"Ghoooost Squaard" intones the intro to AM2's light-gun shooter, like some quirky old Norfolk boy, inviting us to shoot members of the dismal Norwich City team for its failure to beat League One lightweights Bury in the FA Cup. Still, there's always mid-table mediocrity to play for, eh lads?
Moving onto more serious (and, ahem, relevant) matters, Ghost Squad is one of those delightfully old-fashioned first-person on-rails arcade shooters that has belatedly been fashioned into a Wii Zapper-compatible home version. Having realised what a perfect platform the Wii is for all these old point-and-shoot titles, SEGA is busily porting several of them to celebrate that fact. And as well it might, because in terms of precision and accuracy, light-gun-style games on the Wii feel absolutely spot on, as we found out recently with Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles - with or without the plastic housing of the Wii Zapper.
Ghost Squad hinges around the premise of a United States platoon of specialised soldiers which "leave no trace". Uhuh. What, apart from the dozens of dead bodies and the smashed up furniture they leave in their wake? Who would ever know?
So off you go, rescuing hostages, disarming bombs and mines, gunning down helicopters and speedboats, embarking on the occasional sniping foray and generally killing extraordinary numbers of generic leaping perps with a magical firearm that never runs out of ammo (yet requires you to reload by shooting off-screen, as ever). AM2 evidently took the view that it didn't want you worrying about taking cover (like Time Crisis, say), so your entire range of movement and viewpoint is fully taken care of in true old-school style.
What it does throw into the mix is the ability to flick between different types of shot (single, burst, automatic) depending on which type of firearm you've chosen and the type of ammo you've picked up along the way. With 25 weapons (pistols, shotguns, machine-guns, etc) to unlock as you play through multiple multiple multiple times, there's fair bit of variety on that score, if you can really be bothered to run through the game's three short (as in under ten-minute) levels over and over again.
On top of that the game adds little melee interludes where you have to quickly react to nasty men trying to punch or knife you in the face (how rude). Time slows down briefly, allowing you a brief window of opportunity to strike back by pressing the action button and pointing to the appropriate place. It all adds a pleasant degree of variety.
Also helping the case for its defence, Ghost Squad offers a handful of branching paths throughout each level (save the hostages or disarm the bomb, for example), making it initially fun to replay to check out what happens elsewhere. In fact, more paths unlock the more you play it, and to really see all there is to do in the game you're most likely going to have to play it an obscene number of times (each level has 16 difficulty levels to wade through), by which time, of course, you'll be thoroughly bored with it. But can you blame it? AM2 designed it to be a quick-fire arcade blaster, and that's exactly what it still is. If that's what you're after, you'll be happy: the controls are slick, the gameplay's tight and fun, but those after a more weighty (and far better looking) light-gun challenge had better jog on and seek out Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles instead.
Technically, of course, Ghost Squad looks horribly dated, but actually in a kitsch, charming, polished fashion typical of SEGA arcade games. Arcade know-alls will realise, of course, that the original was actually running on Chihiro hardware, which was effectively an Xbox - so, like it or not, this 2008 Wii game is actually an Xbox port by extension. Even back then, though, stiff character models and fairly uninspired environments wouldn't exactly have wowed anyone, and now the whole thing looks more like a first-generation Dreamcast game (which, again, isn't such a bad thing, given how good they were). Its stylish clunkiness, if that makes any sense whatsoever, and comes complete with standard issue bad voice-acting and men being blown up by rockets, then dusting themselves down for more gunplay. We love it really.
What the Wii version does offer over and above the old arcade version is the ability to support four players (which is, err, quite confusing in reality), as well as, shock, online high-score leaderboards, which you have the option to upload to at the end of the game.
Probably the greatest question mark over Ghost Squad is whether it's really worth the inflated price tag. Billed as a full-price release in Europe, you will, of course, be able to shop around and get it far cheaper than the SRP of GBP 34.99, but given the paucity of playing time attached to it and considering how old the game is now, we'd have though it was prime mid-price fodder that would have encouraged plenty of impulse purchases from light-gun fanatics. SEGA appears to have shot itself in the foot with its own light-gun on this one.
As things stand, not only does Ghost Squad feel completely archaic on a number of levels, it offers very poor value for money. Over time that won't be an issue as it finds its merry way into the bargain bins, but the fact remains that there are better games of this type already available for the Wii. Ghost Squad falls firmly into the 'one for hardcore fans of the genre' category, and should only be approached on that basis.
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