Clancy must be an extremely busy man. When he isnt churning out a new
book every two weeks, he is putting his John Hancock on a successful
series of computer games. The latest game to carry his name, an
expansion pack for Ghost Recon called Island Thunder, manages to
maintain the realistic graphics and gameplay as well as the convoluted
military storylines that Tom Clancy is famous for. If you didnt like
Ghost Recon or find that tactical first person shooters arent your cup
of tea, Island Thunder offers nothing that will change your mind. If you
are a fan of Ghost Recon, expect more of the same from Island Thunder.
setting for Island Thunder is Cuba in the year 2010. Fidel Castros
death has plunged the country into political turmoil. Under the interim
president, free elections are promised to the people of Cuba, but
powerful drug lords would rather their country did not change from
Communism. A request for international assistance to safeguard the
election is sent out and answered in the form of the Ghosts. The Ghosts
are an elite infantry unit of the United States that places the newest
weapon technology in the hands of only the best and brightest soldiers.
It is up to the Ghosts to ensure that democratic elections take place,
and so Island Thunder begins.
Thunder is a tactical first person shooter. This type of game is often
referred to as a "thinking mans shooter", and that really is the best
description for it. You are in command of three teams of commandos made
up of two men each. You are in complete control of choosing what type of
soldiers you want in each team, as well as equipping them with weapons.
There are snipers, riflemen, demolitions experts and a few others at
your disposal and it is up to you to put together the best teams to
finish each mission.
gameplay in Island Thunder isnt what youd typically expect in a first
person shooter. Rather than running down corridors with guns blazing,
you have a wide-open environment to explore and stealth is much more
important than speed or raw power. Sneaking through the jungle and
taking your enemies out with a sniper rifle from a distance makes up a
majority of the gameplay, so fans expecting a fast and furious FPS
experience should look elsewhere. It is absolutely necessary to have a
plan of attack in order to keep you men alive. If you go charging out
into the open, you can and will be killed. Island Thunder is a military
simulation, so tactical thinking on your part will get you that much
closer to success and will keep your men alive just a bit longer.
Island Thunder, you have to be a pretty good shot because if you fire on
an enemy and miss, they will almost certainly shoot and kill you before
you can line up for another shot. This is by far the most maddening
aspect of the Ghost Recon series. The enemies are insanely accurate and
getting shot by snipers that you are never going to see only serves to
frustrate. More often than not I would get plugged by a sniper and be
left staring at my computer screen, furrowing my brow in a useless
attempt to figure out what the heck had just happened. Most of the time,
I have to admit, Island Thunder is not very fun in the traditional sense
of the word. The thing that draws people to it and keeps them coming
back for more is the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of finally
passing a mission. The only game of recent memory I can think of that
was like this was Stuntman on the PS2. Trying the same scenarios dozens
and dozens of times isnt fun, but when you finally do complete a level
you cant help but keep playing the game. Island Thunder is a difficult
game even on the easiest difficulty setting, but it manages to be just
enjoyable enough to keep you coming back for more.
Island Thunder is the same as controlling any other FPS. The W,A,S,D
keys control your movement and you aim with the mouse. You can also lean
around corners, duck behind cover, and crawl on the ground. The zoom
function of the sniper rifle is assigned to the scroll wheel on the
mouse which makes it easy to zoom in and out, something which youll be
doing an awful lot in this game.
graphics in Island Thunder are really quite beautiful. There are eight
missions that will take you from lush tropical forests to a beach resort
to a city to a heavily guarded enemy stronghold. The graphics are
extremely realistic looking and each of these very different locations
manages to look outstanding. Rain and fog are also very well done and
actually affect the gameplay. The rain soaks into uniforms and they
really do look wet. There arent many fancy special effects, but
explosions and tracer rounds whizzing past are recreated perfectly.
Overall, the graphics look great and add immensely to the realistic feel
of the game.
also plays a key role in making Island Thunder as realistic as possible.
There is music on the menu screens, but not during the missions. This is
acceptable, though, because I dont think there is a big dramatic
soundtrack playing over every battle in the real world. Sound effects
such as birds out in the jungle or the waves crashing on the beach help
immerse you into the world. Soldiers cry out when shot and will say a
few words now and then as well. The guns in Island Thunder sound
realistic and, most importantly, they are loud. The sound, just as much
as the graphics, does an excellent job of presenting a realistic
atmosphere that draws you into the game.
Overall, Ghost Recon: Island Thunder is an exercise in both extreme
frustration and sheer joy. The graphics and sound are outstanding and
everything in the game just oozes realism. Playing through Island
Thunder requires patience, though, so if the prospect of getting shot by
enemies you cant see over and over again doesnt sound very appealing
to you, then you probably already skipped Ghost Recon when it came out a
year ago. For fans of Ghost Recon, Island Thunder is a great expansion
pack that is well worth the $20 price tag. There isnt really anything
new in Island Thunder other than a new story and new environments, but
what more do you need?