Version tested: Wii
Once the pinnacle of console military simulations, the Ghost Recon series' slide into soft-edged mediocrity has been inexorable and somewhat tragic. Ubisoft, in redefining the solemn squad-based franchise as a mainstream rollercoaster ride of set-pieces, may have succeeded in moving Ghost Recon closer to the tone and character of the more successful Call of Duty, but it's done so at the cost of its distinctive identity.
In this Wii release, the first entry to the series in three years, named simply Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, the publisher seeks to overwrite the memory of the series' sober beginnings by way of a Time Crisis-style on-rails shooter. The result is a game that shares the family name but, aside from the drab urban environments, muted colour palette and military briefing interludes between levels, not the likeness.
The story is a hotchpotch of Clancy-isms, a phoned-in premise concerning a group of ultra-nationalists who have taken over Russia and are beginning their advance on Europe. Dalton Hibbard and Joe Booth are two of the allied soldiers sent to Norway to halt the advancing occupation. Stepping into their boots, you must liberate Russia via 12 missions lasting 20-odd minutes each, in which you click a button to advance through a series of corridors, stopping every now and again to take down the identikit attackers.
The game appears designed to be played with the Wii Zapper. However, inexplicably, the lack of a Ghost Squad-style calibration tool to coax the Wii remote into shooting straight means that you're more likely to opt for a loose remote and nunchuck set-up that doesn't require you to view the game through a skew-whiff viewfinder. The nunchuck is principally used to duck from cover in order to better line up shots on foes, with the stick relegated to weapon selection.
Basic play follows the Time Crisis formula to the letter. Your character and his partner (who is either AI or co-operatively controlled by a friend) move forwards from pillar to post, coming to a rest at each subsequent piece of cover. It's here that you're presented with a tableaux of enemies who either pop out from their own cover to take pot shots at you or, thanks to some wretched enemy AI, wander listlessly across the screen.