Ghost Recon is the latest ‘soldier sim’ to make it onto the PC from Red Storm, creators of the popular Rainbow6 series. It was only a couple of weeks ago we were putting Rogue Spear: Black Thorn through its paces so it was interesting to see how Red Storm have come on with an all new game featuring an all new engine. Ghost Recon focuses on the US special forces unit called the ‘Ghosts’ and the year is 2008 with the World on the brink of war as radical ultra-nationalists seize power in Moscow. To put an end to the crisis and bring down these Russian fanatics the Ghosts have been dropped onto Russian soil somewhere in Georgia to infiltrate the enemy.Ghost Recon carries over a very similar theme to Red Storm’s previous titles but there are now a few changes. The most noticeable difference in Ghost Recon is the lack of pre-mission planning. No longer are you required to plan your route before entering a situation, every time you enter a new mission you are entering into the unknown with basic information on your mission. Before embarking on your missions you have to select your troops which is easily done after you’ve received your briefing. These troops can make or break a mission so you need to choose and equip them wisely. The troops are divided up into squads and like the previous Rainbow 6 games you’re in control. Keeping the troops alive is a priority, the more missions a member completes the more experience they gain. Fortunately this is made a little easier with the inclusion of a save game feature, something that was missing in the previous Red Storm titles.A soon as a mission starts you a*ume the role of one of the members of the squad. There are usually 3 squads of 4 split into groups. Right from the start you have to instruct the troops on where and how to move around the play area. All the commands and waypoints are now clicked in-game on the pop-up map screen which replaces the mission planning. Some gamers will probably prefer this method to the pre-mission planning but this way means you’ll need quick reactions when ordering troops to move.Controlling the troops has never been so important. Getting troops to storm round the map or take a key enemy position post haste will probably lead them to their doom due to the open expanse of the areas. Ghost Recon allows you to a*ign different movement types to each squad, ‘either a*ault’, ‘suppress fire’ or ‘recon’, as they move towards a waypoint set by you. These troop movements and commands are all keyed in via hotkeys or via the icons on the mini-map. The troops responses seemed to be a bit hit and miss at times when using hotkeys, sometimes you would tell a squad member to advance and you’d get no feedback making it a little difficult to see if they were actually carrying out their orders without having the map constantly open. When troops do respond using the mini-map functions, they respond very well and react adequately if they come into a hostile situation. While on the subject of AI the enemy were tough, sometimes too tough. You could be crawling along then all of a sudden ‘bang!’ you’re down and there didn’t even seem to be an enemy in sight. Ghost Recon proved really challenging at times mainly down to the enemy and their ability to spot you from what seemed like miles away.There will be points where taking control of individual team members one by one will be the easiest way to advance, it’s not the quickest method of getting from A to B but it sometimes ensures a higher rate of success. Unfortunately this can cause problems with the AI. For example more often than not if you get your character to lie down then switch to another character the character you were just controlling will likely get up and probably get shot in the process. Little things like this can make the game frustrating at times.To help locate the enemy at the bottom of the screen is a threat indicator which changes colour depending on which direction the enemy is positioned. The indicator changes red when the enemy is close and yellow when there’s a mild threat. While this is a nice idea its usefulness is pretty limited mainly due to the fact that it’s not easy to sneak round an enemy when the indicator is red anyway, they’ll probably spot you and take you out with one shot. It’s pretty much limited to indicate there are enemy somewhere in the vicinity.Ghost Recon features a multitude of weapons which are all chosen for each team member pre-mission. You can select predefined weapon configs and troops for each mission but they are not necessarily the best. The most useful in a game like this is definitely the sniper, which helps pick of entrenched enemies. Every mission will require some tweaking and changing, no point trying to take out enemy tanks with a sniper rifle or automatic machine gun, it just won’t cut the mustard. Special troops like demolition experts will be required for some missions so watching briefings carefully is always important to make sure you have all the right experts selected for the job. Also, as it’s probably on your mind, you can’t control vehicles. There are vehicles such as tanks in the game but I’m afraid you’ll be limited to blowing them up.We found that it was lot easier to get through the missions if you took control of the sniper to spot the enemies, especially on the outdoor levels. This allowed you to mop up any trouble spots before telling the rest of the troops to advance. The advantage of the sniper certainly took some of the attention away from other members of the squad. One thing that sort of puzzles me is the inability to pick up enemy weapons or ammo. According to the PR blurb this was to keep the game as realistic as possible, apparently every member of the squad carries everything they could ever need in battle. Not sure about you but I know I would be straight into their pockets raiding everything I could find from ammo to the last bit of their Mars Bar.Graphically Ghost Recon is quite a step up from the previous Red Storm games, it does look good but it’s not without problems. Firstly there is a real heavy fogging effect on outdoor levels which means your vision into the distance can be fuzzy. The graphics themselves are pretty grainy when in forests or outdoor areas, certainly not sharp enough to distinguish some objects which only adds to the problem. The urban levels seem a lot clearer and its certainly a lot easier to move your troops around, the lack of foliage all blending together makes co-ordinating troop movement less c*bersome. Despite these few observations things do look pretty good, the landscape is nicely detailed and little touches like trees swaying in the breeze make the outdoor scenarios feel very realistic. All the player models are top notch, not surprising really, they were always pretty good in the Rainbow 6 series, and the death animations are excellent. Nothing more satisfying than watching the enemy clutch their head and fall to the ground like a sack of potatoes.The game’s sound was certainly atmospheric enough, constantly changing depending on location and the surface you are walking on. You will hear the wind, wildlife and other atmospheric conditions, providing a really great immersive feeling. Weapon sounds are very nicely done as are things such as explosions and radio chatter from troops. Game music is not a real feature of Ghost Recon, you’ll only hear it when navigating around the menus before missions. There is of course the death music sequences, which, if you’re like me, you’ll be hearing quite a lot.Any tactical shooter requires a multiplayer mode and this is where you’ll probably get the most enjoyment out of Ghost Recon. Like most recent Ubi Soft titles the multiplayer is handled on the Ubi.com game service and you won’t be short of players, there always seems to be stacks online. The game features head-to-head, co-op multiplayer as well as the King of The Hill style mode so there should be something for everyone.This was a tough game to review, there were quite a few things that irritated me about Ghost Recon but it has a certain appeal that draws you back for more. Although there are graphic and AI issues at times and Red Storm don’t really seem to have advanced the genre, this is a game that tactical shooter fans will thoroughly enjoy. If one shot kills and heavy tactical planning in the field are not your thing then keep away, but if you’re up to a challenge Ghost Recon should be on your shopping list.