Spec Ops: Ranger Elite is a bare-bones squad-based game that feels incredibly stripped down. So stripped down, in fact, that it probably would have fared better had it been developed as a straight action game. The squad premise of the game serves only to throw a few meaningless options into an otherwise thin game.
You pick your soldiers from a pool of five different characters, all of which are pretty standard. Each come equipped with weapons that their specialty requires, such as the close-combat fighter who is equipped by default with a shotgun. There is also a sniper-recon soldier, who is obviously equipped with a sniper rifle, and the machine gunner, grenadier, and rifleman, are all equipped with the obvious armaments. You may alter the loadout of each character by changing or adding weapons and by filling their packs with a handful of items such as grenades, medkits, and satchel charges.
The control of your main character and your backup soldier is pretty good. You have a good variety of actions to do with each, and the way you use the backup works pretty well. You can control them by switching back and forth between the two, making use of the different weapons and skills yourself, or you can issue simple commands such as "follow me" and "move up." Having both a main character and a backup soldier is what qualifies this as a squad-based game, but it may have been better off if the one main character had two or more weapons instead of throwing in a backup character that just follows you around--and does little more than that, if you don't specifically command him to do anything. The two-player game uses a split-screen setup, and it makes the game much easier and more entertaining to play.
The graphics are pretty rough, and the draw-in distance is downright terrible, which can wreak havoc during the missions. Enemies have a habit of shooting at you from behind cover, and they're difficult to spot before you're right on top of them. Oftentimes they will just pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. You can try to move along using binoculars or scopes to check ahead, but this slows the gameplay down to an agonizingly slow pace.
The camera does pretty well in open areas, but when you get into tight corners or up against a wall, it gets a little confused as to where it should be situated. If you are killed in a mission, the camera pans up and out before dropping into a very shaky spin around your prone body. It's so shaky that it looks like it's catching on invisible corners and breaking free over and over again.
The music is decent, but there isn't a whole lot of it, and the repetitiveness that goes hand in hand with that can get to be annoying pretty quickly. The sound effects are good when they chime in, but the problem with the overall sound is the quality. Every sound is washed out, as if everything was recorded at too high a level then down-sampled before it went into the game.
Spec Ops: Ranger Elite boils down to a game that makes no attempt to go beyond what its bargain-priced predecessor, Spec Ops: Stealth Patrol, has already done. Instead, it elects to rehash all of the options we've already seen and gives you little more then new levels in which to play. Still, the low price tag makes the game a little attractive and might make a few of the flaws excusable for those who enjoy squad-style gaming.