Review by Npeaen

"Sets the bar for future third person titles"

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, or GRAW(as it will be referred to during the rest of the review) is a third person shooter developed for the Xbox 360. There are three other versions of this game on the market, as it appears on PS2, Xbox, and PC, but the best version by far is the Xbox 360 one. The attention to detail, the Intense gameplay, fantastic allied AI, and thrilling multiplayer all add up to create one of the best games on the Xbox 360 to date.

Graphics:
This is the game on the 360 that has given me the most “Wow” moments so far just staring at the screen. The game has throws these moments at you constantly. If an explosion goes off nearby(which of course looks stunning), the camera shakes violently, lines of static appear on the screen in some spots(implying you're actually looking at the game through a real camera and not your usual third person view). Other big wow moments include any segment of the game where you're in a helicopter. If you're manning a turret, it looks stunning to see the bullets sparking all over the place, the the empty shells flying from your gun, etc. etc. The big draw of the helicopters though are the few moments of peace you have in the game. You'll often fly between missions, and while you're receiving your orders, you'll get to look upon Ubisofts virtual Mexico City. Fully modeled, beautifully detailed(complete with nasty smog layer), it is truly stunning to look at.

Once you're down on the ground the game still looks very good. All the models have very well textured, have a pretty high polygon count, and manage to look good no matter how far away you are.(Draw distance is good is what that translates into). The animations themselves are pretty good, if you go from running to a crouch, you don't just lower your torso and keep going, you actually drop down, and skid to a halt to regain your footing, it all looks very nice, the only problem I saw anywhere with the animations in the game is the death animations on many of the enemies you fight looks off, like the transition wasn't very well done. Of course you're viewing all this through a HUD, in third person. Ubisoft took a nice idea here and realized you don't always have to show your guys full model onscreen. If you're crouched and sneaking along, you'll only see the top half of your guy, and the camera will zoom up closer to your character than if you were running, creating a much more cinematic and satisfying experience than most games do. If you're sprinting across a street, the camera shakes a little with every step, making it seem more like you're following the guy on foot than a static camera, of course also when you're running you can usually see the full character model. Fantastic work on the single player graphics.

The multiplayer is a bit of a different story. It strikes me almost like the game is running on a different engine. It just looks nowhere near the quality of the single player game. It still looks pretty, yes, but it strikes me as just less effort was put into the game multiplayer graphics. The textures aren't as sharp, the animations aren't as good(dying looks really, really bad). The game is still a blast to play online though, so the graphics don't hinder it that much.

Audio:
Generally it's pretty good, the music kicks in at the right times, while not memorable, it fits the scenes quite nicely. The voice actors are pretty good, although I've personally always thought military games were easier to do voice work with than most others, it still sounds perfectly believable. My only issue with the voice work falls on the bad enemy voice work. They shout two or three things in Spanish, and it just gets old, real fast. It's usually just some shout to alert others to your presence, and as I just said, very little variety to how they say it. The guys who did the sound effects though did a very nice job, the bullets whizzing by you sound fantastic, the pings, the gunfire itself, it all sounds fantastic. In the end though, the audio just isn't memorable, it gets the job done well, but you're not going to reflect on the game going “Wow... that game sounded amazing”.

Controls:
As with most games, the controls work pretty well, they're nice and responsive, and give you plenty of things you can do without completely overwhelming you. The left stick controls movement, the right stick controls where you looks, the A button reloads your weapon, or hold it down to switch between semi-auto and automatic fire, the B button changes your weapon(Between rifle, sidearm, and grenade), the Y button is context sensitive action, including things like climbing over low objects, or using ammo stations. To finish off the face buttons, the X button switches your night vision on and off. The R trigger fires your gun(as with just about any console shooter these days), and the L trigger brings up a more steady aim(although you do move slower), for a scoped view, click the right stick, although I usually prefer the L button. The Left Button switches your allies AI mode from Recon to Assault, and the right button changes which side of the body the camera is on(actually useful for some shots, especially when you're using cover against a wall). Speaking of cover, there is no button you need to press to get into cover if you're nearby, if you're close enough to a wall, your character will just lean up against it and start sliding along until you either try and run away from it or press Y to disconnect yourself from the wall. The multiplayer controls similarly, but without the ability to lean into walls.

