As ever, it's the technology that makes most of this possible. While being a fun game in its own right, the original Ghost Recon wasn't blessed with the greatest of engines. This time around, the ante has been upped considerably. As well as being a far more powerful polygon-pusher, Ghost Recon 2 comes with several special tricks packed up its sleeve. In addition to the now ubiquitous rag-doll physics engine, handling everything from debris to comedy death poses, levels are set to feature limited deformable scenery. No longer can your team-mates casually tuck themselves away behind that thin stone wall - enemy bullets can punch through a wall as easily as a Space Invaders shield, sending chips flying with every blast. Your boys can return the favour of course, slipping your own shots past the barricades and straight into unsuspecting snipers. And if you can hit the Mothership, you score a thousand bonus points.
Multi-player is obviously an important part of the game. Ghost Recon 2 is certainly ready for this, transplanting the team-based action of the main game into full-scale online warfare, even if the exact modes are still under wraps. It faces stiff competition from the likes of Battlefield and Unreal Tournament, but it can at least bring one little scene feature to the LAN part: realism. Getting shot by a Tom Clancy bullet really, really hurts - you feel the pain. Coupling authentic military settings with a range of real-world and soon-to-be-real-world guns and gadgets, the fighting promises to reward careful play and proper tactics, rather than gung-ho gunplay - with plenty of variety.
Straight co-operative and outright deathmatch modes would seem like no-brainers, but we're expecting to see a few other game types thrown in for good measure. As usual, it's the Rainbow Six games that offer some hint as to the possibilities; Ghost Recon's sister series stretches its counter-terrorist remit from all-out shooting to careful assassination. After the success of Pandora Tomorrow's sneaky-sneaky online play, and with Ghost Recon 2 also heading out to the console kids, we're expecting some excellent new modes.
It's become a cliche to refer to The Thinking Man's Shooter, so let's say that games like this attract more patient, dedicated players looking for something more realistic than lime-green aliens with plasma rifles. What's more, unlike most games and their One-Man Army approach to world peace, the levels and enemies have been designed specifically with team-work in mind, making it relatively easy to kick out the AI and bring in human replacements on demand.
The exact missions, locations, weapons and features are still heavily classified, but Ghost Recon 2 will debut at E3, with the full release scheduled for this Autumn. Our spies are already worming their way into Red Storm's top-secret bunker to unearth all the latest developments as they happen.
Ghost Recon 2 should hit the shops running at the end of 2004