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Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 Review

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Red Storm Entertainment
genre: Shooters

ESRB rating: T

release date: Mar 06, 07
» All About Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 on ActionTrip

March 20, 2007
Josh Gibbons

Just for the record, I've been playing Ghost Recon (GR) from the very beginning, when it first appeared on the PC. In fact, me and my friends used to come into work late on Fridays (lugging our home systems) just so we could use the network to play together. Since that time, GR has gone through numerous iterations. Some have been good, some bad and some really bad. Where does Ghost Recon Advanced War Fighter 2 from Ubi Soft for the Xbox 360 fall into this mix? Well if you played the first GRAW, then you'll have a fairly good idea of what to expect, but you're definitely in for a few surprises.

The very first thing I noticed was the graphics. Not only is this the best looking Ghost Recon game, this is the best looking 360 game that has been released so far. It is rare that a jaded bastard like myself is in awe of the graphics of any game anymore, but these guys did just such a great job on the visual details, it actually affects the level of intensity you will experience when playing. Sound effects seem extremely accurate too (not that I've ever been near a helicopter exploding) and coincide perfectly with what is happening on the screen.

Now, I have never been much of stealth fan. When my friends and I played Ghost Recon back on the PC, I rarely came in first. I enjoyed the game but I didn't have the patience for it. I trained on games such as Doom, Quake and Unreal Tournament and have always had a real hard time being patient enough to be stealthy. However, this game looks so good; it added a level of realism I don't recall experiencing before. And even though I realize it's "just a game," the immersion makes me much more careful and "stealthy" with the lives of my squad. Seeing your squad gunned downed has a much greater impact when the game has this level of immersion.

Everything else plays great too. In addition to the graphical enhancements, they continue to refine and improve the controls, gadgets, gameplay and ease of use. That is not say there isn't still a daunting level of complexity, it is just much easier for the average Joe to get in and have fun. In fact, even though this is the newest game in the series, they seemed to have designed it around bringing new people into the genre. The complexity is there but if you, for example, set the game to easy, you wouldn't have to use half the controls/ gadgets available to you and you would still have a very good chance of making it through the campaign.

The core game controls are pretty much the same as last year. New gear aside, veterans will feel very comfortable jumping into this game. For newcomers there a few things you will need to pick up, such as holding your breath when sniping and using the cover to maximum effect, but nothing that will frustrate you too much. In addition, controlling the squad is similar to before with a few additional abilities that, while adding complexity to the control scheme, also add to overall enjoyment and control you will have.

One of the biggest additions is the ability to view the game from any of allies' positions (which by itself practically warrants the sequel). Just target the said squad, tank, helicopter, etc. and hold down the right bumper button and your view will switch to their view. From that point you can give additional orders for moving to new cover or targeting specific enemies that you weren't able to see from your main character's position. With its ease of use (target ally then hold right bumper button), and the level of control it adds, you will use this all the time. And in doing so, it will practically make this a whole new game for the returning fans.

They also improved the map and drone controls. In the original GRAW, I hated messing with the drone. The interface was unwieldy and awkward. Not the case this time around. You can take direct control of the drone and as long as you're careful of enemy fire, you can easily pinpoint the enemies long before you reach them with your actual squad. All this together helps this game stand apart from your typical shooter. You really feel like you're the commander on the battlefield and not just a soldier with a few weak AI buddies tagging along.

Speaking of AI, there have been significant improvements there too. For example, when you direct your team to cover and there isn't enough for them all to hide behind and/or have a good view of the enemy, they will automatically spread out to surrounding cover. It's awesome to see them in action. They did a great job programming that particular piece of code. The AI is pretty smart in other areas too. When they die, it is almost always your fault, because you gave bad orders and they were just doing what you told them. Even then, given the bad orders, they are much more likely to survive this time around by either seeking new cover or quickly targeting and taking out the enemy. Lucky you.

So now you have all these new features that add all this control to the game and it's really great, but there's a downside. And it isn't the added learning curve, because it really isn't too hard to master the new stuff. The downside is that now the campaign part of the game is much easier. Even though the enemy AI is as good as it's ever been, you have so many gadgets and tools at your disposal the enemy really doesn't stand a chance. If you've played the original, do yourself a favor and set the game to "Hard" right from the start. It will make for a more challenging, enjoyable experience.

I say this because the GRAW2 campaign is a little short. It will probably take you 6 to 8 hours to breeze through it on Easy or Normal difficulties and you will rarely feel challenged. Setting the game to hard will not only add intensity, it will force you to use all the weapons, gadgets and game features at your disposal, it will also add to the length of the game since you won't be flying through it. Trust me on this one.

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9.0   Excellent

Improved controls. Improved interface. Ally viewpoint control. Graphics and sound are awesome. Multiplayer customization improvements. Lots of great co-op and multiplayer maps;

A few nagging control issues that should have been fixed this time around. The game is still an acquired taste and although easier than ever before, it still has a learning curve to get around. Somewhat short campaign mode and no co-op mode to go through the single player campaign.


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