|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Red Storm / Ubisoft Paris||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 7, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16 (online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by James Ruffin
I believe there most certainly is. Is it ironic though that France's Ubisoft Paris is responsible for developing this, one of the most impressive war video games to date? Well, no matter; I guess the French deserve a victory in the war column, if only a digital one.
Last year's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) was certainly a victory. In the next-gen weight class it dished out first round knockouts to every game with which it competed. Now, in this first week of March 2007 Tom Clancy's teams at Ubisoft and Red Storm have cooperatively gone back to the locker rooms, worked their magic, and released the GRAW that will outperform its predecessor: Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW 2). GRAW 2 has graphics so strong they're landmark, Dolby digital 5.1 sound that will have you searching for the game's soundtrack album (complete with all the wonderfully realistic sound effects), and upgraded features like the new CrossCom 2.0 (the in-game operating system), new and improved weapons, advanced squad based tactics, and more. But with all this said, why are you still asking yourself if purchasing the game would be a wise decision?
Well, the answer is complex. First, many in the gaming industry would concur with me placing GRAW 2 in the 'love it or hate it' category. Alas, such is the price the game plays for being such a unique gaming experience. GRAW 2 has the same methodical, deliberate combat experience replete with the precision techniques and individual player in-game responsibility and situational control as its predecessor that the lovers love and the haters hate. The folks at Ubisoft have consistently committed themselves to providing a combat gaming experience that emphasizes thoughtful decision making and realism rather than arcade style, fast-paced run-and-gun action. If you're a fan of the latter, I believe you're question has been answered: GRAW 2 isn't a game for you to invest $60 in. And yet, secondly, I believe GRAW 2's package is so strong that even opponents of its unique gameplay experience will be fans of its appearance. The lighting effects are beautiful, smoke and fire effects are as realistic as I've ever seen in a next-gen game, and the symphonic sound is an auditory gift. So, even the naysayers should take the time to rent or borrow GRAW 2 for, while they may not like the gameplay, they will certainly appreciate the environments in which it takes place. But if you, dear reader, share my love for the Clancy Ghosts, you'll want to keep reading; more treats lie ahead.
Time to get down to the nitty-gritty. GRAW 2 takes place in 2014 and puts players once again in control of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghost team leader. Remember GRAW 1? Well if you don't, you'll be reminded: GRAW 2 starts literally right where GRAW 1 left off. It's the next day and the Ghosts must continue fighting rebel and terrorist forces along the US/Mexican border near Texas. You, as Scott Mitchell, will have 72 hours to lead your Ghosts, with a host of further support, to stop the immediate terrorist threat. Like GRAW 1, the perspective is third-person and with you, albeit intermittently, will fight your three Ghost team members, each of whom you have the choice of selecting to best fit each mission. There are three difficulty settings to complete the rock solid campaign mode in GRAW 2, the standard easy, medium, and hard, progressively demanding players to be more thoughtful and deliberate. For Ghost Recon veterans, though, the game can be completed with very little difficulty on the normal skill level in about eight hours. Herein lies my first criticism of GRAW 2: the main campaign, regardless of difficulty setting, is too brief.
Experienced Ghost Recon players will find it necessary to play through on the hard difficulty setting because playing through on normal doesn't quite grant the fix. During the first twenty four game hours it's pretty easy, during the next twenty four it speeds up, and during the final twenty four it can get a little tricky. Players will fight Mexican terrorists and mercenaries during day and night, in rain and in shine (again, in beautifully rendered detail), and with a slew of support - GRAW 2 gives players control of not just three other Ghost members who now consist of a team medic, but M1 Abrams tanks, fast-track armored personnel carriers (APCs), unmanned reconnaissance drones, fighter aircraft support, and even infantry squad support courtesy of the allied Mexican government.
Luckily, what GRAW 2 lacks in the campaign mode is made up for with the new Co-Op Mode. It follows a mission set parallel to the single player campaign mode, whether played with two or sixteen players (yeah, 16 cooperatively!). The AI is mercilessly cruel and relentless but in that appreciated, entertaining kind of way - you won't fly through it with such ease as you will in the single player campaign. Mission objectives range from the standard 'kill everything in the area' to helicopter hunts to the securing and holding of a strategic position. Customization options abound, enemy behavior forces players to adapt, and GRAW 2's replay value and depth are increased in co-op mode.
Similarly, GRAW 2's multiplayer mode (MD) is hefty and may be the aspect of the game players are most looking forward to. With Xbox Live players can connect to brand new maps with up to sixteen people (Ubisoft's self proclaimed perfect number). And now, MP mode accommodates player clans! Yet, I wonder how much more fun it would be to play through the campaign mode with other humans. Also, I wonder how much better the co-op and multiplayer modes would be if players could utilize cover the way they can in the campaign mode. No sense wondering for long, however: it would be better. Perhaps we'll see those improvements in GRAW 3.