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Ghost Squad

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Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Light gun shooters haven't always been popular at home, and not just because pointing the gun off-screen to reload sometimes incurs collateral damage ("why is my plant pot in the fire"). Instead it's the old dichotomy of arcade and home - what's brilliantly brief in amongst the slots is bewilderingly insubstantial when your receipt says 39.99.

Making your arcade game work in the home is difficult to do, as SEGA will grimly attest - but SEGA's also one of the best examples of a publisher figuring it out, having delivered OutRun 2006 to universal acclaim. That game offered isolated, untouched arcade versions alongside modified and expanded adaptations that built on what we liked about the coin-op originals without betraying their memory.

Doing the same for a light gun game might seem harder, but Ghost Squad's set-up suggests it could succeed - and the game's Wiimote controls are a surprisingly splendid substitute for the massive assault rifle weaponry hooked up to the game down the pier.

In it, you take control of a member of the Global Humanitarian-Operation and Special Tactics Squad (a backronym that's only outdone by our own sadly non-fictional Serious Organised Crime Agency), and it's up to you and up to three comrades to take down some of those pesky terrorists you hear about on the news. These ones are a bit more successful than ours though, and have managed to do things like smuggle about 48 of themselves onto Air Force One.

Why thank you!

So, you get in there in the manner of that anti-terrorist film with the tube between the two planes and it blows up and one of them falls out but we can't remember what it's called, and then you point the Wiimote at the screen and hit the B button until they're all dead. Executive Decision. That was it. You can also use the Wii Zapper with the Wiimote, although, as we'll discover when I write the next paragraph, the lack of it is no inconvenience.

That's because, perhaps thanks to countless hours of trying to navigate YouTube using Opera for Wii, we're quite good at quickly pointing at things accurately while holding the Wiimote like a TV remote. In Ghost Squad, that's a skill that makes all the difference, because the game recognises quick kills and headshots and rewards them heartily. As they scramble on-screen they're dead in an instant as our quick-draw gunplay downs them with alarming efficiency. We didn't know we had it in us, but it bodes well for the game.

Ghost Squad also introduces a certain amount of variety into the traditional on-rails amble, and that's where it starts to paddle into the choppy wake left by successful arcade ports like OutRun. As well as having 25 unlockable weapons, online gameplay and a four-player mode, you can also opt for different objectives within a level (save all the hostages or kill all the terrorists, for example). In the Japanese arcade original, a sort of save-game ID card system let you experience the game differently with alternate enemy positions and pathways, and that should endure here too, all of which feeds into the potential for replay.

Graphically it is what you might call 'functional'.

Gunplay isn't all you do either, with a bit of bomb-defusal at one point, while another of the missions we've played culminates in a boss fight with a helicopter where the idea is to hover your aiming reticule over the chopper long enough to get a lock-on before firing, proving once and for all that those impressive buzz-bar skills we built up at school fetes were in fact excellent training for surface-to-air super-murder.

All of which adds up to an experience that will probably prove insubstantial in the manner to which we've become accustomed, but which ought also to generate a bit of repeat play, and less of a sense of repetition - helped along, as in other genre classics, by delightfully daft dialogue of the trembling finger held aloft while growling "Yooooou!!!" variety. Plus: acting. In the final moments of our hands-on demo, when we took down the chopper, we high-fived with our squad-mate and then stood looking into his eyes intensely while the camera panned out and the level ended.

And in the game. Which is due out this winter exclusively on Wii.

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