little to bring the Ghost Recon series up-to-date visually. In spite of this, the atmosphere remains intense, due in large part to the killer weather effects This time around you’ll encounter a mission or two with partly cloudy skies, resulting in a constant fluctuation of sunlight. Great stuff. Aurally, Island Thunder doesn’t bring anything new to the table but again, the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” pertains here. Voice clips, ambient noises, sound effects, it all contributes to a heightened tactical atmosphere.

If you’re looking at Ghost Recon: Island Thunder from a single-player perspective, you’d be best off making it a weekend rental. The single-player campaign is half the size of the original and the dossier is thin, resulting in a shortage of replay value. On the other hand, if you’re looking to take your tactical skills online, Island Thunder breathes new life into the multiplayer experience, and the promise of additional missions in the coming months via Xbox Live is icing on the cake. If you fall into the later category, add Island Thunder to your arsenal and I’ll see you out there on the battlefield.


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