Gameplay:
This game is an absolute blast to play. First off, while the game is a shooter, it is NOT a run 'n gun. You will die if you ever, ever try and use those tactics. This game strives for something resembling realism, while you are technologically a superior soldier compared to what you are fighting, that doesn't mean you're invincible. Take two or three bullets on normal difficultly and you will die, and have to go back to the last checkpoint. On hard if you take a single bullet it's game over. So how do you approach the game then? Use your head, grab cover, send your allies in to scout the area first, just keep yourself behind something to stop enemy bullets most of the time. This makes the game much slower paced than many shooters out there, but it is still a very intense game. The game really forces you to use that cover in some spots, as you'll have a little cover to use to defend an area from an onslaught of 50+ enemy soldiers trying to over run your position. When you're desperately trying to stop guys from getting too close without getting hit, bullets whizzing by you, music kicking in, gunfire everywhere, camera shaking, it's some of the most fun I've had on this console.

One of the more interesting elements of the gameplay is commanding your allies. Throughout the game you'll often have allies at your side, ranging from fellow “Ghosts”, to a UAV scout drone, to even tanks. You're given the most control over your fellow ghosts, being able to tell them exactly where you want them, and if you want them to shoot first, ask questions later, or take a more stealthy approach. The drone allows you to scout out the area ahead of you for enemies, but it does get shot at and can be killed, so you'll often be keeping it out of “detection range” rendering it useless. The tanks are the most clunky thing to control. They have a set route they take through the level, firing at anything they come across. Your only control of them involves stop and go. Stop if you need to clear out the area in front of them(Rocket squads and whatnot), go if the areas clear or you need them to take out a truck blocking the road. The funnest thing to control though are the helicopters. They fly around the map from time to time, asking for you to pick out targets for it. On any target you can find, just press up and the Helicopter will get into position and empty it's guns on it. Quite satisfying.

The multiplayer portion of the game has quite a few modes to select from, the two most played from what I've seen are “Team elimination”, which is just two teams killing each other as much as possible, and the “Co-op campaign”, giving you a new campaign built on the multiplayer engine to take on with either your friends or random people on live. Both gametypes are very fun to play as long as the teams are more or less balanced. Which is where you run into a problem. Whoever the host of the game is, they get to decide the teams. That's not very good, as you can see every players skill level next to their name. The host is welcome to rig the teams up however he wants and go. See the problem? Most people though will try and create fair teams and that's good. The other random problem is spawn camping. Depending on the map, each team only has two or three spots where players can spawn, and usually when they do spawn they only have a second or two the gain their bearings before the “Spawn invincibility” runs out, never quite long enough to figure out where that guy is who's shooting anyone who spawns there. When you don't have spawn campers or an annoying host though, the 16 player games are great fun. There's a large selection of weapons and decent selection of maps. The game ships with ten multiplayer maps and four co-op missions, but a 15 dollar expansion “Chapter 2” can be purchased on the marketplace, this pack adds four new co-op campaign missions, eight “new” multiplayer maps(They're just relights, but it affects the gameplay a surprising amount), and a few new game modes. Once you have it all, there is just an absolute ton of multiplayer content, and to this date, I believe it's the most active multiplayer game on Xbox 360.

This is a game that is well done and fun to play in almost every way. Just about everything this game tries to do, it gets it right. While it is disappointing that you cannot get the complete multiplayer without paying an additional 15 bucks, the multiplayer is still fun without it, and the single player is a blast to play. I thought this game was 60... and eventually 75 bucks well spent.

9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/22/06


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