Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Update

We check out more of Ubisoft's ambitious sequel to the popular Xbox Live shooter.

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How do you follow up the most successful Xbox Live game of 2002? While the obvious answer is to serve up more of the same (only better), conventional wisdom would tell you to make sure you don't rock the boat too much. While this would undoubtedly make for a perfectly competent game that would be successful, Ubisosft's Red Storm Entertainment is aiming to be a bit more ambitious with its follow-up to Ghost Recon, the aptly titled Ghost Recon 2, on the Xbox. We got our first look at the game at E3 this past May, and we recently had the chance to check out a promising-looking demo of two levels from a work-in-progress version of the upcoming Xbox game.

Red Storm is making some ambitious changes to the Ghost Recon formula in this upcoming sequel. Click "stream" for a larger view.

The game's premise finds you dropped into a near-future version of Northeast Asia during a fictitious power struggle between North Korea and China. Although, the US, France, Britain, Germany, and other nations of the world must remain neutral, the leaders of these countries are constantly plotting. You're part of an expeditionary force sent in to devastate the North Korean's rapidly maturing military forces to prevent any craziness that could potentially lead to a world war. This time out the game will feature roughly 20 single-player missions that can also be used for multiplayer games. The traditional game modes will also be available for you to choose from. In addition to the single-player campaign mode, you'll be able to choose a quick mission or an offline or online multiplayer mode.

Pagoda, the first level we saw, shows off a variety of new elements as well as a more linear, focused structure. It begins with you having to fight your way up an incline. Your objectives will unfold as you progress, forcing you to adjust your strategy on the fly. This level provides a taste of the artificial intelligence tuning that Red Storm is doing for the foes that you will encounter. Thankfully, you'll be provided with an intelligent crew to support you. You'll be joined by a new crew of soldiers with unique personalities that will offer a distinctly different experience. In addition, you'll occasionally collaborate with AI-controlled allied soldiers from the British Special Air Service (SAS) who will provide backup for you in various missions.

The next level, Pilot Down, is a more traditional Ghost Recon-style map with a clear Black Hawk Down inspiration. The map features a traditional open-ended layout that lends itself to intense firefights that require quick thinking and a keen eye for cover. Speaking of firefights, Ghost Recon 2 will feature a varied arsenal of high-tech weapons that are either currently in use by the army or are being prepared for use. You'll need a hefty batch of weapons to deal with the ground forces you'll encounter, which will include vehicles that will often turn up where you least want to see them.

The gameplay stays fundamentally the same, but Red Storm is incorporating a number of new features to give players more options. The feature of issuing orders by pointing at selected areas has been beefed up to include a broader array of context-sensitive moves as well as the ability to deploy your group for more complex flanking maneuvers. You'll also be able to issue orders to your crew via hand signals when silence is of the essence. Red Storm is also tweaking the briefing system in the game and offering a unique cinematic presentation that will help to better highlight the men on your team.

The graphics in the game look very tasty, thanks to an overhaul that includes a new engine with new animation and Havok physics thrown in for a final layer of polish. The version of the game in our demo already sported improved visuals. The animation looks sharp, there are two main points that stood out, the most obvious being the marriage between the animation with Havok physics, which offered some great moments of mayhem. The more subtle touch was character animation, which is coming together nicely.

Ghost Recon 2's graphics represent one of its most improved aspects.
Ghost Recon 2's graphics represent one of its most improved aspects.

The audio in the game will have a more refined approach. In keeping with Red Storm's goal of giving your team unique personalities, each member will have distinct voice samples that will play in various situations (such as when sighting hostiles or when a threat has been neutralized). As with the last Ghost Recon, GR2 will feature Dolby 5.1 support to create an immersive audio experience for those with the setup for it. From what we've heard so far, we believe the audio is definitely moving in a positive direction.

Based on this early look at the upcoming game, Ghost Recon 2 looks like it will follow through on its promise to offer fans of the first game some familiar content, improve on the original aspects that made the game great, and introduce new elements for good measure. The enhanced graphics and refined gameplay are certainly good to see. The addition of the optional over-the-shoulder camera angle is a nice extra. We'll be anxious to see what else Red Storm is brewing up for the sequel when we get our next look at the game in the coming weeks. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 is currently slated to ship this fall for the Xbox and the PC. For an exclusive developer interview, complete with footage of the game in motion, check out the media page.

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