Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
The latest installment in Tom Clancy’s/Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon’s franchise is Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (GRAW), available for the Xbox 360, Xbox, and PC. The PC and Xbox versions are different enough from the 360 release that they can really be considered two different games. While I haven’t played the 360 verison, I have played all the previous Ghost Recon (GR) games available for both the PC and the Xbox, which is what I’ll be comparing the Xbox version of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter against.
GRAW follows the same general style and presentation of the other Xbox Ghost Recon games (all of which I loved, I feel compelled to mention). Like the previous games, GRAW is divided into larger missions and smaller tasks and goals which are constantly being explained to you throughout the game. In-game audio and video clips constantly feed you current information about checkpoints, new mission goals, and so on. There’s never a question about what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time; the Ghosts have strict orders and specific targets, facts the game will remind you of if you get too far off course.
The biggest difference fans of the series will notice is that unlike previous Ghost Recon games, GRAW is presented in first-person. While it doesn’t make the game any less fun, it does make it seem less like a “Ghost Recon” game and more like a “generic first-person Army shooter”. In your first-person view, information is constantly being passed to you via heads-up displays in your visor. Your map, your datalink, and even what your backup Ghost parter is seeing is all pumped onto your screen in small windows. While the audio clips often contain critical information, most of the video clips are of such bad quality as to be useless. The small window that shows what your partner sees looks more like a Powerpoint slideshow than real video, and the clips of people talking to you (the helicopter pilot, for example) are 2-3 seconds long and then looped for the length of the audio. I’ve seen better lip-syncronization in dubbed ninja movies.
GRAW takes place in Mexico City, where throughout the streets you’ll find plenty of cars, planters and obligitory crates to take cover behind. Your overall mission is to rescue both the American and Mexican presidents from Mexican rebels who have already killed the Canadian Prime Minister. Unlike the previous games in which you had a squad of ghosts to control, you’re only given one fellow soldier to accompany you through missions this time. This addresses the problem some of the previous games had in which your fellow AI soldiers occasionally did too much of the work. Commands such as “advance”, “regroup” and “hold your fire” can still be issued quickly to your partner, useful for sending the poor sap directly into a patch of angry rebels or off to destroy convoys of enemy tanks by himself while you hang back in the rear sipping on margaritas. The “advance” feature can be used to send your fellow Ghost running for cover, although from what I could tell he did better on his own than with me bossing him around.
Those who detest online campers will be delighted that the prone position (lying down) has been removed from the game. Instead, in addition to crouching or standing, players can now sprint by pressing down the left analog stick and then pushing it forward while steering with the right. It doesn’t take as much manual dexterity as actually running, but it’s close. While running, a stamina bar appears, preventing gamers from running the entire time. Players can also “lean” around corners while holding down the left trigger and pressing left or right on the left analog stick. Pressing down on the right analog stick turns on your rifle’s scope. Running across an alley way, ducking behind a dumpter and peering around it using your scope requires pressing down on the left analog stick/pushing it forward and steering with the right stick (to run), pressing left trigger (to duck), pressing the right analog stick (to turn on the scope and finally holding down the left trigger while pressing left or right on the left analog stick to peek around the dumpster. There’s definitely a learning curve involved, although probably not any more than any other advanced first-person shooter.
GRAW pushes the Xbox to its limits, a fact evident by the game’s loading times and frame stutters. The game’s physics engine is kind of fun though, and you will be delighted at the way enemy soldiers crumple after being shot by your sniper rifle — that is, if you can overcome the newly added “drift” feature, which makes your scope wander around aimlessly as you try and plug bad guys. While the majority of the game maintains a decent framerate, it’s hard not to notice the stall, stutter and jump every time the helicopter takes off at the beginning of the first level. And trust me, you’ll be seeing that scene plenty while learning GRAW’s controls. Unlike previous GR games, in GRAW you can only save your game at specified save points, not at any given time. That means you’ll have to make it pretty far in the first mission before finding one. Walk past one manned alley and it’s back to square one, captain.
Like Summit Strike before it, additional styles of gameplay such as “capture the flag” and “last man standing” are available through Xbox Live. Up to twelve players can battle it out online. In person, up to four people can shoot it out, Goldeneye-style.
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is definitely different than the other games in the series. The game’s many changes almost make GRAW seem like it’s not part of the franchise. Gamers used to crawling around and waiting in the shadows will have to adapt their style of play if they want to survive in this run-and-gun chapter. Fans of the original storylines will enjoy taking Captain Mitchell out on yet another mission, but diehards may find the game has strayed a little too far from the chain’s tried-and-true roots to be familiar.