Review by GunManiac468
"Three years after its release, Tom Clancy's first Ghost Recon title for the Xbox 360 still has the ability to leave you stunned."
Tom Clancy's novels have always been gripping tales of massive military conflict and nail-biting espionage. Literary titles like Rainbow Six and The Cardinal of the Kremlin remain some of my favorite books of all time. The Ghost Recon series perfectly integrates the life or death atmosphere of his stories into a fun, satisfying, and interactive shooter of epic proportions. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was no different.
The Xbox 360 is probably thought of as the premiere console for visual prowess. The producers at Ubisoft did an excellent job of pushing the system's hardware as far as it would go. The graphics in GRAW constantly look realistic and crisp from the time you turn the game on to when you finally decide to put it down several hours later. The many textures in the environments are detailed and photo-realistic, while the animations and character models are just as pleasing. There's just something cool about watching the Mexican landscape pass underneath you at several thousand feet as you ride in the cabin of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. It gives you the sense that you're playing in the real world, and that always helps the experience. The next display issue is the HUD. GRAW is based around the premise of a skilled squadron of soldiers using cutting edge military technology. To help support this, the HUD is laid out like the visor on your character's helmet. You'll have an icon on the lower right corner telling you your current weapon and rate of fire. The lower left shows your health and stance. To coincide with the HUD, the "cross-com" system is introduced. Based on the real-life Future Force Warrior program, the cross-com allows you to spot enemies or allies with colored icons, and has a miniature screen built into the HUD that lets you see what your teammates see, as well as a video uplink to commanding officers and other people of interest. Overall the visual display in GRAW is excellently done and realistic.
An aspect of video games that is less praised is sound. GRAW is a good example of how games can feature the cinematic audio that you might find in a groundbreaking motion picture. The most obvious sound effects are the noises created by your wide arsenal of firearms. The gunshots in GRAW are each distinctive and cool to listen to. Every gun sounds unique. For instance, firing your SCAR-L on semi-automatic sounds very different from the prolonged bursts of fire from your MR-C. Less detailed are the noises from the weapons' mechanics. Reloading your guns usually sound near-identical, with the only noticeable differences becoming apparent when you load/reload a sniper rifle and then your pistol. The sound produced by reloading the pistol will sound softer and lighter, since handguns fire smaller rounds in smaller magazines. Next in line to be criticized is the music. Composer Tom Salta did an excellent job putting together the score in GRAW, with several awesome tunes conveying suspense and patriotism always blaring in the background. Some of the greatest moments in the game like defending the US embassy and neutralizing the rebel outpost were made so momentous by the inclusion of the powerful background music that adds to the atmosphere.
GRAW's story is a study in contrasts. In the beginning, things are somewhat exciting. You're not sure what's going on as the Mexican government deteriorates around you following the signing of a treaty between Mexico, the US, and Canada. Then they slow down. The middle part of the plot mostly curtails taking out various rebel strongholds and tipping the odds in America's favor as they try desperately to end the conflict before it starts. Finally, things pick up yet again towards the climax. In order to give you an idea of how the story unfolds without divulging any key plot points, I'll give you a brief summary.
Following the signing of NAJSA, a joint security agreement uniting the countries of North America, a rebel force lead by the powerful General Ontiveros in Mexico stages a coup d'etat to prevent the treaty from coming to fruition. This is where the Ghosts come in. Captain Scott Mitchell and his squad are sent to Mexico to stabilize the situation, and end up embroiled in a nuclear crisis with minutes to act.
The plot is actually very suspenseful in parts, but gets a little boring halfway through. Once you get past this however, the climax explodes with touch-and-go action as you rush to end the conflict. Overall, the story is actually very good, with a couple slow parts.
Now for the reason people buy video games. GRAW's gameplay is fun and addictive from beginning to end, as you'll find yourself quelling rebel insurgents in urban plazas, rural hilltops, and abandoned trainyards. The Xbox 360 version actually allows you to switch between a first and third person view at will, allowing you to utilize the third person's unique cover system. Playing with an over-the-shoulder view will allow you to duck behind walls or other objects, with the ability to pop in an out of cover to target your enemies. That being said, you won't be able to just hide behind cover and take out bad guys one-by-one every two feet. To prevent repetition, you won't always have something to hide behind. Instead, you'll occasionally be forced to use other tactics like tossing out smoke grenades for cover, or sniping from an elevated position. In addition to these actions, you'll also have a wide array of weapons at your disposal. Among them are futuristic or theoretical weapon systems, the most notable being the MR-C assault rifle and Zeus MPAR anti-tank weapon. At several points throughout the campaign, you'll have to get to rally points in order to swap teammates or weapons. Only certain weapons will be available at these various places, but usually you'll have a bit of an option. On the issue of your teammates, most of the time you'll have a three-man squad at your disposal. The specific people in this squad will be subject to change, with each having a specific role. For example, you can have a rifleman or grenadier on your team, as well as a marksman or an anti-tank gunner. Riflemen are good all-around soldiers, while marksmen are good at targeting enemies from far distances. That being said, we get to GRAW's one sole problem. The AI for your teammates ranges from brilliant to incredibly stupid. Most of the time I've gotten into encounters with enemy troops only to have one of my teammates being blown away by hostile gunfire. To counter this, you'll usually have to store them away in safe locations where the enemies can't get to them. At least, if you want to keep them alive. Other than that, the gameplay is smooth and polished, offering you a highly futuristic combat experience.
GRAW only features two difficulty settings, because it only needs two. There's the first one, which is the normal/easy setting. This is the basic difficulty in which you'll play the campaign, and even it has its tough points. (Storming the Palacio Nationale in the Fierce Resistance mission comes to mind.) The next is called "ultra-realistic," which is just that. The rebels in this difficulty are vigilant and skilled, always aiming for the head and usually finding some way to outflank you. Playing through both difficulties nets you a ton of achievements, whilst providing an engrossing military story. Once you've done that, you have the multiplayer experience to turn to. This consists of a small amount of co-op missions that you can play alone or with friends, and the basic competitive online experience. Overall you can still have plenty of fun with GRAW long after you beat it.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter provides an experience similar to Call of Duty 4's hectic gunfights, with a tactical edge that defines its place in today's list of shooter titles. In the end, anybody who likes a good combat game should pick this up.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/28/09
Game Release: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (US, 03/09/06)
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