There's an old Chris Rock joke about the price of bullets - about making them so expensive that people would be forced to think very carefully about who they shot. While it's not fair to suggest that the consumables in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Phantoms are as pricey as they are in the alternate reality Rock considers, the joke was going through my mind as I hurled my grenades and chambered my magnum rounds. Those things had cost me, and I wondered if it might have been wiser to save up for a new assault rifle instead. After all, the next one would be marginally more effective.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Phantoms is the free-to-play Ghost Recon Online by another name. It's earned this new moniker after graduating from a lengthy open beta phase, during which Marsh Davies, in our Ghost Recon Online review, described it as "rough in places, imperfectly balanced... and occasionally thrilling." I think Marsh was dead on. Is dead on. Two years on, I have found myself occasionally thrilled and, before reading Marsh's reflections on the game, I also found myself having exactly the same thought that he did: when my assault soldier sprints, he leaves the world of Tom Clancy and enters that of Benny Hill. Perhaps this is a crossover?
There are strange things going on here. I've always associated Tom Clancy with that sort of rigid Republicanism that conflates deadly force and rigorously trained young men with justice and retribution, extolling a philosophy that's never far from suggesting that if something threatens your humourless way of life, you can probably blow it up. But, alongside its many, many guns and the grim and expressionless men who wield them, Phantoms also has a host of strange devices that don't really project the same sense of dignity. There's that assault shield that makes you go all Benny Hill. There's a bullet-deflecting force field that feels a bit 1950s sci-fi. There's a microwave weapon which I wouldn't take seriously even if it was in XCOM.