Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder Review
Ghost Recon Island Thunder is billed as an expansion game to Ghost Recon, which is half accurate. Unlike PC expansion games you don't need Ghost Recon to play Island Thunder. However, like many expansion games in the PC world you get an abbreviated campaign - in this case eight missions with an additional five downloadable via Xbox Live.
The game is set in Cuba in 2009. Castro has finally passed on and there is an ongoing struggle to fill the power vacuum he has left behind. The situation has finally begun to stabilize and free elections have been scheduled. This does not sit well with a local drug lord, though, and he begins to flex some muscle to put an end to the elections and set himself up as the warlord of Cuba. The task of putting an end to the drug lord's power play falls on the shoulders of the U.S. Army's Green Berets, and that's where you come in. You must lead the Ghosts, the elite of the Army's elite, on missions that will take you from Cuba's cities to the heart of its jungles as you do your part to make Cuba safe for Democracy.
There aren't any real changes to gameplay in Island Thunder. You still command two squads of three men each, with the ability to "jump in" and take control of any of them at any time. When you control a soldier, the rest of the three man squad will follow you closely and provide support, and you can issue orders to the other squad. To issue orders you use a map screen and direct their movement and rules of engagement. This map screen will also indicate the location of nearby enemies, which I always found to be an odd feature in a game that strives to be ultra-realistic.
Speaking of realism, Island Thunder delivers the same tense, one shot you're dead gameplay as the original Ghost Recon. The missions set in the jungle are particularly exciting, as the thick foliage and haze from the humidity provide the enemy with plenty of cover. One mission places you in the middle of the jungle at night during a tropical storm and is guaranteed to raise your heart rate and have you sitting on the edge of your couch. Island Thunder also suffers from the same issues as Ghost Recon - your teammates sometimes make boneheaded decisions, your tactical command options are pretty limited, and it is still possible to do major damage to the enemy by sweeping the map with a single sniper - but these issues are not major detractors from enjoyment of the game.
With only eight new missions and no gameplay enhancements, Island Thunder does not provide a lot of game for the lone gamer - especially when you take into account the fact that the game costs nearly as much as a new full game. You can play against the AI on any of the maps from the game's missions, either with the maps' original objectives or in elimination matches against the AI in which you either play the attacker or the defender, but this may not be enough to sustain the interest of many gamers in the game.