Depending on their tolerance for change, fans of the first Ghost Recon may be sorely disappointed by the sequel, at least at first. That's because Ghost Recon 2 makes some fundamental changes to the original. Luckily, these changes turn out to be mostly for the best. What was a slow-paced, squad-based tactical shooter along the lines of the Rogue Spear series has been transformed into a more straightforward action game set in the Ghost Recon universe. People who will probably enjoy the sequel: anyone who didn't play the original, anyone who played the original and didn't like it, and anyone who played the original, liked it, but then either can't remember why they liked it or can remember but are willing to keep an open mind. It's a good single-player shooter with a terrific multiplayer component.
The multiplayer action is the best part of what Ghost Recon 2 has to offer.
The most immediate, noticeable change is in perspective. Ghost Recon was a strictly first-person affair. It was so decisively first person that you couldn't even see your weapon. Part two is, by default, third person. It's kind of a matter of taste, but the slightly pulled-back perspective offers you a wider line of sight; think of it as a peripheral vision simulator. The third-person viewpoint is also helpful for navigating the game's new precision-jumping puzzles. Just kidding. As in the original, there isn't even a jump button, though you can click the left thumbstick to climb over waist-high obstacles. The shift in perspective isn't as big a deal as it might seem to be, since you can revert to the classic weaponless first-person view at any time. When hosting multiplayer matches, you can even require everyone to play in first person.
The bigger change is to your squad. Ghost Recon put you in command of two teams of three soldiers. You were able to build the team from a roster of available operatives before each mission. Inside the mission, you could give orders to the squads through an overhead map, though you could also directly control any single team member at any time. If the character you were currently controlling died, you could simply switch to another team member. Surviving team members gained experience at the end of each mission.
You're no longer directly control your squad, though you can give your teammates basic orders.
The sequel does away with that mechanic almost entirely. As in a more traditional shooter, you now control a single character. If he dies, it's game over. You're still accompanied by a squad, but this time around it's a single team of three people, and you don't directly control them. You can, however, give them general orders such as flank left, flank right, advance, hold position, regroup, and suppress. You can also give them context- sensitive orders when the aiming reticle is over a relevant object. For instance, when your gun is pointed at an enemy vehicle, a single button press will order your squad to destroy it. All orders are given to the entire squad rather than to a single soldier. When a situation comes up that only requires the attention of one person, the game will then determine what team member is best positioned and equipped to deal with it.
The artificial intelligence that governs your squad's behavior is generally good. They're great at spotting enemies and then taking them down. And they almost never get stuck or get in your way--something that was a problem with the original, especially in some of the indoor areas. Part of this boost in intelligence may be a side effect of the fact that the sequel does away with indoor locations altogether. Your squad is so good at its job that the command interface is almost entirely superfluous. For the most part, your best tactic is to let them follow you around and just shoot at whatever catches their fancy.
The single-player campaign unfolds across 15 long missions through near-future North Korea, where a rogue military leader is getting stupid with a nuclear bomb. The missions offer plenty of action and a standard variety of advance, defend, and escort tasks. There's also a nice mix of sneaking through the underbrush and participating in large-scale battles alongside friendly soldiers who aren't part of your squad.