Based on a 2004 arcade shooter of the same name, the Wii version of Ghost Squad will be one of the first games released to take advantage of the Wii Zapper peripheral arriving in stores the same day. We recently had an opportunity to spend some quality time with both a near-finished version of the game and the aforementioned lump of white plastic and had plenty of fun doing so.
Ghost Squad, for those of you unfamiliar with the original light gun setup in arcades, is a fast-paced rail shooter that casts you in the role of an elite soldier tasked with completing three quite different antiterrorist missions as part of a small squad. The missions, which are all available to play from the outset, include freeing hostages from a large villa, rescuing the US president from a kidnap attempt aboard Air Force One, and entering a terrorist base to free a captured military figure before escaping through a jungle. All three levels can be played through in a number of different ways, and each of them ends with a boss battle that ultimately determines whether your mission is a success or a failure. Furthermore, although only the "level 1" iterations of the missions are available the first time you play, a further 15 increasingly difficult versions of each can be unlocked.
As you progress through the different iterations of each mission, you'll notice that the enemies are tougher and more numerous. But the differences certainly don't end there. Additional action sequences are shoehorned into the missions and, in situations where you're asked to choose your squad's next course of action, more options will become available. Some of the options that you're presented with affect the gameplay only quite marginally; for example, choosing one of two doors aboard Air Force One determines whether or not the plane experiences turbulence during the next sequence. Other options, though, give you the freedom to check out all-new action sequences or to play to your strengths; you might prefer climbing up onto a roof and providing cover fire for your colleagues as they bust into an enemy-filled building to going in there yourself, for example. The numerous routes that you can take through each mission promise to add plenty of replay value to Ghost Squad, which is just as well, given that all three levels can be played through in under 30 minutes.
In addition to points in each level at which you have to choose what to do next, Ghost Squad incorporates a number of other gameplay elements that help to break up the repetitive pointing and shooting somewhat. Using whichever button you've designated as your "action" command, you can rescue hostages, disarm landmines and bombs, and even defeat certain enemies using a melee combat system. These sequences are still controlled by pointing at specific areas on the screen and pushing a button, but they add variety to the proceedings nonetheless.
Variety in Ghost Squad also comes in the form of unlockable extras, which include dozens of different weapons and outfits, as well as "ninja" and "paradise" party modes for up to four players. The first time you play Ghost Squad, the default weapon for all three missions is a versatile machine gun that lets you switch between single-shot, three-shot burst, and fully automatic firing modes. It's arguably one of the easiest weapons to use, but unlockable weapons such as shotguns, rifles, and pistols equipped with laser sights (the regular onscreen reticle is optional) or with the power to shoot through solid objects all have their pros and cons and, crucially, mix up the gameplay a bit. With that said, boss battles and sniper sequences still force you to switch out your chosen weapon for something appropriate, so you'll never know for sure if you're skilled enough to take down an Apache helicopter using a six-shooter rather than a rocket launcher.
Unlockable outfits in Ghost Squad, which would no doubt have given you bragging rights in an arcade back in the day, serve little purpose here, although one or two of them are quite amusing. Much more deserving of a mention are the aforementioned ninja and paradise modes, which alter Ghost Squad's regular gameplay and visuals quite noticeably. For example, in ninja mode all of you will play as ninjas armed with an infinite supply of shuriken, while in paradise mode you'll be carrying a water pistol shaped like a dolphin. Garden-variety enemies take on the forms of ninjas and bikini-clad girls in the two modes, and you'll notice that some of the destructible items and doors in the environment are given makeovers as well. Even some of the more specialized enemies and the bosses can't escape the ninja and paradise paintbrushes, so don't be surprised if you see a large frog where you were expecting a Jet Ski, or a guy strapped to an unusually well-armed kite where you'd normally be up against a helicopter.
Besides support for four players rather than two, the most significant addition to the Wii version of Ghost Squad over the arcade original is undoubtedly the inclusion of online leaderboards. These promise to further add to the game's replay value, and should also act as an incentive for you to play the game without the optional targeting reticle, or to play on more difficult levels since it's possible to score more points that way. Ghost Squad is currently scheduled for release toward the end of November. Expect a full review soon.