Thursday, April 16, 2009

50 Great Arcade Games #8 - Ghost Squad

Ghost Squad has got to be one of the deepest gun games out there. Never before have I seen such a large number of weapons(all with varying attributes, with the harder-to-use ones having higher scoring potential), trick-shots, and the variety in gameplay is matched only by Point Blank.

Cause really if you strip all of that stuff away Ghost Squad is a pretty easy game. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to see people 1CC it the first time they pick it up. GS however is perhaps one of the few arcade games that uses a leveling mechanic in a manner that's good for arcade play. From a fresh character you only have access to the easiest versions of missions. As you successfully complete these three missions however you can up the difficulty level. Upping the difficulty adds more objectives while making them longer and more difficult. Some objectives will have you protecting people, some others will have you engaging in CQC, and still others will have you disarming bombs, sniping, and doing a variety of other things(The bossfights are similar, as they have you doing besides the "just shoot a big guy over a thousand times"). 

Aside from fulfilling objectives the best way to score lots of points is learning the various trickshots. The Justice shot from Virtua Cop(where you aim for the enemy's gun or hands to take them out of the fight) is still there but has been joined by a variety of other shots. Whether it's by shooting a series of people without missing, taking out two guys with one bullet, or a number of other ways to effectively fight terrorism. Finding the best combination really does add a lot to the depth of this game.

With Sega's attention to design and execution to supplement everything else you end up with another classic in the gun genre.


Really I think the level setup in Ghost Squad is the best thing about it. For some it may seem weird or even poor design to lock away most of the game to first-time players but personally I think it's brilliant and I'm surprised more gun games aren't picking up on it. It actually feels more rewarding being able to complete the game on your first or second play and then move on to a slightly harder difficulty than to attempt a go at a "full" game and die on the first boss, second boss, and so on. Then again I'm probably biased as I always start with easier settings in games and then work my way up. I find it better to know what I'm going against while dealing with additional challenges like less health, more enemies, etc that higher difficulties bring than to hit a wall everytime I run into a difficult encounter with something I haven't seen before.

I also think it's good that after you decide on a weapon you're pretty much stuck with it for the rest of the game. All of the weapons have their own strengths and weaknesses(like the shotgun which shooters a large number of bullets over a large area, great for hitting terrorists and civilians...oops or some of the more powerful rifles which can shoot through multiple foes but have very little ammo before requiring a reload). Although I wish that the game featured scoreboards that focused on every gun(since some are simply better for scoring than others) I still think it's a better system than Time Crisis 3. While I regard Time Crisis 2 as a classic, TC3 suffers from having multiple selectable weapons at any time. It's supposed to promote one particular of game design by requiring the player to have the right tools for job but even in a short game one will more likely find themselves hoarding everything and never using it...which makes the system rather pointless. I also suspect that in order to score the most points in TC3 one has to use the handgun anyway, which relegates the other weapons to some form of "real-time difficulty switching" instead of being an important part of scoring and thus mastering an arcade game(there's a chance I am wrong though so feel free to correct me if so).

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