After 16 years of work, 'hardcore realism' mod Ghost Recon: Heroes Unleashed is finally finished

Heroes Unleashed is a mod for the original Ghost Recon that promises to turn it into "the most hardcore military shooter simulation ever made." Developer Apex Mods began working on it in 2002 and now, in 2018, version 1.0 is finally ready to go. 

I haven't played the mod myself, so I can't comment on how successful it is in achieving its goals. But Apex Mods certainly sounds committed to the job. "The direction the series took after original Ghost Recon just saddens me, and that goes for all sequels, including the latest," he said in a Mod DB interview.   

"What had started out as the epitome of a deeply engrossing gaming experience in realistic squad-based infantry combat, has turned into a shallow slugfest of superficial Hollywood action and eye candy, all for the sake of mass market appeal, all to satisfy casual gamers with the attention span of a fruit fly." 

It's interesting to hear someone refer to Ghost Recon fans as "casual," and Apex Mods acknowledged that Heroes Unleashed can be "frustratingly difficult" at times. But that's also the source of the entertainment, as "unfettered realism paired with deliberate tactical gameplay" leads to a degree of immersion that, in their view, simply cannot be achieved through less-demanding simulations.   

That commitment to fidelity is also why it took 16 years to make the thing. The weapon simulation alone "took years worth of work hours and countless iterations," and takes into account weights, dimensions, ballistics tables, and other data for every weapon in the game. And despite the 1.0 milestone, there's apparently still more to come, as Apex Mods has "enough on my worksheet for another two decades." 

"Ghost Recon has a loyal die-hard following keeping it alive. Among tactical realism and MilSim fans the game enjoys cult status, and many consider it to be the best tactical shooter ever devised. You can always find active servers online, and there are still regular events like tournaments scheduled, although it's naturally a far cry from Ghost Recon's prime, when it dominated competitive online gaming," they said.

"Of course, I hope that Ghost Recon: Heroes Unleashed will help grow the community of true tactical shooter fans, but the tough challenge of unforgiving realism obviously isn't for everyone." 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.