The mobile version of Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm is Gameloft's third experiment with porting one of its N-Gage games to the downloadable side. Rayman 3 and Asphalt: Urban GT both made the transition famously, but those games are in genres suited to mobile phones--side-scrolling platformers and racing games, respectively. The same cannot be said of first-person shooters, which require the precise, multiaxis controls and smooth graphics that mobile phones typically cannot provide. A few key features of the original have been sacrificed to fit Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm into a download, but it still looks and plays about as well as it possibly could on a cell phone. All told, this is probably the first downloadable mobile FPS that's worth playing.
Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm is set in the steamy jungles and colonial townships of Colombia circa 2010--an era of fresh internal stresses for the already-unstable Latin American nation. A new rebel group, the MFLC, has spread like a cancer into Colombia's body politic. Encouraged by their environment's lack of effective central authority, these neo-Marxists have really gotten up to the dickens. They've run down the whole insurgency laundry list of peddling drugs, taking hostages, and threatening to tear Colombia to tatters and destabilize the region. Naturally, the boys in Washington frown upon this activity, so they've sent in your team of Ghosts to operate behind rebel lines and disrupt their criminal activities.
Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm covers six missions (two less than the N-Gage version), which span the Ghosts' efforts to tidy up the MFLC mess with a little elbow grease and lots of cordite. Your campaign kicks off with a simple hostage-rescue mission, but before long you'll be taking the fight to the rebels by sabotaging their rail transportation, laying waste to their compounds, and dropping as many of their elite terrorists as possible. Before each mission, you outfit your principal Ghost, Coalwater, with primary and secondary weapons. These can include submachine guns, pistols, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and even binoculars. In addition, completing each mission unlocks a new weapon, such as the coveted AK-47. Each of these boom sticks has different accuracy, damage, and range attributes, as well as an entirely unique feel in combat. Some guns can zoom in on enemies very effectively, but are worthless while running, and others have no sighting option at all. The only dull spot here seems to be your thrown grenades, which don't have the realistic feel or action of the rest of the weapons.
The downloadable version differs substantially in the squad-based tactics department, however. You only get a single teammate here, versus three others on the N-Gage, and he really doesn't seem to do much of anything. Your teammate will acknowledge receipt of orders and move around, but he'll barely shoot at enemies. As before, you cannot choose your teammate's weapons set, although this doesn't really matter. The N-Gage's team dynamic was no great shakes to begin with, but it's been all but removed in this version, and it feels like a loss.
Nevertheless, Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm is still very impressive in the gameplay department overall. Everything in the game, from the level designs to firing weapons to your heads-up display, has been conscientiously designed to be as intuitive as possible, and the whole package works well on the Samsung SCH-A890. The levels aren't too big, meaning you can navigate and complete them in bite-sized chunks of time. You are also provided with a detailed map that indicates your position relative to your objectives, as well as the entire area's layout. During combat, your targeting reticule expands or contracts depending on how accurate your shot is, and Gameloft has provided two levels of auto-aiming to make the job of targeting with the cell's keypad a much easier affair. Finally, Jungle Storm's heads-up display gives you all the visual feedback you need, without being gratuitous or complicating matters. For instance, red bars indicate the direction from which you're taking enemy fire, and this makes the game's narrow field of vision less of a hassle. Furthermore, all of your objectives are indicated, one after the other, by bright green numbers in your HUD. As you run toward the marker, a distance indicator will count down, letting you know exactly how far you have left to go.
These touches may seem minor when viewed individually, but taken together, they increase Jungle Storm's playability ratio tremendously and help to smooth over some of the game's control problems. The control scheme involves the use of every button on the phone, and it isn't as responsive or effective as it was in the N-Gage version. For example, you will frequently mix up the "zoom" key and the trigger key during firefights, and it's impossible to strafe and change your aim laterally at the same time. FPS veterans will overcome these difficulties in time, but less-experienced gamers may be stymied. The run-speed problems don't seem as pronounced as they did on the N-Gage, but the game will still experience periodic slowdown, especially when drawing large outdoor environments.
Another problem is that the game is relatively short. The six levels do provide a nice variety of gameplay challenges and locales, but they simply don't last for long. Gameloft has recognized that this campaign may not prove sufficient for some gamers, so they've done everything they can to squeeze the most fun out it. Jungle Storm has multiple levels--the last of which is really quite hard--as well as an unlockable "challenge" mode. The challenges allow you to revisit the six levels, and you can try to beat each of them with certain restrictions in place: a per-level time limit, a single-bullet lethality rule, or a solo run. Most mobile gamers won't find Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm to be dramatically abridged, but it's still not as good of a value as the original, mostly because it's lost all of its excellent multiplayer functionality.
Jungle Storm's lost a step in both the graphics and sound department, but each is still excellent when compared to its direct competition. The textures are much blockier, there's less color depth, and the draw distance is shorter. But the game still runs at a very playable speed, and when it comes to the graphics, it definitely beats out most of V Cast's other offerings. For instance, the character animations have been entirely preserved, so you can watch terrorists realistically keel over when you cap them at a distance. The sound is grungier on mobile, especially when it comes to weapons effects, which now sound like soft snare drums. However, it's still very good. The music is sparse, but stirring when it appears.
In the final analysis, the downloadable Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm isn't as strong as the N-Gage version, but it still rates as a great mobile action game. Console gamers are likely to be impressed with how much Gameloft has managed to pack into a sub-megabyte download. Casual players are clearly not the target audience of this game and should probably stay away from it, but those looking for a good FPS experience on their phone will be hard pressed to find better.