So I finally caved in an purchased Xbox Live. It usually costs fifty greenbacks, but I guess Target doesn't want to carry it anymore, so they're selling them for $35. That gets you a one-year subscription to Xbox Live, the headset, and a demo disc with the full verison of Tetris Worlds. Not too shabby of a deal.

One expense leads to another, and I needed an Xbox Live game, so I snagged Ghost Recon: Island Thunder. It's the most played online game on Xbox, plus it's a Tom Clancy product, so I knew it couldn't be bad.

Island Thunder's graphics are really mediocre and there's lots of fog. I'll get that out of the way for those looking to push their Xbox to the limit. Not horrible, not great.

The sound, on the other hand, is stellar. Subtle sounds, such as your character out of breath when running, blend seamlessly with the sound effects that acompany each level. One has a plane going overhead (that sounds all too real on my sound system), levels deep in the jungle have crickets, the beach level has seagulls... it really adds to the atmosphere.

The single player is pretty basic, just to get you ready for the online experience, but the missions are pretty difficult on the medium setting. A worthy challenge.

The online setup is kinda goofy. It only finds the ten fastest rooms and allows you to connect to one of those. I really wish it would give me a whole list of all games, regardless of which are fastest (especially since everyone on Xbox Live is required to be running broadband).

Then you join rooms and everybody loves to chat it up on their headset. Too much.

I suppose I'm late to the scene, but people love to just shoot the shit in the lobby rather than start the game. In one of the first rooms I joined, I was subjected to a five minute speech from a Mormon on what his religion is all about. After that, I had to leave. I just wanted to kill some people, not have a mind-opening conversation. That's not what videogames are for.

The lag isn't too bad, and the game plays very well. It's in the same vein as Rainbow Six - one shot kills, team based combat. Online, you can do a team vs. mode or a cooperative mission. Most people seem to enjoy the team deathmatch.

The controls are spot-on and very easy to learn, and, most importantly, the game plays well. The level designs seem pretty balanced, and they're varied enough to make all of them a unique gaming experience.

It's at least something to hold me over until Halo 2. If you manage to get a copy of Xbox Live at Target for a discounted price, it's worth every penny. Both the service and Island Thunder are most certainly worth your time and money.

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes