Last year, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was one of the first few game releases that showed glimpses of the Xbox 360's true power. To further complement that, GRAW also was the best Ghost Recon game to come out in the franchise's history which would quickly turn into a huge hit. Now fast foward twelve months, and yet another GRAW labelled game has already hit the shelves. With a short development period and a significant amount of hype coming from it's fans, we can now ask; has Ubisoft delivered yet another epic into this newly christened franchise?
The answer to this question is, yes. GRAW2 is at the pinnacle of the Ghost Recon series and is one of the best shooters to come out on the Xbox 360. The game is what GRAW1 was intended to be when it was released, and is everything we have hoped for it to be since the game was first announced. Even though the game's campaign is a bit lacking in depth (probably explaining the short amount of development time) you won't be too bothered for it's excellent gameplay mechanics greatly help the game carry. The campaign, however, will seem even more miniscule once compared to the game's excellent multiplayer features - which will be the main reason GRAW2 dominates your Xbox 360 for months to come.
GRAW 2's campaign takes off not too long after the events of GRAW1 so most of you who played the first game should have an idea on what the game's concept will be about and for those who didn't you should still be able to pick up the storyline with ease. You play as Scott Mitchell once again, as he returns from his brief vacation, to cleanup the same old Mexican rebel dispute which has now started to spill across the border. The game's plot revolves around this conflict, and eventually leads you into various missions including saving the US from impending nuclear doom and giving a bunch of VIPs a tour through some barren streets from a couple of Mexican border towns. Now whether you like the storyline is entirely up to you. There are points throughout the dialogue that border on the absurd, yet there are also great moments when the plotline captivates and intrigues you to get further into the game.
The game's story is presented the exact same way that every other Tom Clancy game before it has; meaning you will be getting most of your intel through a tiny little video cutout at the top left hand corner of your screen. The voiceovers here really aren't the best and at some points even cast a funny resemblance to a Godzilla movie. The characters though, portray themselves well and do a decent job at presenting the storyline and moving the game foward.
Most of the campaign's presentation miscues can be shrugged off for there is many things that make you forget about them; except one. The game is just too short for a high budget shooter, and you'll be done with the single player experience alot earlier than you may have wanted. You're looking at a 6-8 hour campaign if you take it slowly, not including that some will like to replay the game for it's more challenging achievement points. Even though the game's length is a bit dissapointing, especially for a modern day shooter, it's improved gameplay mechanics save the game from being short and boring.
The first improvement to take notice of in GRAW 2 is the upgraded visuals. The engine on GRAW1 has been modified deeply, as GRAW 2 shows some graphical bits we haven't been seeing the past four months since Gears of War came out. The game is downright gorgeous primarily due to obvious improvements in both closeup details and faraway objects. Scott Mitchell has never looked this good, as his model is perfect in every regard. Body movements are truly realistic. Even details like the wrinkling of his shirt when he runs emphasises the great attention placed on perfecting game visuals. However, where you see the greatest improvement in the visuals is the actual explosions. The wide array of different effects to perfectly mimic live explosions is breathtaking; from the crescendo of fire shooting upward to the plume of gritty smoke left behind. To think that we were so impressed with GRAW 1's explosions and felt there was no reason or means to enhance them now seems silly. Thankfully, the game's developers prove once again that there is always room for improvement and luckily we were given a treat that will dazzle you more and more as you get deeper into the game.
