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Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Platform(s): PC, PSP, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: UbiSoft / Red Storm


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PS3 Review - 'Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2'

by Nathan Grayson on Dec. 14, 2007 @ 1:46 a.m. PST

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 builds off of the events in the first game and places gamers in control of the U.S. military’s elite fighting unit, the Ghosts. In the year 2014, the rising conflict between Mexican loyalists and insurgent rebel forces has thrown Mexico into full-scale civil war. Under the command of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghosts are called upon to face an imminent threat to the United States. The fate of two countries now lies in the hands of the Ghosts as they fend off an attack on U.S. soil. Equipped with the most cutting-edge weaponry and technology, the Ghosts must battle on both sides of the border to neutralize the escalating rebel threat.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: August 23, 2007

Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 is another in the popular, highly regarded Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon franchise of military tactics games. Despite some flaws large and small, GRAW 2 is again a competent, enjoyable squad-based shooter, the series maintaining a laudable level of quality through numerous sequels.

Captain Scott Mitchell has just completed a series of unfortunate events — I'm not talking about the sinister yet far less lethal stuff of those children's books, either — only to be dropped right into another hot L.Z., so to speak. In the original GRAW title, Mitchell thought he'd put down a Mexican rebellion, decapitating it in the figurative sense. Too bad that didn't finish it off for good. Now, a mere year or so afterward, the conflict is only escalating. A new leader has taken command of the insurgents and new wrinkles, like nuclear warheads, come into play. Put simply, it doesn't look like things are going to get any easier for the captain of the titular Ghost squad.

Fortunately, Mitchell is an unwavering block of rock-hard, stoic American steel. Unfortunately, Mitchell's character, or lack thereof, adversely affects the game's plot. When he's not putting far too much effort into being pointlessly angry with his own comrades, he's spouting off lame one-liners, which are again aimed at those squadmates. Meanwhile, the other characters aren't fully satisfactory; they serve only as vehicles of plot advancement. But the notable treatment of Mexican stereotypes aside, which created controversy as approaching racism, the story line itself is reasonably involving.

Don't worry if you initially feel intimidated by GRAW 2's tutorial; the title, while undeniably complex, is not unwieldy. The game controls like a typical first- or third-person shooter, perspective depending on the action you are performing, and it feels relatively solid. But that's the easy part. Haphazardly, a few PS3-specific SixAxis controls are inserted into the game, but they're not worth your time.

For most of the game, you'll also assume indirect control of your squad and various automated support vehicles. First let's look at the some of the machines you'll control with the cross-com system built into your helmet. The UAV, a flying recon drone primarily used for espionage, is nearly as important to gameplay as your squad, and it's very useful for scouting out the maps. Just send it to a location, and it will indicate where enemies are positioned through notifications on your head's-up display (HUD). The M.U.L.E. is a land-based supply truck that's a godsend when you're running low on ammo or health. Like the obstinate creature on which it's based, it moves on all fours and is only useful when not being fired upon. Basically, it can't defend itself, so make sure the area is clear before calling it to your position. Other controllable vehicles include a small helicopter, an APC and other such things.

At certain points in each level, you'll choose your weapon load-out and your squad members. Each squad member performs a unique function — rifleman, medic, grenadier, etc. — so choose wisely based on the task at hand. Your HUD has a small view that is capable of enlarging objects for clearer observation. By pressing different directions on the d-pad, you'll tell your squad to do different things, like advance to a location or regroup around. Thanks to those abilities, you can give orders to your squad with full knowledge of their predicament, even if they're hundreds of feet away. Additionally, you can toggle your squad members between recon and assault modes. In recon, they'll try to avoid combat when possible, but switch them into assault mode, and they'll attack enemies as viciously as their typically terrible aiming skills will allow.

It all sounds woefully intimidating, doesn't it? Well, it's actually not so bad. Don't be surprised if, by the second level or so, you find yourself instinctively doing things like using the UAV to scout, then maneuvering your squad into a perfect position to cover you, while you then prepare to flank your enemies. Moments like that are incredibly gratifying and just can't be experienced outside of GRAW 2 or games of its ilk. It's disappointing then that the many seemingly possible tactical options are hampered by downright awful squad AI. If you don't baby-sit them at all times, they'll break cover, run straight into hostile, super-scary, angry enemy land and proceed to foolishly sacrifice their lives to no purpose. Farther into the game, the problem is compounded when you can control more than one squad.

Enemies in GRAW 2 ostensibly believe in equality, so they tend to be about as intelligent as your squad members. At the same time, however, they can be so omniscient as to break any immersion factor the game may have. For instance, when you're targeting them with a sniper rifle, holding your breath to steady your aim, enemies will suddenly move off the mark as you prepare to squeeze the trigger — even though you're hundreds of meters away from them! Enemies wildly vacillate between these two states, and there's no middle ground.

Here's the strange part, though: Somehow the game still manages to be extremely enjoyable. Without a doubt, GRAW 2 is more than the sum of its parts, and even with a few somewhat consistent glitches — crashing, falling through the ground, frame-rate drops — it has an intangible attraction that keeps you coming back for more. Intricately commanding a squad to your bidding is flat more satisfying than controlling a single character, and perhaps succeeding in spite of a less-than-intelligent allied squad only amplifies your satisfaction. Thanks to the game's wide-open levels, there are many ways to outwit and out-fight your enemies, giving GRAW 2 some nice replayability.

However, the single-player campaign doesn't even begin to represent the full scope of GRAW 2's replayability, as multiplayer will keep you entertained for weeks, if not months. All the requisite modes are included, as is clan support. On top of that, the game features a full online co-op mode that runs concurrently in plot with the single-player campaign. It's both challenging and varied. Curiously, just as in the original GRAW, you can't use the game's cover system in multiplayer, but multiplayer is still enjoyable; but you will be a bit disoriented if you've recently switched from campaign play.

GRAW 2 doesn't look unattractive by any stretch of imagination, but it's not quite as stunning as the original was when it was released for Xbox 360. That's not to say it looks worse than its predecessor; in fact it is subtly better looking. The fact is, however, games like Gears of War and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune have raised the graphical bar more than just a few rungs, and GRAW 2's proprietary Ubisoft graphics engine just can't compete.

The wide-open levels also require a slight sacrifice of graphical fidelity so that the game can run properly. GRAW 2's art style is somewhat bland — it aims for the realistic look for which so many current-generation games strive. But, make no mistake, GRAW 2 is still a cut above most games in visuals. The color palette is muted and tends to accentuate its balmy Mexican setting with many sun-kissed browns and tans; it's not at all hard on the eyes. If nothing else, the explosions are incredibly impressive, and they make excellent use of the game's physics system. Calling in airstrikes has never been so satisfying.

GRAW 2 will give your speakers such a workout they might be sore the next day. The soundtrack is primarily symphonic and positively booms when the in-game action demands it. Weapons sounds are nicely authentic, which is a boon to such a realistic military title. Apparently, voice acting valiantly took one for the team in this title, as it ranges from mediocre to terrible. Some characters sound stiff or bored while others are entirely over-the-top. The Mexican characters are, frankly, somewhat offensive: Mexican characters do not need to so blatantly speak Spanglish in such contrived accents; their dialogue may make you cringe.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 is a little late in coming to the PS3, but it still manages to be one of the console's most thrilling shooters. It has many apparent flaws, but games don't come without flaws. If only every shooter could create such a complex yet satisfying experience, the genre would be so much better for it. Regardless of whether you're playing the single-player campaign or are out there in multiplayer matches, your frustrations with the title's little problems will frequently melt away into pure gaming bliss.

Score: 8.0/10

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