Cuba Libre (or Whatever Happened to Hyman Roth?)
The GoodIsland Thunder
, the second and final expansion pack for Ghost Recon
, is set in Post-Castro Cuba. In the four years since Castro’s death (the game is set in 2010), Cuba has made considerable progress towards becoming a democratic society. The island is now on the verge of having its first free elections and the Ghosts have been called in to ensure the process runs smoothly. Of course, one of the political factions (the FDG- “Fidel Did Good”?) would prefer if the process didn’t run smoothly and is prepared to use voter intimidation, terrorism, and drug money to see that their candidate takes the prize.
On its surface, Island Thunder doesn’t seem different from Desert Siege
or even the original Ghost Recon. Whatever patches it contains probably tweaks the engine and the AI, but there aren’t any drastic changes here from the previous outings. However, Island Thunder has the most cohesive story, the best maps, and the most challenging gameplay of the series.
At eight levels, Island Thunder is the same length as Desert Siege, but it benefits from having access to more diverse scenery and a wider range of weather effects—Eritrea not getting too many tropical storms. Mission objectives include the typical rescuing downed pilots and securing key areas, to multitask ones like an urban mission which involves defending a polling center against an attack while freeing hostages around the city and assaulting the FDG headquarters.
I complained in my review of Ghost Recon about the extreme level of scripting and spawning present. Island Thunder is much more sophisticated when it comes to scripting (except for one part), using it to support the enemy AI rather than to make up for it. While the enemies this time around appear to be using old Russian weaponry, including the venerable but reliable AK-47, they are also crack shots and aren’t afraid to lob grenades. Vehicles play a larger role, with many more jeeps loaded with gunmen that pull up and open fire.
Visually Island Thunder isn’t an improvement over its predecessors, but for the first time, the sound made an impression on me. One rocky level has wind that howls around you and another level puts you in the middle of a fierce storm (Cuba has interesting weather patterns). Weapon effects have always sounded functional, but I was shocked this time around when I stumbled into an enemy and heard both my weapon firing and the sound of the bullets thudding into him.
Soldier and kit selection, as well as the secondary mission objectives which unlock specialists, remain the same.
If I have one complaint unique to this expansion pack, it involves the last level. It’s no spoiler to say that most Tom Clancy games eventually involve containing one main bad guy. Having his capture hinge on scripted events rather than the player’s direct action seems a misstep. Still I had fun stalking him until the required event occurred. Also—If anyone can tell me why a small building blows up (for no apparent reason, from no apparent cause, to no apparent effect) during the Righteous Archer mission, I’d love to know.
The Bottom Line
There was a time that a game set in 2010 would be sci-fi themed. Island Thunder isn’t even sci-fi tinged. As speculative fiction it says more about society than technology. I highly recommend Island Thunder to fans of Ghost Recon, it’s easily my favorite of the GR games and I can easily understand why it was expanded to the standalone Jungle Storm
for the PS2.