The new controls for GRAW 2 offer one of the best gameplay schemes for a tactical shooter ever - if the not the best. The newly refurbished Cross Com (aka Cross Com 2.0) is the crux of the "advanced warfighter" gameplay the developer's were aiming for in last year's edition, especially with some of its newer features added to the mix. You are now given the ability to see through your teammates, drones and artillary's cameras, giving you a first person viewpoint. Through this, you can send your team to exact locations with pinpoint accuracy and you can also give them even more specific targets to destroy. Because of this and mixed in with the fact that your team AI has been upgraded (they're not a bunch of braindead idiots any longer), you're going to have to use them much more tactically than you were asked to in the last game. Not only that, but the drone system has been vastly improved as well. Your aerial drone is still used the same way as last year, but now because of the much more open levels and areas, it is of far better use. Another drone that actually makes its debut in GRAW 2 is the MULE. The MULE is essentially a moving supply of health and relief you bring along your missions and is needed to complete certain sections of levels. It supplies guns, health, and ammunition for you when your running low and when you need a boost. The MULE does lack importance sometimes (you won't need to switch guns 10 times for every mission) but when it is needed, it is essential that you keep it away from danger so as to avoid its destruction. If the MULE goes out with a neccessary weapon in it's arsenal, it will vastly increase the difficulty of the mission you are currently playing. It's a burden sometimes, yet it adds a huge tactical element to your already large amount of weaponry and artillary.
The game's levels do seem much larger this time around as well, and you can check that out immediatley once you see the scale of the current UAV maps. The missions are still greatly coordinated, even though if they are still the simple "Search & Destroy" setup we have been seeing for years. That's not to stay they still aren't fun. The missions don't become repetitive at all over the course of the games campaign. Furthermore, there are unique chapters thrown into the game along with new missions and sub objectives that you have never witnessed before in a tactical shooter, especially a Ghost Recon game.
Luckily, the helicopter missions we all loved so much are back this year and much more challenging. You are now required to shoot down runaway trucks, enemy HALOs, trains and even an occasional water tower (yeah that's right) all while your chopper is steadily moving above the ground hundreds of feet below. Still, there is some relative ease as the cypher picks up enemies before you even get a glimpse of them, locating everything before you get to do the dirty work. Still, these missions prove to be the most exhiliarating bits of the game and you'll be dieing to get to these more than anything else during your time with it. Another positive about the newly updated missions is that the incredibly boring sniper hunts from the last game are nowhere to be seen, so you won't be forced to pick off enemies 15 stories above you in this one. However, sniper missions where you take control of the gun also show their worth more so, as these too are some of the better aspects of the game. Overall, the game's campaign is improved incredibly with it's brand new features and upgraded missions, and because of this, you will be left with a sense of wanting more once it ends too soon.
Once the campaign mode is finished with, there is only one sensible way to feed your GRAW2 hunger and that is through its online multiplayer features. GRAW 2 online is the best XBOX Live experience to date; eclipsing Halo 2 and soaring far and beyond anything the Xbox 360 has had to offer. The multiplayer gametype selection is so fast and huge that people can even make their own gametypes. The possibilties are endless thanks for the huge amount of customisation you can do with regards to the options, and you can be playing different gametypes for hours and hours at a time.
The biggest complaint with last year's multiplayer was the terrible spawn camping experiences seen in the game's signature Sharpshooter mode. Now, the gametype is much more playable and is one of the better modes seen on the game. This is mainly due to the improved spawning system, which reads the playing field and places you in a spot much less suitable for being spawn camped. As well as that, there is a new "Combat Starts" timer which will always give you the first shot if an enemy is strolling in your spawn.
Another upgrade worth mentioning is the newly updated co-op campaigns. There is a bunch of tiny missions you can complete with your friends, and even though they only take about 15-30 minutes each, they are more challenging than mostly anything you will have played in the single player. The biggest improvement the missions have though is the ability to hold more people in one room; as now sixteen players can combat AI based rebels in missions that require more teamwork than most co-op missions ever do.
GRAW2, in a nutshell, is an awesome game. It is everything that we have been waiting for from the Ghost Recon series and offers arguably the best multiplayer experience ever on a home console. This is complimented by a short yet incredibly exciting campaign that promises not to bore you as you venture through it. GRAW2 is also the best modern shooter to come out on the Xbox 360 and should be experienced by tactical shooter enthusiasts everywhere.
Originally Written By: Steve Wysowski