It’s imminent now. That moment when you’re standing in a videogame store and some kid picks up the box for the latest Clancy gem, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and starts talking about how “sick” or “ill” the graphics are. And you, being an old-school Xbox gamer and Clancy-game veteran, will have that “old guy” rebuttal: “I remember back when Ghost Recon was ugly, when we shot at blocky enemies and went prone amidst seven-polygon trees!”
Indeed, there’s truth in advertising in the “Advanced” portion of GRAW’s name. The designers have painted one incredibly expressive digital canvas specifically for Xbox 360 – as opposed to a mid-range 1997 PC – and their subject is Mexico City. There is absolutely no mistaking GRAW for a current-gen game. The HDR* lighting, which runs the gamut from dawn to mid-afternoon to dusk, creates a remarkably believable urban landscape across its 12-mission single-player campaign. That campaign, which chronicles an attempt by Mexican insurgents to rise to power, as well as the capture and subsequent rescue of both the U.S. and Mexican presidents, inspires a good bit of eye-rolling by the final sequence (which is itself underwhelming), but as the saying goes – it’s not about the destination but rather the journey.
During that voyage, some GR veterans’ feathers might ruffle at the direction Advanced Warfighter takes; like Ghost Recon 2, it strays a bit from the established sniping-terrorists-in-a-forest paradigm the series made its name with – especially early on. You’ll be blowing the snot out of enemy transport trucks with a mini-gun in a helicopter, nuking fuel tankers, and ordering tanks to fire on opposing armor a lot for the first few levels. It’s fist-pumping fun, but die-hard Recon fans will no doubt wonder if the series has devolved into just another action game.
Fortunately, later portions of the campaign do remind you that this is still Ghost Recon, offering numerous grin-inducing sniping binges that are enhanced by a couple of key additions to the series: Cross-Com and the UAV. The latter is a beacon that gives you a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield, identifying enemies on your HUD. The former complements it by giving you a picture-in-picture live feed of what your fellow Ghosts are up to, letting you see in two places at once.
Unfortunately, your supposedly elite-trained Ghost allies muddy up the fun. To put it bluntly, none of them seem competent. They’ll stand out in the open during heated firefights, step out in front of you when you’re trying to fire from around corners, and won’t even mimic your stance (as they did in previous Recon games). They hinder more than they help, and the times you get to run solo are more of a relief than they should be for a game so steeped in squad dynamics.
Though campaign play is good but flawed, multiplayer is thankfully a home run (see below). When the original Ghost Recon launched for Xbox, it was a killer app for the fledgling Xbox Live service. Now here in the early days of Xbox 360, GRAW will continue to wear that badge of honor again for some time. So whether you’re easily dazzled by superb graphics or are itchin’ for some multiplayer-lovin’, GRAW scores on both fronts as an impressive new chapter in the series.
+ Fantastic multiplayer.
+ Awesome presentation; graphics are amazing and sound effects are up to the excellent Clancy standard.
- Ghost AI is lousy.
? Whatâ€™s with the jarring EA Trax-inizing of the in-helicopter soundtrack?