Sunday, February 10, 2008

Save the president and fight terrorists with "Ghost Squad"

Busting caps, killing terrorists and saving the president are all in a day's work for members of "The Ghost Squad." Sign me up!

"Ghost Squad," a rail shooter developed by AM2 for Sega, is an arcade port that finds a home on the Nintendo Wii. If you are familiar with the arcade game, you have virtual firearms to take out baddies. You can use the Wii Remote - but using the optional Wii Zapper is the only way to play this game. More on that later.

Players start the rail shooter as a member of The Ghost Squad, a Special Forces unit established to combat terrorism. The unit, established by the U.N. - yes, the U.N., to operate in secrecy and carry out highly classified missions. Gamers take part in dangerous missions including eliminating terrorist groups, releasing hostages, defusing bombs and even rescuing the President on Air Force One.

Gamers will use the Wii Remote (or the Remote and Nunchuk attacked to the Zapper) to use weapons - and even engage in hand-to-hand combat. As you progress, you will unlock more advanced weapons and some very interesting costumes. Before each mission, you get a chance to select your new weapons and costumes.

There are 4 gameplay modes, including the full arcade version of "Ghost Squad" and a multiplayer mode. Up to 4 players can battle each other in the multiplayer mode. In the arcade mode, players can also take part in a very difficult training mission before hitting the real world situations.

There are 3 missions in the game - but multiple ways and paths to complete the mission as you advance in the shooter. For instance, in the Air Force mission, the ending is essentially the same, but getting there is the rub. On one instance, you take a set of stairs and encounter four baddies, with more coming up the stairs to take you out. On the next playthrough, you may have to do hand-to-hand combat and get directed through a different door. Changing up the variety is good, because if it was the same mission over and over again, with little variation, it would be a rather shallow game. Adding a dash of variety really adds to the replay value. However, you may feel a bit of deja vu too often. The problem here is seeing the same scenery over and over again. It would have been nice to have more locales.

After unlocking harder missions, you also unlock costumes (no joke, the panda suit rocks) and secret weapons. Also, the time of day for the missions can be affected as you progress.

How much can you unlock? Gamers can unlock up to 25 different weapons, over 10 costumes and outfits and two special modes exclusive to the Wii. The modes, Ninja and Paradise, aren't even in the arcade version. Extra incentive, huh?

You can also follow your progress online via national and international leaderboards. Take a break and see where you stand up against other "Ghost Squad" members from around the world.

The graphics are sweet - pretty good for an arcade to Wii port. The action was constant, and at times, you had to anticipate where a terrorist would end up. Most times, I was dead on. The hand-to-hand combat can be a Wii-bit hard at times. And you can fail a mission if you die or the main objective is destroyed.

The sounds are ok - and faithfully reproduced from the arcade version.

Now, you can play this game with the Wii Remote, but spring and buy a Wii Zapper. This is one of the first games to use the Zapper and it feels natural using it. While I am still trying to use it, for this game, it really made the experience. Baddies swarming in and with the Wii Remote, you are all over the place. With the Zapper? Lay that virtual lead down with ease. It's much easier to reload off-screen with the Zapper than with just the Wii Remote. And don't worry - the Zapper requires both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk. With a sticker price of $19.82 + tax for "Link's Crossbow Training," you can't go wrong with it. And throw this game "Ghost Squad" into the mix and you have a hit.

Too many times, arcade ports aren't made correctly and bomb. This is an arcade port done correctly. Great job, Sega.

If you own a Wii and love rail shooters, you will hit the bull's eye with "Ghost Squad."

The good: High, high replay value, excellent arcade port, excellent controllers, funny unlockables, a clueless president who is worse than Princess Peach and is leading our nation!

The bad: There are only 3 missions (not including the special modes and training) and *could* get stall and the harder-than-normal training session

The ugly: Wait until you get a load of the wild costumes!

Overall: 9 (out of 10) - Sega scored a clean shot with their arcade port, "Ghost Squad." While it is rather short going through the courses, each missions offers a different way to clear the same courses. This could have backfired on Sega - but it didn't. If you want to get ready to finish the fight with al-Qaida, pick up "Ghost Squad" and practice like the devil!

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