War, what is it good for? Ghost Recon actually. I have always had mixed feelings about the Ghost Recon series. It had the tactical teamwork element that I enjoy but having to use the third person view gave me the feeling of being a bit detached from the game. I come from a FPS base and the first person view always gave me the “Being part of the team” feel, the Rainbow Six games for example. Ubisoft have been talking up their next game in the successful Ghost Recon range by drip feeding us details about the snazzy named “Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter”. I had the pleasure of being invited to a Multiplayer Demo of GR:AW by Ubisoft and I am here to calm your nerves and also to get your excitment pumping.
Monday 27th February 2006, 10:00am
Standing in the depths of the Buckinghamshire forests a collection of magazine journalists, website journalists, Ghost Recon fans and of course, the lovely FragDolls, all stood in the cold waiting expectantly. The more observant in the crowd could see 24 360 consoles, all hooked up to Samsung LCD HDTV’s, with the GR:AW logo waiting happily on their screens. Just the sight of the logos sent many into a panic. Chris “UbiRazz” Easton was on hand to kick-start the day and what a day it was. We were all split into 4 teams, each team being looked after by a member of the FragDolls. After a few moments we were all perched, eagerly in front of the 360’s, tentatively holding the pads. This was it, don’t panic, deep breaths, deep breaths.
Up until recently not much was known about the multiplayer aspect of GR:AW. Some fancy single player intros appeared a while back showcasing some of the new in-game technology they would be showing us. The biggest being the new Cross-com feature. A small screen appears on the upper left of your HUD and the HUD itself is very minimal and compact. The Cross-com can be swapped to a flying robot drone that can be used for recon of the land and spotting enemies. The other and vastly more useful aspect of the Cross-com was being bale to see what your team-mates are doing. This makes a fantastic tactical tool for all armchair commandos. The only problem was that we all had system linked 360’s so the benefit of seeing what your team-mates were doing was all but wasted. The drone was more comedy than actually tactically useful. If you wanted to know where team-mates were, you just glanced left or right to check their whereabouts. Once GR:AW appears on Live however, I can see the combined use of the Cross-com and the headset really coming into their own. No longer will you have to wonder where you team has gone, just a quick tap of the D-Pad to check the cameras and you can see if they are engaging the enemy, sniping on a hill or just cowering behind a rock. Ghost Recon is really pushing the teamplay element in Advanced Warfighter and the Cross-com really does make playing team GR:AW a tactical and exciting prospect.
The age old question arose on the internet in regards to GR:AW and specifically the multiplayer side. After seeing a good amount of single player footage and screenshots, does the multiplayer side of GR:AW actually look any good? In the world of next-gen, it is slowly becoming difficult to make an ugly game. Fears over the multiplayer aspect of GR:AW, namely the graphics not being good enough or comparable to the single player aspect emerged. The answer? Give me an “S”, give me a “tunning” – what do you have? GR:AW multiplayer. You can all breath a big sigh of relief for GR:AW. Detail on the player chars are top notch, level design is very high and the maps are beautifully detailed and also very varied as well. From a small city, to a rain swept ship onto the shores of a tropical beach, every multiplayer level has some great touches and are realistically detailed.
The first map we got our hands on was the city map. Each of the maps are huge and this one was no exception. The map is covered with buildings, streets and narrow back alleys – all perfect for intense fire fights and tactical ambushes. This is the first level which gives a clue as to what the single player is like. The next map we got to play was a huge beach level, replete with the tides, swaying palm trees and the pleasant chirping of wildlife – all mixing in with the sound of you unloading round after round of ammo into your enemies. One of my first thoughts and one also echoed by Voodoo FD and CyberVixen was it looks very “Farcry”. This idea comes across in a few levels for GR:AW, none more so than a level set in a forest on the edge of the sea. Trees rustle in the wind, the grass looks stunning and waves around in the breeze. GR:AW is looking better and better as each level progresses. Later levels also showcased some stunning shadows, rain pouring down and the re-designed Night vision mode. It has been changed from recent Ghost Recon games to reflect how it works in real life. Move too fast and your vision blurs too much. Keep it on all the time and you can get nasty surprises. So you can guess from this short summary that GR:AW looks stunning and has some interesting levels to play in but the other question is, how does it play?
