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Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Online


Graphics & Sound:

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) will, like Oblivion, long be remembered as a next-gen milestone. The game quickly became a “Must Own” title on the 360 and was the first next-gen game to really feel like one. However, for all the great things it managed to do, it wasn’t perfect. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 carries on the legacy of the first game while making a number of improvements to the formula.

GRAW 2 ups the visuals from the first by not only adding new lighting and particle effects, but by also ironing out many of the technical glitches. There are few, if any, instances of screen tearing, framerate hiccups or really anything that grabbed you out of the experience. More than ever, the game really does feel like you’re watching everything play out on some kind of fancy Department of Defense camera that follows troops into action.

Some of GRAW 2’s best visual upgrades are the explosions. The lighting effects that go along with them are spot on, as are the plumes of smoke that pour out of the blooming fires. Then there’s the added effect of the camera shaking as explosions go off – it is enough to make you wince at least once while playing, if not more.

Dialogue and voice acting is a little over-the-top, though compared to something like Gears of War, it at least makes sense. Besides, it works for most military-themed movies, so why can’t it work for a game? The sound effects have just as much impact and, when combined with the wild visuals, can really amp up the tension of a big battle. The same musical themes from last year’s game are still around, which isn’t all that bad of a thing.


Gameplay:

The premise behind Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 is the same as the first. Once again, you take on the role of Captain Scott Mitchell, leader of the Special Forces Group known as “The Ghosts.” It isn’t necessary to have played the first to get the second game’s plot; any background you do need is given early on.

Ubisoft hasn’t quite managed to nail the emotional side of storytelling (you care more about the extra fire support offered by your squad more than who they are), but the plot is as thick as any Tom Clancy novel. It all begins as a small mission and soon grows to involve mercenaries, rebels, civil war, the US/ Mexican border and a couple of nukes. And guess who gets to clean up the mess? As deep as the plot gets, it would be nice to care about mission objectives a little more.

Gameplay follows a linear, yet open pattern. An objective marker is set somewhere in the mission area, which you must work your way towards. Along the way, you’ll encounter a series of shoot outs with enemies. Most times you are accompanied by a squad of three other soldiers, while other times you are on your own. Missions with the squad are more enjoyable than the solo ones, mainly because of the number of options it leaves you. You can order troops to watch positions while you carry on with a duty or you can have them take on the enemy from one side while you flank the other. Commanding your troops has never been easier and only requires hovering over an area with your reticule and pressing a button.

Squad A.I. is another of GRAW 2’s many revisions. Rather than standing around and waiting for orders, your squad now has a sense of self-preservation and will instinctively take cover when under fire rather than waiting for you to tell them where to go. Squad members are also more useful since they will call out enemy positions and will take them out if need be. Its not to the point where you can just let them roam free and be okay, though it does take a load off your back, allowing for more enjoyment.

The cool thing about GRAW 2’s mission pacing is that events are scattered across the entire game, making sure there is always something new to look forward to. Gameplay is also open-ended enough that you can tackle just about any situation as you see fit. If you’d rather sneak around, you can do that – or you can just charge through the streets, find cover and kill everyone in sight. Taking a more direct method usually leads to the game’s more enjoyable scenarios; there’s nothing like the chaos induced by large-scale gun battles with everything around you exploding.

The downside to the entire single-player campaign is that it is painfully short. The entire campaign can take anywhere from 8 – 12 hours depending on how good you are. Thankfully, the game's single-player mode is backed up by a great multiplayer mode that adds significant playtime.

A number of multiplayer game types are available and range from Deathmatches to objective-based scenarios. A new six-mission Co-op mode is also included and can be played with up to 15 other players. Co-op missions are a little more challenging than single-player ones because of the dynamic mission goals. How challenging will, of course, depend on how well you can coordinate with other players.

Other players can also patch you up, adding yet another layer of strategy to multiplayer games.


Difficulty:

Generally speaking, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 is easier than the first. All of the difficultly levels have been toned down, so you may want to consider starting the game on a harder difficulty level than the one you tackled GRAW on. Squad A.I. is better, though enemy A.I. is a little slower to react.

One of the bigger complaints with GRAW was the awkward placing of checkpoints. They were few and far between, most of the time in the worst possible places. There were times where you would have to go through two or three difficult situations before getting a whiff of a checkpoint. Some players liked it, but I’m sure a few controllers were maimed, broken or otherwise destroyed in the course of a game. Checkpoints are in logical places and eliminate a bulk of the frustration brought on by the original.

One minor complaint about checkpoints is that you can’t go back and replay previously passed ones. Instead, you’ll have to reload the entire mission if you plan on doing something differently, like nabbing a secondary objective.

Another improvement that helps make GRAW 2 a little easier is that you now have a medic who can help you out during missions. In the original, you could help your teammates out but they couldn’t help you. Now there’s someone to take care of you, which is always nice.


Game Mechanics:

Despite Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 taking place a few months after the original, the team’s equipment has seen a number of helpful upgrades and additions. Night vision is much clearer, making low-light situations easier to play through and much more fun.

All of your squadmates and other tools used during the game come equipped with a small camera that lets you see things through their eyes. True, this option was available in the first game, but you can now get a full-screen view of the action.

This offers you even more battlefield intel as well as giving you the opportunity to directly control your team and any other secondary units like the UAV scout, an Apache helicopter and an A1 Abrams tank. Calling air strikes are always fun as well. Another great addition is the Mule, a mobile health and ammo unit that you can call on from time to time.

GRAW is still one of the more popular online games on the 360 and for good reason. The added multiplayer in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 should be enough to drive the game’s fans towards a purchase, at least if your only concern is the multiplayer aspect. Anyone looking for a lengthy single-player experience won’t find it here, though the gameplay is good enough that you’ll probably want to play through more than once.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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