|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Andrew Groen
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.