Ghost Recon Xbox impressions

Ubi Soft's squad-based first-person shooter is coming to the Xbox. First screenshots inside.

One of the first games that will launch with Microsoft's Xbox Live online service will be Ghost Recon, the squad-based first-person shooter from Ubi Soft and developer Red Storm Entertainment that was originally released on the PC. However, fans of the PC game will find a few differences between that version and the Xbox version. The development team is currently in the process of creating new art for the game and creating new character models, specifically a new female character that you will be able to use in Ghost Recon's multiplayer modes. Red Storm Entertainment is also recording 600 new sounds and constructing new multiplayer maps, though the Xbox version of Ghost Recon will include all of the maps from the original game as well as its expansion, Desert Siege. Also, the game will include all of the multiplayer modes from its PC counterparts as well as one entirely new mode not found in any other version of Ghost Recon.

Not surprisingly, the single-player campaign in Ghost Recon for the Xbox will be receiving a number of changes and tweaks so that it will appeal more to the console audience. While the PC version of Ghost Recon had a flat 2D threat detector, the Xbox version has a full 3D threat detector, which the development team hopes will make it much easier for you to understand where enemies are located relative to your position. When a portion of the detector turns yellow, it means that there's a general threat in the area, and when it turns red, there are shots being fired. The highlighted portion will give you an idea from which direction the shots are coming.

Other general changes to the single-player game include unlockable weapons and maps, which can be attained by completing certain missions. These special weapons and maps can be used in the multiplayer part of the game, and the special weapons can even be used in multiplayer matches against players who have yet to unlock them, giving you an added advantage. Red Storm hopes that this will give you added incentive to play through the single-player mode and unlock the special weapons so that you won't be outgunned. There will be 50 weapons initially available in the game.

Enemy placement in Ghost Recon for the Xbox is different from that in the PC version. In fact, if you've played the PC game, you'll find that the number of enemies has drastically increased. For the PC game, Red Storm Entertainment intended to have a firefight every five minutes as you played through a particular mission, but in this version Red Storm wants you to have a firefight every two minutes, because there are now 80 to 90 enemies per mission. This is made possible partly because portions of the game that were handled by the CPU in the PC version of the game--such as tree limbs swaying in the wind--are now performed by the Xbox's vertex shader, which stretches and contorts the polygons to deliver the same kind of effect, ultimately taking the processing load off the CPU.

There will be a host of other effects in the game. Red Storm plans to use more particle effects and wants to incorporate real-time lighting that's affected by the clouds that pass overhead. Otherwise, Ghost Recon for the Xbox will be using the same high-quality character models and 512x512 textures. The goal is to get all of this running at a steady 60 frames per second, but judging from some of the early levels we saw, the developers have yet to achieve that goal.

The first few missions we saw were all pretty basic. The first took place in a slightly forested area that served as more of a demonstration for the tree-swaying effect rather than actual gameplay, but the next mission was a little different. It took place in a rain-soaked area that looked as though it had been significantly bombed. Your mission is to take out any enemy infantry, by moving from bombed-out buildings, to the open area, and then eventually disable tanks that are maneuvering around the area. The action is pretty straightforward, and it seems as though the PC controls have been adapted well to the Xbox controller.

We'll have more on Ghost Recon from the show floor of E3.

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