It’s quiet. Too quiet. You can hear the water lapping against the lakeshore, and a lone cricket greeting the evening. The sun is setting behind a wall of pine trees. Faced with such serenity, you could almost forget that the place is infested with terrorists. Somewhere inside this lakeside villa, they’re holding the President and others hostage. There will be no negotiations involved here; you’re armed with pistols, rifles, and God knows what else, and you’re going to use every last one of them. Silently, you beckon the rest of your team to get into position. If the intel from HQ is right, you’re going to need all the backup you can get. With a grunt, you kick down the front door and dash inside. There’s no time to think; you only have a split second to dodge a knife-wielding arm and unload some lead into the terrorist’s face…
Except it’s not a terrorist. At least, it doesn’t look like one. It’s a woman clad in a poorly rendered bikini. She’d be a lot less fearsome if she weren’t packing an AK-47. And that knife you just dodged? It’s a banana. She tried to kill you with a banana. Since when is potassium-enriched fruit considered a deadly weapon? These terrorists are even more insane than what the reports indicated. Of course, they can’t be blamed for such weirdness. This is Ghost Squad, after all.
“Since when is potassium-enriched fruit considered a deadly weapon?”But if you think this game is entirely about slaughtering half-naked women, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Ghost Squad is really about a group of elite special operatives and their misadventures whilst defending American interests. There’s nothing too thought provoking here; you’ll never have to ponder over the morality of your work or learn about any of the characters. When you look past all of the coded mumbo jumbo and mission objectives, the plot basically boils down to: “The President/other important figure has been kidnapped by terrorists! Are YOU a bad enough dude to rescue him?” And that’s fine. It’s refreshing to see a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Between the one-liner spouting villains (Alex Havoc is quite possibly the cheesiest evil name ever conceived), squad members doing secret victory handshakes, and getting high-fives from the President, it’s clear that the game thrives on its humor.
The missions themselves don’t seem funny at first glance, though. You’ll have to save the President from a hijacking on Air Force One, save him again during hostage situation at a lakeside cabin, and help some scientist escape from his jungle captivity. You won’t get much in terms of exploration, however; since Ghost Squad is a light gun game, you’ll be following pre-determined paths and annihilating whatever gets in your way. Each mission is broken up into selectable paths with their own challenges. One area could have you blowing away sentries, and then shift over to a search-and-destroy rampage through the compound, a knife fight, a high-speed chase down a nearby river, etc. Beating each of these little sections isn’t just necessary for obtaining a high score, either; you’ll unlock multiple paths after a few playthroughs. Should you complete an entire mission successfully, the difficulty will be automatically upgraded with new challenges, tougher enemies, and more options. Considering that there are only three levels, accessing new areas is essential to the game’s replay value.
“If you think this game is entirely about slaughtering half-naked women, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.”If anything, the unlockables are the only reason you’ll want to try the incredibly brief Arcade Mode again. Sure, you can upload your scores to the online scoreboard, but you’ll likely spend more time focusing on developing your character. The points you earn from each playthrough are used to level up your character’s rank, which nets you an expanded arsenal and new uniforms. The default gun will seem pretty wimpy once you get a taste of the shotguns and semiautomatics being offered. More importantly, however, is each gun’s handling; you’ll need to choose wisely before going on a mission. There’s no point in trying to clear a room full of terrorists and their hostages when your buckshot kills indiscriminately. Nor does it make sense to use a pistol when you know you’re going up against a group of helicopters. But if you’ve just got some friends over and feel like showing off your prowess, the Party Mode allows you and three of your pals to get in some multiplayer action. If you happen to have unlocked the stuff, you’ll even have the choice of peppering Ninja Gaiden rejects with throwing stars or shooting bikini-clad women with dolphin-shaped squirt guns.
Don’t get your hopes up, though. There’s little to be said about the character designs themselves. You’ll be mowing down armies of men and women that look practically identical. Sure, some of them may have differently colored body armor, protective headgear, and other minor details, but there’s nothing to make them seem impressive. The models are an improvement over the polygonal foes of yesteryear, but the limited amount of movement animations makes them seem dull and wooden. The levels themselves are a bit more fleshed out, however. If you happen to be a little too trigger-happy, your bullets could blow wine bottles, fruit baskets, portfolios, and other objects away. Other areas make better use of the lighting effects; sniping enemies under the glow of a setting sun is far easier than trying to do the same at night. Such things may not be as realistic as those found in most of today’s shooting games, but it works well enough.
The eye candy doesn’t make Ghost Squad any more fun, though. No matter how many different weapons you have or paths you uncover, getting through the Arcade Mode will get old eventually. Even if the cheesy cutscenes are skip-able, you’re going to get tired of seeing the same characters over and over again. The game tries to make up for it by providing several control schemes for you to try. The WiiMote can be used to play with or without the Nunchuck, depending on how you prefer your button layout. One of the game’s biggest draws is its compatibility with the Wii Zapper, that infamous rifle-shaped controller shell. But there’s really no point in shelling out the extra cash for it when the default WiiMote controls are fast, responsive, and ultimately easier to use. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t let you make better use of the motion-sensing technology, though. Defusing a bomb merely involves you pointing the aim reticule at the correct object and mashing a button. Even the knife fights, which could have been awesome with the WiiMote, force you to aim at highlighted parts of the screen and entering the correct command. Such pathetically implemented concepts make the controls seem like wasted potential.
It’s not that Ghost Squad is a bad game. It shows just how much fun light gun games could be on the Wii. The sheer amount of unlockables and rankings will give you plenty of reasons to go through the same adventures again. It doesn’t take itself seriously, thus sacrificing a story for the sake of focusing on the gameplay. The multiple paths can be interesting, especially if you’re looking to attain some godly high score for the online rankings. The simplistic control schemes are easy to pick up, but could have been developed far more. However, it’s the brevity of the Arcade Mode hinders the game from being truly great; even with the various paths, a few extra missions would have made the game worth its thirty dollar price tag. So, if you’re looking for a cheap Wii shooter and have some friends around, give this a go. If not, stick to the arcades. You’ll find better there.