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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2



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Impact: Memorable

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 is another tactical shooter in the Ghost Recon series. In GRAW 2 the player, in the role of Captain Mitchell, leads his team of up to three men on a number of military operations in the war torn Mexico.


GAMEPLAY


Before each mission the player picks his men and weapons. There’s a decent range of weapons, with modding (adding modifications) involved for most of the assault rifles. The difference between many of the weapons, however, is rather unclear. The stats for many of them are the same and the difference mods make isn’t stated at all. The same goes for the personnel. There are discriptions but they are just that. In a few of the missions the player also has a choice of the insertion point. This can make a difference, even as far as objectives are concerned, but only a few maps allow for the choice. It's a shame that this hasn't been developed further.


Since it’s a tactical shooter we're talking about, it’s helpful that you can direct your team members as much as possible. Although you can’t take control of your Ghosts the way you can of your own character, you come very close to that. Different directions can be given to your Ghosts from your first-person perspective, trough the live-view satellite map, and even through the camera view of the team members themselves.


There are two action modes for your team, the assault mode and the recon mode, and it is the second mode that is meant to dominate the game. Ghost Recon gameplay relies on stealth heavily, and it can get ridiculous, as enemies don’t tend to see you in recon mode, even though they are meters away, and even though the only difference between the modes is that you’re crouching instead of standing. Nonetheless, the recon mode makes your Ghosts use silenced weapons and move unseen, so without it your team will be quick to suffer casualties.


Besides controlling your team mates, occasionally, you can also command an extra infantry group and AI-controlled vehicles. The vehicles include an M1 tank, an Unmanned Arial Vehicle to search for enemy positions from above and (a new addition in the series) The Mule - basically a slow moving suitcase on wheels that carries all available weapons and ammo.


The AI is debatable. Characters move around and take cover as proper. If you’re spotted, the enemy will start moving from cover to cover advancing on your position…then one for one they will pop out from behind the corner to be killed, learning nothing from the guy who just fell dead before their eyes. The AI of your Ghosts is not that imperative to begin because you can be in control of about 80% of everything they do. As for the remaining 20%, their AI becomes a weakness. In the assault mode, they tend not to notice enemies before the enemies notice them. Your team members are often faced the wrong way and, when under heavy fire, they often neither take cover nor shoot back. Inevitably, your AI will serve as an extra pair of eyes to spot, and possibly take care of, those enemy positions your own eyes have missed. Most of the destiny, however, will still be in your own hands.


GRAW 2 might be a tactical shooter, but it's obvious that developers tried to compromise between a tactical shooter and a game that will do well on the market. That is perhaps the reason behind a few strange gameplay choices. For example, the arms of the Ghosts must be made from pure steel because, no matter what weapon you are holding, the sights do not wobble the way they would in real life. Another issue would be the previously mentioned recon mode. Crouching instantly turns you and your men into invisible ninjas from a badly made action flick. The rebel army in the game is replaced after a while by mercenaries and the dialogue suggests several times that the mercs are much better than the army. Yet mercenaries, all throughout history, are notorious for being disorganized, badly disciplined and poorly trained, especially those trained somewhere underground. Then there are helicopters that tend to drop you off in places where the rotors would obviously hit the buildings surrounding the heli. Cars explode in spectacular fashion by flying up in the air and even flipping sometimes.


The game is not very long. Thankfully, there’s a multiplayer support with many different game types like co-op and assault-defense. It is in MP where things get serious, since only a few movements or a bad shot can mean the end of you. Since there’s little mission scripting in multiplayer, it’s all about fighting against the real people. For many it’s the main reason to buy the game in the first place.


VISUALS


The game has decent visuals, largely unchanged from the previous game. Objects beyond a certain point are noticeably low in resolution when seen through a scope of a rifle. At medium distances objects are in a type of blurry gloom, which looks quite realistic, but is also a little over the top. Developers, most probably, tried to reduce system requirements by concealing the object detail in this way. The effect of temporary blindness when coming to a dark place from a sunny place, found in the first game, is no longer there. The sun itself is not as bright, mostly blurred behind smog or clouds.


Some quality time has been spent in the animation department. One can really appreciate details like the change in position of the bullet chain of the machine gun when leaning to the side. The movements of the characters look realistic and fully animated as well.


GRAW has a good damage model. Even if you don’t have a special physics chip required to enjoy it to the fullest, GRAW 2 offers a lot of eye candy. As vehicles are being imbedded with bullet holes, their doors will get thrown open, their windows shot out, their tires emptied, and eventually they’ll blow up in a quite a spectacular fashion. The existence of this eye candy and the hype developers create around it are both somewhat ironic, because a tactical die-hard will rarely get to appreciate the explosions. After all, if things start exploding, it means something's going wrong. And "wrong" doesn't happen that often.


The detail level is high. Much of the action is happening inside the city or within villages, and the multi-story low cost housing, the iron fences, the trash, the destruction of war and even a leaf on a tree are well drawn.


SOUND


There’s a lot of music present. Varying based on the action and the map, it is mostly a combination of techno tunes and classical instruments, and it fits the action well.


The sound effects are first class. A rare gem, for example, is the echo of a fired weapon, an effect that is also heard in real life when firing in an open space. The difference in materials that are being shot at can be clearly heard.


The mission-related dialogue is very cheesy, but something you’d expect from a game that tries to be profitable. Quite annoying as well is the nagging from your team members every few seconds of being idle, but that falls into the background after a few hours of play.


PERFORMANCE


Even after the installment of the 1.4 patch, getting to the end of the game produced no final cut scene! Apparently some people get to see the ending and others don’t. It’s just another random bug in the gameplay. There is little that can spoil your mood more than having to spend an enormous effort and not seeing the very final bit of the result at the end of a final countdown. GRAW2 doesn’t have too many bugs, but it is characteristic that the bugs are obvious to anyone who played the game throughout. While GRAW 2 has its challenges, but difficulty is not one of them. With the latest 1.4 patch (whether the patch matters or not) and using some caution in the recon mode, a player can easily rush through the levels without too much trouble. There are one or two moments where you are put into a position where keeping the men alive is more of a matter of luck than choice, like when the you are dropped onto a bridge and the enemies kill your teammates before they even get a chance to climb down their ropes, but these moments relate more to flaws within the campaign rather than to a difficulty level as a whole.


CONCLUSION


Even with the latest patch the game has its problems. They are few but annoying. Nonetheless these problems are overshadowed by the game's multiple good sides, like excellent graphics and fun tactical gameplay. In the end the game feels like a very good expansion pack to the first game, rather than a new game. However, if you liked the first GRAW, there shouldn't be a reason why you wouldn't like more of the same. With a little luck, a tactical shooter fan will have his hands full for a while, and it is definitely one of the better games out there.