Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone





As a mission pack to the successful and critically successful tactical combat hit, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Island Thunder has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Ubi Soft delivers a satisfying single player mission that also fixes some of the problems and bugs that plagued the main game. The Laser plugs this expansion-pack in and explains why it's a substantial upgrade and not just another way for the developers to make a quick buck off a hot franchise.

While last year's tactical mission-based shooter Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon was a brilliant tile, there were a lot of hooks left in it, which made the creation of sequels and add-on packs an easy task. Ubi has released a new expansion pack for owners of the main game, the appropriately titled Island Thunder that offers more than the usual extra levels and actually enhances the main game. This scenario also succeeds because it has a backstory that's as engaging and interesting as the original title. In 2010, Cuba's Fidel Castro finally has left power and his familial successors have been unable to maintain Communism's hold on power. They've fallen from power and a new regime has taken charge, promising reforms. This hasn't gone as well as one would hope and has instead caused the weak president to call for elections. It's up to the Ghosts to fight those who would undermine the fragile regime. There's also a huge guerilla war about to break out in the western areas of the island paradise. As a member of an elite commando unit, the Ghosts, your mission is to help liberate the citizens of the tropical island from these forces and ensure that the fragile democracy gets on its feet. While the setting is different, Island Thunder retains the team-based combat structure of the original game that made it so popular with gamers.

While the gameplay is largely the same, there are some subtle and noticeable enhancements that should make this worthwhile. Players can also use some of these upgraded features in the main game as well, when the mission pack is installed. Several new game modes have been included, as well as some new multiplayer campaigns. Island Thunder includes 5 single-player missions set in Cuba, plus some new multiplayer maps. The most interesting modes are the multiplayer cat and mouse and behemoth modes, where you swap roles with the opposing force when you kill them and get more points for killing the opponents when you're in the weaker position. However, you're kit switches when you change roles, and you actually lose points when you're in the aggressor role. There's also a new platoon mode where 4 teams of players can battle it out. Finally, there's a traditional Defend mode where your team has to guard your base from attack. What's really cool about this mission pack is how it integrates into the original title, because these new modes can also be used the main game and work flawlessly.

Multiplayer has been enhanced with some new options including ping indicators, a new ready indicator plus the ability to ban players. Some additions in Island Thunder are cosmetic: there are new jungle outfits and some new sound effects. You can also call up more active command menus and can move around when these are on-screen. More substantial changes include new weapons for each type of soldier. The new gear includes an array of rifles, sniper guns, and several new types of pistols, some of which are only available for certain types of soldiers to use. Players will also find some kit changes, the biggest of which is the inclusion of the binoculars in the standard kits. The binoculars themselves have been slightly upgraded and now include a handy range-finder. What's interesting here is that the changes are retroactive, so once you install this pack, your old kit-files will be updated to reflect this addition. Even though your team has new weapons, the enemy has some new tricks up their sleeve as well. You can also place restrictions on the kits, and limit yourself to the standard NATO gear. Changes have also been made to the Respawn sequence and there are new insertion and extraction sequences which help to further immerse you into the game.

Island Thunder is a pretty decent mission pack, with an engaging storyline and some interesting maps that add a few interesting twists to what was already a superlative title. Many of the changes seem minor, but the biggest and more impressive changes actually improve the gameplay and make it much easier. For example, there are now icons which show your progress when completing objectives, the end screens have more detail and the overall interface has been cleaned up to make navigation more intuitive. These are huge steps, but they serve to enhance what was already an excellent game. With all these changes, this is much more than a standard level pack. The new missions are engaging and while it's not as robust as some mission packs, the bargain price means Island Thunder is well worth the price of admission.

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