Sneaking onto PSP
Over the years, patient PSP owners have learned to deal with the system’s shortcomings. I’ve reviewed dozens of games on the system, and by now the jaunty controls and technical limitations don’t phase me much. However, Ghost Recon Predator takes this a few steps too far, and an otherwise quality experience becomes severely hampered by a litany of technical shortcomings.
I should be clear though: these problems likely won’t annoy you if you’re only playing in short chunks. It’s the longer gaming sessions that will seriously grate on your patience. And by “longer gaming sessions” I mean “longer than fifteen minutes.” Before the frustration of the controls sets in, Ghost Recon Predator offers a pretty good stealth action experience. It’s just a shame that the PSP hampers the action so much.
The problem is simply that the controls are too complex to work with the limited capabilities of the PSP. For starters, the controls are single-stick, which means that you can move forward and backward with the control stick or look left or right. To move left or right you have to hold down the L-button to strafe. It may not sound particularly complex, but for a generation of gamers used to dual-stick controls, this is a convoluted system that does not work well. When things are calm it’s no big deal, but once the action ratchets up the system breaks down.
Compounding matters is that the controls seem completely random. Rather than assigning traditional placement for controls, the buttons have odd functions. I can’t remember the last time I played a shooter where the X button (Xbox 360) or the square button (PS3, PSP) wasn’t used for reloading. In Predator, reloading is the left button on the directional pad. It was a jarring experience, and I struggled with the controls as a result. There are a half-dozen other examples of confusing control oddities. The controls as a whole seem cobbled together without much thought.
The controls aren’t the only segment of this game that makes the production feel rushed. The graphics too are far short of the PSP’s capabilities. I don’t think that every game needs to look as good as God of War: Ghost of Sparta, but at least a bit of polish is to be expected. Predator looks bad even by the relatively low standards of this aging handheld. Most levels keep you on a linear path of obstacles and boxes to hide behind. The lush jungles are rendered pretty well. It’s the character models, specifically those of the enemies, that are the worst. They’re blocky and barely distinguishable as humans.
Not only do they look bad, but the artificial intelligence is also pretty terrible. These terrorists basically have only one mode: stand and shoot. They’ll occasionally seek cover, but you’d better hope they don’t. Often times they’ll hide behind boxes or walls that have invisible obstructions surrounding them. They’ll be able to shoot you, but even if you aim directly at their head, the bullet may not actually hit them. This means you’ll be forced to move up and take them out from a range of only a few feet, virtually assuring you’ll take lots of damage (especially considering these enemies shoot with ridiculous accuracy).
Like I said previously, Predator is a really fun little shooter…for fifteen minutes at a time. But once you take a closer look, the picture gets uglier. The good news is that it only takes a short break for the annoyance to wear off. After that, you’ll be ready to jump back in and have a good time.
Other people may not agree with me on this, but I actually think that there are some ways in which the game’s horrible technical faults actually make it more fun. I’m a fan of the old Ghost Recon games. Predator is like a return to the slow pace and rigorous difficulty of those original games. The amazingly accurate enemies and bad controls mean that you need to scout out areas ahead of time and be cautious. This is a different way to play than the newer Ghost Recon games like GRAW and the upcoming Future Soldier, but to a select type of gamer it can still be fun.
The most notable factor about this game is the ability to play the campaign in a three-player cooperative mode. The experience is the same, but you’ll be able to communicate with your friends instead of struggling to bark orders at your AI teammates. If you’ve got a couple of friends with PSPs who would play with you, then this would be a much more fun experience.
It’s really a shame that Ubisoft pushed this game out the door so soon. It’s obvious that it shipped too early, without an adequate amount of money invested in its production. If Predator could have had another few months in development, it would have made a world of difference, and I feel confident that I’d be advising you to pick this up without hesitation rather than imparting cautious skepticism.
It’s odd to see Ubisoft treating one of its marquis franchises with such disregard for quality. The game still has moments of fun, but its technical aspects are unambiguously bad. I think this game was originally slated to launch as a tie-in to the mammoth Ghost Recon Future Soldier, but now that Future Soldier has been delayed, I don’t see any reason to launch this game now. It’s half-baked, and it doesn’t have the brand association that a major console release would draw to it.
At just $29.99, this isn’t a horrible deal. The game has a lot of problems, but the budget price helps make up for that somewhat. Ultimately, if you’re a big fan of taking your shooters on the go, then Predator might have something to offer you. Otherwise, I can only recommend this game if you have a set of friends interested in paying for the game as well. If you do, then you’ll have a pretty good time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
The graphics are decent enough and show some cool environments, but character models are blocky. 2.5 Control
The PSP struggles to give the same kind of control the consoles offer, and doesn’t quite pull through. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Very typical Ghost Recon war game soundtrack, with some odd sound effects. 3.0 Play Value
This is a fun – though very sloppy – war experience for the PSP, especially if you’ve got PSP-owning friends to experience it with in co-op. 2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best