• A little over a year ago Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter hit the Xbox 360 and proved to be “THE” must have game for 2006. What Ubisoft managed to pull off with GRAW was phenomenal, as not only was the game graphically amazing and a true showing of what HD technology could bring, but the wealth of gameplay options created longevity for the player and kept the game in the top spot for many, many months. Now and quite amazingly with just over a year gone since GRAW was launched, Ubisoft have delivered the sequel with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2; putting you back in the boots of Captain Mitchell and knee deep in enemy territory. The questions we have to raise now are simply put in that is GRAW 2 as good as its predecessor? Is it just a bit more of the same? Was it rushed? And is it worth the purchase?

    In a typical Tom Clancy style the official game synopsis reads as follows. It’s 2014, and the soldier of the future returns to encounter a new and more imminent threat along the recently completed wall on the U.S./Mexico border. The Ghosts are more powerful, with an upgraded Integrated Warfighter System (IWS) but will have only 72 hours to assess the threat and stop the rebels from reaching U.S. soil. With a border that’s 1,900 miles long and an enemy that doesn’t play by the rules, this is a job for the U.S. military’s most elite fighting unit. This is a job for the Ghosts.

    In terms of gameplay GRAW 2 offers an offline campaign mode to play through against three difficulty levels, albeit a tad short but more on that later, quick play missions with the player being able to cherry pick through their favourite pieces from the campaign, and play again to improve their scores. GRAW 2 also provides full-blown multiplayer support including masses of both team and solo based Xbox Live play. Now then, I have to say straight away that they multiplayer support is so large in GRAW 2 that it pushes the game strongly in the direction of a pure multiplayer experience with the campaign only being thrown in to stop any moans and groans from any potential non-Xbox Live players. This statement is also backed up with the facts that the campaign is a short affair and the achievements in GRAW 2 having twenty-two out of the forty-three achievements levied at multiplayer based modes/goals.

    Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

    GRAW 2 is played from the third person perspective, and control wise is a very neat set-up. Face buttons control: weapon selection gadget selection, rate of fire, weapon reloads and vision modes. Thumbsticks control your movement and aiming reticule and also clicking in the left thumbstick will cause your character to crouch and by holding in the thumbstick will cause your character to go prone. Using the left thumbstick and moving your character up to a wall or other cover piece will cause you to take cover in either a standing or crouched position and as such gives you a better view while saving you from a quick death and by pressing RB while in cover will switch which side you face. Move to the edge of cover and you can lean out using the left thumbstick and fire with relative safety and move back into cover at will… I do have to say while the cover feature is practically identical to what we had with the original GRAW game and quite nice to use… it simply does not compare to the cover feature that was implemented in Rainbow Six: Vegas, in short the cover set-up in RS: V rocked! Moving away from talking about cover and carrying on with the controls, you can also click in your right thumbstick to activate zoom mode if your weapon choice is in fact equipped with a scope, and on sniper rifles a double zoom/double click is usually available. Right trigger is used for firing your weapon and throwing grenades, with the Left Trigger used for steadying your aim, and reduces the size of your aiming reticule and minimises the chances of missing. The RB shoulder button comes into play when you choose to look through a team mates or support functions eyes, and as an example is a new feature with the drone in being able to see what it sees as you direct it. The LB shoulder button is used for giving your team a weapons free or recon only command and finally the D-Pad is used for cycling through your available support groups, directing your team by looking where you would like them to go and pressing up, and also being able to recall your team by pressing down. The D-Pad use also switches dependant on what you are looking at and If you look at a target you will notice from your support HUD that you can press up on the D-Pad to have your team or support function attack your target. Now whilst this may seem like a lot to take in, the system as highlighted at the outset of this piece is very neatly set-up and works like a charm and you will find yourself moving through the controls like a pro in next to no time at all.

    Now if you are still thinking that the control set-up looks a smidge confusing then your opening experience into the GRAW 2 campaign mode should put all worries to bed… You will begin your journey in Captain Mitchell’s boots being placed through a tutorial, which is divided into sub-sets testing you on movement/weapons fire/team commands and other such pieces. You can choose to skip the tutorial, but (a) you will miss out on some early achievements and (b) is a superb way to familiarise your self with the game.

    The main campaign is split over three acts with each act containing multiple objectives. The actual gameplay flows very nicely and one minute you will be gunning down some rebels in the hillside to the next, running for cover from mortar fire… only to then be given a command to take out AA guns. It’s a frantic, hectic… you don’t get chance to catch your breath pace at times, but… and an important but… very exciting providing an adrenaline pumping, heart pounding experience. The majority of the campaign is played on the ground with you either taking solo missions or directing your team or teams, but there are those lovely little moments that has you manning the gun of the Blackhawk helicopter and laying waste to anything in your way. The great part to the helicopter gun this time is that it takes longer to over heat and even when it has takes mere seconds to cool down… you really do feel like nothing can stop you when you are going gun crazy and it’s just a shame that these moments probably only account for around ten percent of the overall gameplay.

