For me, Ghost Recon and my childhood are nearly inseparable. Just as I would go through a phase playing nothing but Final Fantasy VII, or Abe’s Oddysee, I had a good couple of months (at least) playing Ghost Recon for the majority of my time. From what I remembered, it was a fairly difficult squad-based shooter that generally allowed you to move at your own pace and in your own way. I’d often experiment by sending in a team of nearly all snipers and watching in fascination as they got decimated in front of my very eyes.
In any case, I recently decided to return to Ghost Recon after seeing that it was available on Steam – the purveyor of digital crack – to see if the game still held up to the memory I held in my mind of it and more importantly, would I be any better at it?
The short answer is yes it still holds up, and no I’m not any better at it. In fact, judging from my progress thus far, I think I may actually have gotten worse at it since I last played it. Compared to the games nowadays, the enemies are ridiculously good shots, and can spot you from an actually realistic distance. I had become too used to being able to sneak up to someone on the edge of their sight and stab them without them ever thinking of turning round to see what the sniggering fool crawling up to them was doing. In Ghost Recon, however, the AI is remarkably astute, and will no only notice you but will also shoot you and your team to death while you are still stunned and fumbling with your guns.
This sounds like an annoyance, but within a game set up to be realistic in tactics and gameplay, the AI is perfectly suited. Whereas in games nowadays you would find a game being touted as having ‘realistic’ weaponry and settings, but the AI is still the bumbling robot-like creatures you met in, say, Goldeneye. Obviously, Ghost Recon’s enemies aren’t vastly superior to the AI available in games nowadays, but they do hold up incredibly well when compared with modern games.
Although it might seem trivial now, one of my main problems with Ghost Recon all those years ago was the lack of being able to see the gun you’re shooting. It was certainly unusual for the time, where every game seemed to be a first-person shooter with a giant gun taking up half the screen. On going back, though, I actually found it helping the immersion as I crawled incredibly slowly and carefully towards the enemy. I can see why the developers did it as well, in a game where missing a moving pixel on the corner of your screen can mean death for you and your team, a gun obscuring your view might push what is already a difficult game into becoming near impossible.
One of the main things I remembered about Ghost Recon, and was delighted to see that it was still present, was it’s uncanny ability to turn every mission into an incredibly personal story. Even if none of your teammates perish in a mission, you’ll still return thinking of the close misses you had with one of them, and this is only amplified if, like my first mission upon returning to the game, only one of them makes it back. Soon, you’ll find yourself desperately trying to keep your whole team alive while still completing each objective on schedule.
All in all, for a measly £5.99 on Steam, Ghost Recon is still a very worthy purchase. It’s great use of tactics and actually not incredibly dated graphics mean that it’s still perfectly playable in these modern times, and has a complexity that is sadly missing from the majority of the games being created today.