Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon was originally released on the PC back in 2001. Since then, Red Storm Entertainment has ported the game to the Xbox and the PlayStation 2. The Xbox version was good and offered the exciting online play of the original. The PS2 version, however, didn't include an online option and suffered from a number of problems that simply put it well below the standard set by other PS2 games like SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs. That brings us to today and to the recently released GameCube version of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, which falls somewhere in between the poor PS2 port and the online-enabled Xbox version.
The game puts you in control of two squads of three soldiers. You can outfit each soldier with different weapons and equipment, like sniper rifles and explosives. The original PC version of the game gave you three teams to control, which made the game a bit more exciting and practical, since you could create two general-purpose teams and then create a specialist team of demolition experts or snipers. In the GameCube version, you'll have to make do with just the two squads. Once you're in the field, the GameCube version of Ghost Recon has the same basic setup as the PC version in that you can control each soldier in your complement by switching from one to the next. You can also tell your teammates to meet you at rally points by simply targeting the spot where you want them to meet and pressing the Y button. The controls for switching between the soldiers and controlling their actions are fairly simple once you get used to them. The controls for actually moving and firing weapons are also fairly intuitive, but they're a bit clunky in terms of their responsiveness.
The biggest problems with the GameCube version of Ghost Recon are found in its general gameplay mechanics. The game is designed to be a stealthy first-person shooter in which you're supposed to sneak around in wide-open environments, using trees and shrubbery for camouflage. While this is certainly interesting in the Xbox and PC versions of the game, the GameCube version spoils the suspense by including a threat-detection radar. This enemy detector lets you know exactly where the enemy soldiers are and whether or not they are hiding behind an object. Even worse, your crosshairs will turn red (which denotes a threat) when they track across an enemy, whether that enemy is visible or not, which makes it possible to shoot enemies that you can't even see. The threat-detection radar can't be turned off unless you play the game on the hardest difficulty setting, which also dramatically improves the enemy soldiers' aim.
The artificial intelligence for both your teammates and the enemy soldiers is poor. When you fire at an enemy soldier from afar and miss, and he doesn't even notice that you're taking shots at him, you can't help but feel disappointed in the game. And the only noticeable change in the AI at higher difficulty settings is that the soldiers have better aim.
Visually Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon isn't a very stellar-looking GameCube game, but it does manage to get the job done. The models and textures used for the soldiers and environments are fairly simple, but they have many of the details featured in the Xbox version. For instance, equipment dangles around the soldiers' waists, the snipers have their camouflaged netting wrapped around them, and buildings look realistically worn by weather. The animation of the characters from a distance is terrible--the enemy soldiers look like they have two frames of animation--but it does get better as they approach. The game's frame rate is fairly constant, although it does hitch up often when there are multiple enemies and teammates onscreen at once. The game features some neat blurring effects that indicate when the soldier you're controlling has been struck by a bullet. The lighting and shadowing in the game definitely give you a sense of the terrain's depth and scope, which is a nice visual touch.
In the audio department, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon features realistic sound effects and an exciting orchestral score. The clatter of equipment as your soldiers move, the sound of the wind, and the rumbling, gear-grinding sounds of tanks in the distance almost do a better job of conveying the feeling of what it would be like to be on a covert mission than the game's visuals do.
Online play brought a lot to the table for the PC and Xbox versions, but this option has been left out of the GameCube release, which really hurts the game. However, you can play through each single-player campaign level cooperatively with a second player using a split-screen setup once you complete each level as a single player. It would have been nice if the designers had allowed you to tackle the game cooperatively the first time through instead of making one player beat a level before being able to play it cooperatively. The game also features a one-on-one deathmatch mode on a split screen, and this mode is mediocre at best.
In the end, Ghost Recon for the GameCube is almost a decent first-person tactical shooter, but its restrictive design that uses hills and rock formations that any soldier, or human being, should be more than capable of walking up with ease to corral you into small areas is frustrating. This frustration carries over to just about every element of the game thanks to its poor artificial intelligence, graphical flaws, and repetitive mission objectives. While it's easy to say that Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon for the GameCube isn't a game you should purchase, those GameCube owners who've been waiting patiently for a decent tactical first-person shooter might want to consider renting the game, especially since you can see just about everything the game has to offer within a few hours.