After having the pleasure of playing GR:AW late in February, it was great that everyone else can get their hands on the game that made me so excited. It is not often I log onto XBox Live and see most of my friends list playing the same title. Ever since the days of Halo 2 there has not really been a title to knock it off the top, until now. Looking at my friends list now, everyone, apart from one (No names mentioned) [*Cough* –Ed] is playing Ghost Recon. Has some madness swept the cobwebs clean from XBox Live? Is everyone just logging in to see if my Hands On review was correct? Well it is a bit of both to be perfectly honest. As many of my friends will echo, this is the first title in a good while that made me so excited I ran home clutching the bag in my trembling hands. Many people jumped straight into multiplayer fire fights but I slipped the disc in and tried out the Single player first.
So many games nowadays sport an epic storyline full of twists and shocks. Ghost Recon follows this tradition by placing you in the feet of Scott Mitchell, Captain of the Ghost’s. Scott is highly decorated and also highly skilled at his job, which includes killing many terrorists and saving the day. The American President and the Canadian Prime Minister are arranging to meet the Mexican President to sign the NAJSA (North American Join Security Agreement). On route to the signing, all three are attacked and the Ghost team is sent in to assess the situation and do what they are told. So begins your epic journey into the minds and boots of the Ghost Recon team.
Your first job as the Ghosts is to navigate the training grounds specially set up for new recruits to Ghost Recon. The first thing most people notice is that the HUD is very empty and the only things you can really see are an odd collection of coloured arrows, your ammo counter and your health status. All of this fills what is known as the Integrated Warfighter System. (IWS) and the IWS becomes the bread and butter of your life as a Ghost. All your waypoints, mission objectives and team mates all appear on the IWS which also includes the much talked about Cross-com system. On the right hand side the Cross-com appears to show any friendly contact you may be having. This includes your friends, higher ranking officers and also news is broadcast here for you to keep up to date with how much damage you are causing. The game eases you in to the control layout and how to accomplish various manoeuvres and tactics. You will cover how to navigate around, shoot from cover, use smoke grenades and my personal favourite, shooting stationary vehicles with a rocket launcher. All is good so far and Ghost Recon is looking ok but is missing something - your team!
As soon as your training progresses you get given your own special team to take care of or to just send into the places that you are too scared to go. This is where the real part of the cross-com comes into action - to give you real-time information about what your team mates are seeing and doing. Slowly, as your mission unfolds, tactical use of the Cross-com is the order of the day. In squad based games I always feel like I have to do all the work and my team just run around shooting random objects and getting killed. The A.I in GR:AW works well nearly 100% of the time. I say nearly because one or two times my team went a bit odd and refused to follow commands. They just stood motionless staring at the side of a building. A momentary lapse in concentration or flashbacks from Nam, either way they did nothing for a good minute or so and then suddenly sprang to life. The intelligence on the enemies though is varies from Einstein in a Terminator body, as they track you down and fire shots from miles away and get you, to a bit dumb, as they see one of their friends die next to them and they don’t flinch. Maybe they have seen so much death that it no longer bothers them but I doubt the A.I has been built with feelings and war-stories. Ghost Recon gives you the ability to command and direct your team by either looking at a point and telling them to go or by looking at your tactical map (Back button) and picking out a place on the map and telling them to run. Your team does obey orders and for the most part are very smart and can really take the fight to the enemy.
The other part of the team comes in the guise of a Robot Wars reject, often known as a Drone. As comical as it sounds, the drone is really useful for your Ghost’s. We talked about the IWS and the Cross-com and this is all great but the drone really does add the tactical icing on a squad based cake. The drone can be directed by you, just like a team member, to scout a set area of the map and detect what is there. Anything it sees is then displayed on your tactical map and is also outlined by a red diamond on the IWS. Who needs x-ray vision when you have a drone happily taking snaps of the enemy and letting you know where they are. The only issue is that it can make it feel a little bit too easy. You can see enemies from a great distance, you know where they are hiding and can approach and dispatch them in the best way. Since GR:AW is based in the future, a soldier needs all the tactical advantage he can get and the IWS, Cross-com and Drone combo definitely gives you this tactical advantage over your enemies. I will not go into too much detail of the single player missions as many of you will want to dive in and play yourself. All in all GR:AW single player gets better and better. The graphics are very good but in a stylised artistic way, with heat simmer, ricocheting bullets, cars and busses exploding left, right and centre.
Since Ghost Recon is supposed to be based in Mexico you would expect the levels to be huge and detailed but the odd thing with Mexico is that it is a mixture of so many places. You have the high-rise buildings, parks, shopping centres, car-parks and industrial areas too - all of which go to make an ever changing battlefield in which you get to play. The only word of warning is that some of the levels stretch for miles and can seem very daunting to start with, but with fairly regular check-points this should not be too troubling. Just be careful to remember that this is Ghost Recon, a tactical squad based shooter and not Halo 2 because running around with your gun hanging out will only get your brutally shot by someone sitting on top of a building and will result in them laughing and pointing whilst the Game Over screen pays you a visit. Make sure you insert your tactical brain before embarking on a Ghost Recon session as the game requires some tactical planning thought and some quick trigger work as well.
As I mentioned in my Hands-On with Multiplayer GR:AW a few weeks ago, multiplayer GR:AW is currently being played religiously by most of the 360 community. Many people have complained at a few bugs and disconnection problems but most new games have these issues. Hopefully a patch will be on its way shortly to sort out these problems as it lowers GR:AW from being a must have game on live to possibly putting people off because of problems. On the whole multiplayer does indeed rock your camouflage socks with a good variety of maps and game play options to keep most people going for years. If you get tired of the team-death matches you can dabble in some CTF or Thief matches. You can also try your hand at some co-op matches which have been designed just for the multiplayer side of things. You still get all the cross-com features and mission objectives but the only thing that is missing is that you have no covering ability like you do in the single player. You cannot take cover and hide behind walls and sneak out which seems to make Multiplayer GR:AW feel a little bit too arcade for some. This is not to say that there is no tactics at all but it would have been nice to be able to stick to walls, pop our heads over and fire off a few rounds.
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is a game that every 360 owner should have in their collection. It may just be the first 360 title that has come out since launch that has got so many people talking and playing that you owe it to yourself to be part of this. Despite the odd A.I at times, a few bugs in single and multiplayer and the lack of a Snow Level (Sorry, I love snow levels) Ghost Recon does show people what the 360 can do in terms of a gripping single player storyline and an intense multiplayer arena for both novices and seasoned pros to play in. Join in the battle and see what all the fuss is about and even if tactical shooters are not your bag, the game has enough variety to keep most people hooked. Even if you have never played a shooter before, GR:AW will ease you in and will not let go until you turn off your 360 and even then it will be too tempting and you’ll power it back up.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers