Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 Reader Review
I usually only write reviews when I have something controversial to say and consequently present my arse to the entire world to take potshots at. Today I continue this 'proud'tradition.
In a sentence: I enjoyed GRAW2 more than Gears of War. Contentious Sentence No.2: GRAW showcases the 360 better than GoW.
Make no mistake. Both are great games. I am not even saying that one is better than the other ' just that I enjoyed playing GRAW 2 more. And in another world-first, I am reviewing a game after finishing it. Don't you feel grateful already'
GRAW2 represents a true breath of fresh air: a sequel in which a major developer has poured its heart into. You can see that in every nook and cranny. From the vast, sweeping landscapes, to the best dust drafts I have seen in a game. Except in the night missions, you are constantly faced with the sun and the sand in various settings. Stray junk flies in the hot drafts. The sun and reflections waver in the heat haze. The sky is always partially obscured behind clouds and smog. Sheer sunlight make the shanty towns stand out amidst cruelly stark shadows. There is always a tornado billowing from the open ground behind the next house. Tumbleweeds blow. Foliage is decrepit and mournful.
Amidst all this, you are tasked with mowing down 'rebels' which might be protesting nothing more than intrusion of external forces on their soil. In fact, a barely plausible storyline and unashamedly jingoistic lack of humanity might be the only thing bad about this game. Consider: Kashmiri freedom fighters have stolen some Russian missiles and have now gifted them to their Panama comrades who are using them to wreak havoc on Mexico/US border. Enough said. Besides being a graphics whore, I mentioned the stunning graphics for a reason. They make for intense, difficult gameplay. First, you start to feel exhausted after one or two levels in a row (I am not kidding here). Second, all those environmental factors make life hard for you and your squad when it comes to fighting the enemy.
Which brings us to the gameplay. The essence of GRAW series is shooting tiny, moving targets from afar. For that purpose, you have an overwhelming number of aides. Just look at this list: 1) Your squadmates 2) The Cross-Com 3) Satellite view 4) Drone 5) Tactical map 6) 'Mule' ' a remote-driven buggy containing health packs and ammunition
Each and every one of these elements is equipped with a camera that you look through and even rotate. That the game is still a challenge at the higher difficulty levels is a testament to the lovely balance Ubisoft have achieved. First, you don't have all these aids all the time. Second, you are faced with such a stunning variety of situations that you have to actively think to utilize these resources. Even then, since you can only take two normal bullets or one sniper bullet before dying, everything is always precarious.
You will fight enemies perching on rooftops with sniper rifles. Lurking in open fields behind makeshift barriers. Surrounding you and attacking you from all sides. Throwing missiles. Firing at you from choppers. All of this complexity necessitates that you first acquire a PhD in the maddeningly complex control scheme of the game. That is not because of unnatural requirements placed on your reflexes ' the game's pace is rarely higher than a crouch-peek-fire-crouch again pace ' but due to usage of every control input on the controller. Since I played original GRAW on PC, the complexity of the command system, married to an unholy combination of the d-pad and the shoulder buttons, is positively horrifying. You will get used to it ' just don't expect to enjoy it.
The squad AI has improved. One gripe here is that you are occasionally combined with Mexican troops, who are so annoyingly dim witted that I regretted the inability to shoot teammates. That is in just pure bad taste on Ubisoft's part.
There are levels where you are just on your own without any aids. There, the terror you experience as you frantically look around and jump at shadows truly reflect your dependence on the gadgets. It is very unsettling.
In true GRAW fashion, set-pieces abound. There are levels where you just have to mow down enemy convoys, villages, vehicles and installation from your perch on a chopper. While they are tremendously fun ' the explosions, seen on the screen through jaw-dropping graphics and felt through the controller ' there is also something very cruel and cold-hearted about it. It is sort of like Bush's mindset embodied: be with us or we will mow you down.
And now, one true standout moment: After destroying three anti aircraft guns of the enemy, you make it through treacherous urban landscape infested with snipers. You are approaching the extraction point, your right hand aching from activity. A few steps from the beckoning chopper a missile floats before your very eyes and crashes into a building. Suddenly, there are rebels everywhere, your HUD is practically filled with red markers. Not only that, two enemy choppers appear, intent on sending your entire squad to kingdom come. You, with all your fancypants technology, are reduced to a whimpering mess hiding crouching behind a marry-go-round while bullets whiz all around you, leaving deadly streaks. There is such chaos, noise and tension at this point that I booted myself out the first time to regain my breath. No, call me a sissy, but I am not exaggerating.
All in all, this is a truly stunning next gen showcase. It might be more of the same for those who played GRAW, but there are still sufficient factors to set it apart and elevate to a truly spectacular shooter in its own right. At every step you can see the sheer effort that Ubisoft has poured into this game ' it truly looks like a work of art, but more importantly, a labour of love. Perhaps I am too stoned by this now to opine objectively. But - Get it now.
9 / 10