Better still, you can even effectively be in several places at once, thanks to the new ability to view a video feed from your various units by holding down the right bumper. This not only makes it strategically beneficial, but allows you to point at what you want them to attack, despite maybe being halfway across the map. The same applies to when you're guiding attack helicopters or tanks to their destination - you and your squad can sit tight from a safe distance while the big guns can take out all the APCs, tanks and other hazards that would otherwise prove impassable to a bunch of elite soldier. Like last year's version, this feeling of being in command of a cohesive war machine gives it a distinctly different feel to the Rainbow Six games - however similar they may look on the surface.
As always, Ubi mixes up the ground-based action by throwing in the occasional on-rails shooting section. Although such well-worn gaming clichés can feel done-to-death in most games (including the dreaded mine cart section in Gears), they provide a sense of light relief in GRAW 2. At no stage are they as perilously difficult as one or two were in the original, and certainly not a frustrating obstacle to learn your way through. If anything, they offer Ubi the chance to do those spectacular fly-throughs that make the game an incredible spectacle at times. The rumble is enough to rattle a pacemaker out of your chest, though, so watch out if you've got a dodgy ticker.
But as consistently entertaining as the game is this time around, you might want to reconsider which difficulty level you tackle the game on this time. With so much stinging criticism thrown at them (certainly from us, at any rate), Ubi has noticeably toned down the 'normal' difficulty to what we'd normally class as 'easy', and as a result most experienced players will rip through the campaign in little over eight hours. The AI is unquestionably more forgiving, and seems to react slower than usual. This allows you a crucial amount of leeway to get a bead on them before they fire back, while the targeting itself appears to be somewhat more generous than it used to be. For example, medium range shots with an average machine gun or assault rifle appear to pick off enemies much quicker than you might generally expect, meaning that you don't even have to zoom in to score a swift kill. Such decisions make progress through the main campaign fairly swift, but with many achievements to go for, it's the sort of game you'll happily play again on the hardest level - if only to extend the lifespan of the game.
Perhaps predictably, Ubisoft still hasn't really nailed the narrative side of the game to any great degree. It does a sterling job of seamlessly integrating the mission briefings into flythroughs, and patching video feed updates to your cross com, but there's still no sense of actually caring about the characters or the purpose of your missions. Once and for all, Ubi needs to go that final mile to really get under the skin of the players, and breathe life into the team you're in command of. From there we might start actually giving a toss about the cause we're fighting for, rather than seeing each Ghost Recon campaign as a series of anonymous shoot-outs. It's a small point, but these Tom Clancy games are crying out for an injection of personality.
That said, Ubi does deserve a pat on the back for the subtle ways it communicates with the players these days. Team mates are constantly barking at you for straying into cover, and helpfully letting you know where enemy threats are emerging from. This kind of audio feedback might go unnoticed by many, but you'd be half as effective without their help.
As with last year's acclaimed version, the multiplayer is likely to be hugely popular again - if not more so, thanks to yet another example of the seriousness that Ubisoft places in online console gaming. For starters, the visual quality of the multiplayer modes now matches the single player campaign, which was something that was a bit jarring about last year's version. This fact in itself makes GRAW 2 one of the best looking online games ever, and given the sheer breadth and depth of options available, it ticks off practically every conceivable box in our wish list.
Top of that list is undoubtedly the new co-op campaign - probably our favourite element of last year's version. This time around, you can dive into a completely separate campaign storyline set in and around the Panama canal over six missions. With support for up to 16 players simultaneously, the action is ramped up considerably from the more closely associated single player mode where - at best - you've got help from about six or seven AI players at once. With a whole gang of players able to pitch in, the gameplay hinges on a series of dynamic objectives which require a fair bit of genuine team-work to accomplish. Thankfully, getting injured doesn't instantly result in instant death this time - and in both competitive and co-op modes, you've got a limited amount of time to call upon team mates to revive you, Gears style.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg, with Solo, Team and Co-op variations of Territory, Objective, and Elimination modes, not to mention Team Mission and Team Battle. And then within those, there are specific variations and rules you can apply, such as Bounty Hunter, Last Man Standing, Seek and Destroy, Sharpshooter, Thief (for Elimination games), Hamburger Hill, Domination (for Territory games), Escort, Flag Carry (for Objective games), a new co-op Helicopter Hunt mode, co-op Firefight and tons of others. Within those, you can customise the match rules to the nth degree, from the usual time restrictions to the weapon set, and all manner of advanced settings to cater for even the most particular player requirements. And for the really dedicated player, you can even set up and manage your clan, giving you a chance to get your trueskill ranking up in the ranked matches. The more casual players are well catered for, though, with player matches easy to come by and the usual slick search engine.
Needless to say, the new maps are considerably more ambitious than last year's, which instantly makes trawling through the familiar modes that we know and love a more appealing prospect. There are 18 maps in total (with one 'exclusive' map downloadable if you link your Ubi.com account with your Xbox Live one), ranging from those suitable for smaller matches to the more expansive large scale affairs - and everything in between.
GRAW 2 is unquestionably a better game than last year's version in almost every respect, but will inevitably suffer in some people's eyes by 'merely' consolidating what was already on offer. It's apparent very early on that Ubisoft decided to stick with the same acclaimed formula, and make a more accessible version of what everyone already liked. In itself, that's fine, but Ubisoft has historically approached 'expansion' sequels to previous Ghost Recon (and Rainbow Six) console games by pricing them accordingly. Anyone who remembers Island Thunder and Summit Strike will remember that they, too, were better than their parent games, and put out at a sensible price. If Ubisoft was brave enough to admit that GRAW 2 is the same kind of offering, we'd insist that it was a must-have game for any strategic shooter fan; especially for those of you who spend a lot of time online. As a full-priced offering, though, the goal posts have moved, and it's hard not to feel a little short changed by the short-lived single player campaign and how similar the whole thing feels. In many ways, GRAW 2 is the classic quick-fire sequel - short on new ideas, but big on polishing what we know and love. But these days, isn't that what people want?