Installation of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon is required for playing the expansion Desert Siege. The add-on includes several patches as well as updates to game features, but doesn't alter basic gameplay or enjoyment. The story takes place primarily in East Africa in 2009, where an Ethiopian warlord has invaded peaceful Eritrea and is threatening the Red Sea shipping lanes. The "Ghosts" are charged with putting an end to this little war.
Eight single-player missions with enough goals, weapons, and tactics make the purchase worthwhile for Ghost Recon fans. The missions include escorting a convoy through a desert pass, rescuing hostages, disarming bombs, and overrunning an enemy stronghold, just to name a few. The story is no more than a means to tie the action missions together in a meaningful way, but it is still engrossing.
Similar to the parent game, missions include objectives beyond simply killing the enemy and offer rewards of extra specialists and better weapons upon completion. Single-player missions are a bit short and the enemies are usually located in the same areas, so memorizing the surroundings can make progress easier in repeat plays. Normally one of your team members will take a hit, though, which makes the mission more than a simple walk in the park.
The opponents' AI has been changed to make gameplay even more challenging than in Ghost Recon. Enemies now hide behind cover to snipe at you and scatter when one is attacked, unlike the previous game. They've also learned to make use of grenades with alarming accuracy. The Ghost unit AI has also improved a bit, but not nearly enough. The members return fire, reload, take cover, and lay down cover fire, but won't take the initiative and attack a lingering enemy. Under heavy fire, they stop all movement, making them easy targets, until ordered into action. Another problem is the team's inability to climb over obstructions like boxes or tree stumps, though an alternate route is usually available upon close inspection.
Most of the expansion seems to have been dedicated to improving multiplayer options with the addition of two new modes: domination and siege play. The former requires more strategy than firepower, with the objective to capture and hold several control zones. Once an area is completely taken, points are awarded and the player with the most points at the end of the time limit wins. In siege play, one team defends a base while the other attempts to infiltrate at least one man within a certain time limit, and both options shift gameplay to more of a real-time strategy mode than straight shooter. Multiplayer includes four new maps and several new multiplayer-only weapons, such as the M98 sniper rifle.
A full editing toolkit is available in the expansion, which allows you to create your own very detailed levels using 3D Studio Max editor plug-ins. Unfortunately, no explanations for its use are provided, and the CD's README file suggests searching the user community for information on how to utilize the program. Nevertheless, its inclusion is certain to eventually lead to creation of some user add-ons.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Desert Siege extends the original game's life with new settings and a focused storyline, although the short nature of the single-player missions may disappoint some fans. Multiplayer fans will benefit the most, as the expansion offers new maps and a whole new environment for legalized mayhem.
Graphics: The new settings add a different feel to the game, with graphics every bit as excellent as the original.
Sound: Every sound and nuance is nearly exact, and this attention to detail is what sets the game apart from others in the genre.
Enjoyment: While the single-player missions seem to end too quickly, they're still intense. The AI tweaks give the game a nice boost, and make dispatching enemies more challenging.
Replay Value: Single-player mission objectives never change, so replaying is simply a matter of memorizing patterns and being more efficient. The addition of new weapons and two new modes of play will thrill multiplayer fans.
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