A Tale In The Desert
Here we go again. The milking of the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon license has begun in earnest, and the initial droplet of calcium from this particular gaming cow comes in the form of Desert Siege, Ghost Recon's first mission pack. There are eight new single player missions to crack in Desert Siege, along with a couple of new multiplayer modes (Siege and Domination, both simple team-based territory defence and attack games), four more multiplayer maps and nine new weapons, also for multiplayer. The brand new single player campaign sees the elite team of Green Berets known as the Ghosts heading into Eritrea to protect the small country from invasion by neighbouring Ethiopia, the peak of sixty years of conflict which is putting the Red Sea's vital shipping lanes at risk. If there's one thing that bugged me about Ghost Recon, it was the fact that just because Red Storm had knocked together a fancy-pants engine capable of rendering lush open battlefields, they used it as an excuse not to bother with the superb detail and variety of locations so resplendent in the Rainbow Six series. While the locales on offer in Desert Siege create a distinct change in atmosphere and scenery from the predominantly green marshland of the original, there is still a distinct lack of variety on the whole. Assaults on well-designed sites like a train depot and an oil refinery do offer some reprieve from the sprawling desert scenes though, both in tactical decision-making and the actual pace of the game.
Tactical Action For Dummies?
Despite the lack of progression in the actual design of the levels, the game seems to be more at home in a desert context. The textures and artwork are generally splendid and you can almost feel the sun beating down on your face as the troops scramble across the harsh, dusty terrain. The game is also audibly superb; the guns sound suitably meaty, the chatter from fellow soldiers and enemies alike manages to draw you into the world effectively, and the ambient noise on some levels does a stellar job of depicting the war torn environment you're struggling through. One of my other issues with Ghost Recon was Red Storm's attempt at simplifying the soldier command interface. This resulted in some degree of dumbing-down, effectively doing away with any real planning stage, and so it became usual for me to just go it alone, using other soldiers as extra lives as opposed to formulating any kind of strategic assault routes. By contrast, the design of most of these new missions facilitates and almost forces you to command with utmost efficiency through this very simplistic interface. This is achieved through the design of multiple and very obvious approach paths on the maps, and while this makes the game feel a little more linear, the sense of employing real tactics to outsmart your enemy outweighs any drawbacks. The addition of some desert missions to the slightly plain Ghost Recon is just what the title needed to re-establish Red Storm as the gods of tactical action gaming. No doubt there will be a whole string of expansion packs for Ghost Recon in the future, but as long as this kind of standard is maintained, that will be no bad thing.