Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon

I’m staring down the barrel of a sniper rifle. The rifle is aimed squarely at the eye socket of a guy in a dugout up a small incline. He doesn’t know I’m there. I know he is there, though. I’ve known he is there for ten years.

There’s a reason why I know where the guy is. This poor, unfortunate collection of polygons and textures is the first enemy in the first map of the campaign. He’s one of the few enemies to always be in the same place, all the time. I can still remember exactly where he is, and how to get the sniper into the perfect place to take him out.

TEN YEARS! TEN! Ten years. TEN! YEARS! That’s how old this game is. And I can still remember exactly where to send Charlie (the team that, under the default settings, consists of a solitary sniper) to take the first enemy out. But that’s only the first enemy. He dies, and two others come running, and this is why Ghost Recon still gives me the nervous sweats.

In this game, the enemy AI is supreme. It has flaws, but they are few and difficult to exploit. You are the hunter, and the hunted. Every opening shot is followed with thoughts of cover, defence, sometimes even retreat. Your first shot must be true, but your placement of your troops must be optimum, as they will need to defend against the enemies that will appear. And they will appear, and they will know where you are, and they will shoot you from miles away. If you are very lucky, you might even see the pixel in the background that shot you. Call of Duty, this is not.

Reflexes will not work. Well, they will eventually when you learn each map (after countless batterings), but that’s no fun. Not here. The clue is in the title. You are expected to maneuver your soldiers stealthily, to get the lie of the land, the positions of your enemies, and then strike.

This is a simplistic simulation, and the tools at your disposal are few. The odds are always heavily stacked against you. The game is often brutally unfair. This is why, to paraphrase Hannibal Smith, it is so satisfying when a plan comes together.

Ten years on, and it’s still satisfying to play. And plan. If only I wasn’t so utterly fucking shit at it. Still.

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