Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder Review

Island Thunder is an expansion pack for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon that takes your elite special forces units to Cuba in 2010.  After Castro's death and a period of instability marked by one dictator after another, Cuba is trying to take its first steps towards democracy and stability.  Unfortunately there are certain elements who would prefer the bad old days and want to regain the power that they've lost.  It is up to The Ghosts to protect the new Cuba and put an end to the insurgents.

ScreenshotsThe game includes eight new missions, and the mission maps are all well-designed, providing ample cover and multiple approaches to objective locations.  The missions themselves are set in a variety of tropical environments, from the beaches to the jungles.  These environments all look really good, with realistic foliage, terrain, and weather effects.  The expansion pack does a good job on this last point, and you'll encounter rain, thunderstorms, and the steamy haze of a very humid environment.  The weather has a big effect on the missions, as visibility is often hampered by it.  Unfortunately, it sometimes feels as if this is more of a handicap for you than for the enemy.  Enemies have an uncanny ability to pick you out of the fog, and you might be stuck with reloading the game a few times before you can even figure out where the shots are coming from. 

Although there are a variety of objectives among the new missions, gameplay is not changed significantly in Island Thunder.  Stealth is still very important to survivability, and success in the game requires a slow and methodical approach.  The enemy AI is as strong as ever, if not more so, and when this is coupled with their incredible marksmanship you get one tough game.  It is great to see a game in which the enemy AI acts intelligently and reacts realistically to the current situation, but it would be nice if green recruits with an aging rifle in their hands would miss a little more often.

The missions average thirty minutes or so to complete if you play cautiously and don't need to reload your game.  Of course, you'll need to be really good to play through a mission without needing to rely on several save games, so your actual game time will be considerably longer.

ScreenshotsIsland Thunder also provides three new multiplayer games.  The first is called Cat & Mouse, with one player designated as the mouse and the rest cats.  The mouse gets a smaller kit than the other players, and scores more points for each kill.  Cats have a more powerful kit and are penalized for shooting each other, but the cat that shoots the mouse becomes the new mouse.  The second new mode, Behemoth,  is a variation on this theme, with the behemoth having the more powerful kit than the other players.  The problem with these modes is that they seem better suited to your average, non-realistic action game.  Its not as much fun to take on a host of other players when they can all take you out with a single, well-placed shot.

The third new mode, Defend, is probably the best of the new modes.  In this game, players must defend against an assault by AI attackers.  The AI conducts its assault intelligently, making use of tactics such as covering fire and flanking moves.  This is certainly no bum rush turkey shoot.  This mode can also be played as a quick mission, and is almost as much fun solo as it is online.

Island Thunder also adds a few new touches here and there, such as new weapons for both the campaign and multiplayer games.  None are so spectacular as to make you run out and buy the expansion pack, but it's nice to see some new weapons in the game.  Another nice touch is that all of your soldiers will have binoculars as part of their standard equipment, so you'll no longer need to select them as part of a kit.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 84%. If you enjoyed Ghost Recon, you'll like what Island Thunder has to offer.  If you found the original game too difficult, this expansion won't change anything for you.

System Requirements:  450 MHz Pentium II CPU; 128 MB RAM; 16 MB Video RAM; 4x CD-ROM; 500 MB Hard Drive Space; Mouse; Ghost Recon.