    As briefly mentioned with the control layout one of the new additions to the Ghost Recon series is now having the ability to view through the eyes of each support piece. This system improves the cross-com feature, and gives you a better command view and allows you to see things you might have missed. You can direct your team to a position, press and hold RB and look through the camera of one of your unit grunts and still in this mode direct them to where they need to be or just take in their perspective of the battlefield. This also works with controlling support functions and being able to see what the drone, tank or helicopter is viewing is pretty slick. Another new addition and inclusion in GRAW 2 is the Mule and basically provides you with a mobile weapon supply that can follow you around. The Mule is not a standard “always there” piece but when you do have it, you will certainly be thankful. The improved cross-com system has also been extended to Xbox Live Multiplayer and while appearing quite freaky, is very useful to see what your Live buddy is up to and allowing you to provide better backup. Yet another new piece exists with having a Medic on your team and being able to call them over to heal you, themselves or a team mate, this also works with Live play and allows you to heal a fallen Live team mate on the brink of death – a bit Gears of War if you ask me but a nice inclusion all the same. Finally on the new additions… the weapons in Ghost Recon have always been superb and GRAW certainly provided the player with a huge choice. Now with GRAW 2 that choice has been extended and you have some new toys to play with along with the old school stuff. The RX-4 Storm as an example of the “new” is pretty damn fine to use and has become my very reliable weapon choice.

    Summing up on the offline play, the campaign itself can be played over three difficulty levels/settings and while I will include some detail as to the problem with the difficulty of the game later, I would simply advise you to opt for the hardest; ‘elevated risk’ difficulty right from the get-go. Why? – Well it’s pretty much a doddle even at this difficulty and when you complete each act you will receive three achievements for all difficulties as Ubisoft have provided stackable achievements. Now for those not understanding what I am referring to here… then basically not only will you receive the achievement for completing the act on elevated risk but you will also receive two freebies for easy (low risk) and default (guarded risk) settings too, and as such only pushes you to play through the overall campaign once.

    When you have finished with the campaign or wish to take a break from it then you have the option to select some quick play missions and these missions are the sub-sets from each act, so… broken down into smaller chunks and allowing you to enjoy your favourite pieces over and over again. The nice piece here is that you are at least encouraged to have a go as there are five separate achievements tied into the quick play. These achievements include playing through a level and not being shot, or another for gaining one hundred percent accuracy through to using your team most of the time to gain the kills rather than you hogging them all. Now… although as good as this inclusion should have been… it just does not create a challenge or enough of a challenge to really test the player, and within two quick play missions I had gained all five achievements and as such was left disappointed and with no motivation to try quick play again.

    Where the campaign and quick play can disappoint in a few areas the Xbox Live Multiplayer support picks up the baton and legs it at full speed. This is the cherry on top of the cake and certainly the best reason to own GRAW 2. Not only have we received a new six-mission co-op play pack, new maps, character skins and new game modes all having full customisation and a huge amount of customisation at that but we have finally received a Ghost Recon game where the multiplayer aspect matches the offline graphical quality. Now don’t get me wrong as GRAW in multiplayer looked the business but it certainly was not as good looking as the offline game. Ubisoft have heard the screams “finally” and have delivered on both portions this time. There is so much to do with the multiplayer portion that it becomes mind boggling at how they have managed to cram so much into the game. Multiplayer provides practically every game type you would or could imagine including co-op, elimination, solo, team, objective and territory based gameplay modes. As mentioned previously multiplayer now also allows you to take better control with the improved cross-com system and gives you a chance to heal team mates under fire. Multiplayer however does not include the cover system, although from speaking with friends and coming to agree with them… if cover had been provided in a game like Ghost Recon then no one would ever kill anyone as everyone would just go and hide… So that said it might have been nice to have it but then again maybe it’s a good thing and pushes you to get your game on, albeit at a tactical and more, ‘slowly, slowly, catchy monkey’ pace.

    GRAW 2 graphically has been kicked up a notch… but in my opinion it’s a small notch and is still pretty close to being a clone of its predecessor. There are some nice neat touches with haze effects and such like but you would be forgiven if you thought you were actually back playing GRAW again, however nicely and as mentioned at least the multiplayer aspect this time shines. Audio presentation is as a good as it ever has been; voice acting is crisp and neatly done, music score rousing and weapon fire impressive. It ticks all the boxes for the senses and provides a great looking, audio-tastic game. GRAW 2 is clearly a HD game and certainly one of the better looking 360 titles to date and as such maybe I should not moan and say the improvements have not been vast… so… will say that it will not disappoint, and why fix what is not broken…

    Before closing out it is worth noting some of the issues with GRAW 2. And for a kick off, the difficulty level in the game seems to have been developed with their eyes closed. Elevated Risk is the hardest difficulty to choose from but it is an absolute doddle and has not provided any challenge what so ever, and thus my reasoning for advising you to opt for ER straight away. Another stand out piece is the length of the game and although I have not completed the game at the time of writing this review… it has only taken me four hours to complete two of the acts with act three being labelled by the gaming world as very short, so what looks like less than six hours is not that great really and pushes my point that the offline is the bolt on to the game rather than the multiplayer! And my final and main gripe is that Ubisoft have once again, delivered a game full of multiplayer quirks. Players are dropped from the game at random, have trouble speaking to certain players and LAG becomes ever present when you fill your room with too many players. People have almost started to expect this with Ubisoft titles but it really is a poor show that they cannot get it right first time, these issues existed with GRAW and I would have expected them to have disappeared in this version, but they are there and I suppose yet again we will wait for a patch that does nothing.

    Summing up; GRAW 2 is a good game in many, many ways and probably would have been well received even if it was developed as a pure multiplayer. The campaign is far too short and smacks of filling time and a list of achievements, but that said the multiplayer portion at least lifts the game to where it deserves to be and as such is a worthy purchase.

    Score: 9/10

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