Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Hands-On

There are two Ghost Recon 2 games, one for the Xbox and the other for the PS2, and we recently had a chance to check them out.

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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2
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Even though Splinter Cell 3 has been delayed until next year, Ubisoft is still looking to deliver some major Tom Clancy-branded gameplay this Christmas with Ghost Recon 2. The original Ghost Recon was a first-person shooter on the PC that was ported with great success to the Xbox and PS2, but for Ghost Recon 2, Ubisoft is looking to deliver first to the consoles later this year, and then release the PC version sometime next year. We recently had a chance to check out both the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game to see what the company has been working on.

The Ghosts are back, but this time the action is set in North Korea.
The Ghosts are back, but this time the action is set in North Korea.

In a surprise move, Ubisoft is actually making two separate Ghost Recon 2 games--one for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube and the other for the Xbox and PC. We're not talking about ports, but rather entirely different games. While the two versions will have the same name, they'll feature different stories and settings. The PlayStation 2 and GameCube version of the game is set four years before the Xbox and PC version, as the elite military strike force known as the Ghosts are dispatched to deal with a rogue North Korean regime threatening the world. As a result of the events in that game, North Korea falls apart. The story picks up four years later in the Xbox version, as the Ghosts return to a war-torn North Korea to pick up the pieces. Thankfully, the story in each version is entirely self-contained, so you won't have to buy both versions, though there are undoubtedly some fans out there who will.

According to Ubisoft, two different games are being developed so a Tom Clancy title can be made specifically for the PlayStation 2. In fact, Ghost Recon 2 for the PS2 is the first Tom Clancy-based game that's been built from the ground up for that platform--all the earlier Tom Clancy games on the PS2 have simply been ports from other platforms. The PlayStation 2 version is being built on the Unreal graphics engine by the team at Ubisoft Shanghai, which has plenty of experience with the Unreal engine on the PS2. Meanwhile, Ghost Recon 2 for the Xbox is being developed by the folks at Red Storm in North Carolina, and that team uses different technology altogether.

We got to play some of the PS2 game's single-player campaign, in a mission that had our Ghosts skulking around the North Korean countryside looking for trouble. We did a little of everything, from setting up ambushes to sniping away at guards on distant towers. You can take only three other Ghosts with you on each mission, so you'll have to select your teammates from the overall pool of eight Ghosts in the game. And you can also issue orders to your teammates. For example, you can send one of them ahead to perform recon, or you can tell them to hold position while you investigate yourself. The PS2 version looks quite good, as the terrain has a natural feel to it and there are plenty of trees and plants around to reinforce the feeling that you're in the wilderness. We're told that you'll even stumble upon a waterfall or two.

Expect plenty of real-world weapons, as well as some next-generation gear, to appear in the game.
Expect plenty of real-world weapons, as well as some next-generation gear, to appear in the game.

The single-player campaign should run about 12 missions, and when you're done you can look forward to the game's multiplayer component. The original Ghost Recon was a huge hit for Xbox Live fans, and Ubisoft wants to create a similar following on the PlayStation 2. Therefore, a separate studio, Ubisoft Paris, is working on the multiplayer for the PS2 version. Though details aren't available quite yet, we're told we can expect plenty of online content, as a 30-member team is hard at work on the component. The PS2 version will have support for up to 16 players using broadband, and there will be team play and other new modes.

We also spent some time with the Xbox game's single-player campaign, which dispatched our Ghosts to rescue a downed Black Hawk helicopter pilot. After being inserted by helicopter, our Ghosts darted into the woods and stumbled onto an enemy patrol, which resulted in the first of many intense firefights. The action looks great--so much so that it's a surprise to learn that the Xbox version uses a modified and enhanced version of the original Ghost Recon graphics engine. It looks like an entirely new engine at times. In the Xbox version, you're limited to four Ghosts on each mission, but you can tailor your team depending on who you bring along. There are four different classes to choose from--gunner, grenadier, marksman, and rifleman--and these classes determine which weapons will be at your disposal. Of course, Ghost Recon 2 will feature a full Xbox Live component, and we can expect support for about 16 players per game. The new levels are quite detailed, and we ran around a North Korean village and a gutted city, both of which offered plenty of places to hide. And, of course, there are some big outdoor levels set in the woods, with plenty of handy landmarks--such as a field of burned-out tanks--that should help orient you.

The action looks good, and the environments are beautiful.
The action looks good, and the environments are beautiful.

In addition to the regular campaign, the PS2 and Xbox games will both feature a new "lone wolf" mode that will allow you to replay completed missions, but with a twist--you get to play the game with just one guy. To compensate, you'll be given the coolest military equipment in the game, all of it based on upcoming Army gear. In addition to getting toys like the XM8 rifle with a 6x scope, a built-in target designator, and an air-burst grenade launcher, you'll also get a radio to call in air strikes.

Ghost Recon 2 is shaping up very nicely. The original Ghost Recon for the Xbox and the SOCOM games for the PS2 have proven that there's a huge audience for tactical-based multiplayer shooters on consoles, and Ghost Recon 2 is aiming to raise the bar even higher. We can look for both versions of the game to ship later this year.

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