With CyberVixen on one side and Voodoo on the other, we have a mixed range of abilities. Voodoo is a hardcore gun chick and gets into GR:AW quickly. Vixen has never played Ghost Recon before and prefers the likes of PD:Z, DOA4 and Resident Evil. After a few matches and tutoring in controls and tactics from myself and Voodoo, its all clicks. She finds a gun she loves and she is a member of the SAS in no time. Picking off the more knowledgeable players time and time agina, this highlights one of GR:AW’s best features. Both seasoned, war-hardened veterans and gun-shy novices can get into GR:AW within a few moments. This will appeal to those gamers who like shooters but do not want to get bogged down with cross-com, drones and flanking manoeuvres. Ghost Recon manages to be arcade friendly and also be a deep and tactical game in one great package.
As I mentioned at the outset, I am not a big fan of Third Person views but GR:AW has converted me. Whilst your initial player model looks half Mercenary and half G.I.Joe, (Bandana included) Ubisoft have given us a good amount of options to customize our look. From camouflage types, head gears and other apparel including headphones and mics, baseball caps and sunglasses. The only disappointment is the lack of A-Team Hannibal style cigars, but hopefully they will come as downloadable content.
With a click of the left Thumbstick, you shift from standing and crouched position. Pretty standard so far. Keep your finger held down on the thumbstick and you go prone, perfect for crawling through grass and ambushing unwary enemies. Something new for GR:AW is the ability to run around and hold down the left thumbstick to superman style dive onto the ground. Fantastic for getting to cover quickly – not so great if you miss your target and land stomach first into the middle of a road. A little more frustrating was holding down the thumbstick accidentally during fights. During the day I saw many people hurling themselves at their enemies feet, maybe trying to surrender, only to be brutally shot in the back by a sniggering enemy. Best advice is to keep practicing this move over and over till you prefect it and cutting out the embarrassment of jumping on peoples shoes.
The third person view also lets you see more of what is going on around you. With a tap of the Left Shoulder button the camera shifts from your left to right shoulder. This makes it quick and handy to find cover and use it to your advantage. Some players use this feature all the time as it tend to come in handy on every level at some point. Playing GR:AW is very fluid and you really do get the feel of moving a soldier about, giving him orders and performing some pretty impressive tactical play. So looks and gameplay are covered, the next detail to look at is features.
One thing the Ghost Recon series has been good at is guns. Aping the Matrix “Lot’s of Guns” scene, players get a huge variety of guns to play with. Several types of grenades, a few different pistols, a wide variety of rifles, shotguns, semi and full automatics and some deadly sniper rifles put too much choice in your hands. Take Vixens advice and use every single gun until you find one that fits in with your play style. Some of the guns also come with optional grenade launchers underneath but the only downside is the time it takes to swap from conventional fire to grenade fire. A quick press of the B button and tapping the D-Pad can swap between your grenades and grenade launchers, if you have them. A few seconds go by as you prep the gun which can lead to some frustrating “getting-shot-while-reloading” moments but GR:AW does force you to think a little more tactically.
Ghost Recon is easy to start and progressively gets harder as your skills increase. Ubisoft have also put in a variety of options you can tailor to make your ideal multiplayer matches. From your standard level type, number of kills etc, GR:AW gives you the choice of weapon restrictions, player cameras (Third or First person) etc. Map settings can vary from drones on or off, bases available for teams, special areas for team games as well. GR:AW also includes some objective based options including VIP matches, assassination and destroying items belonging to your enemy. So Ghost Recon definitely has a large scope of options for players to come up with their ideal game types.
All in all, GR:AW has gone from my “Looking good but I will wait” pile to the “Must Have!” pile in a days gameplay. Gameplay is deep and varied but not too overwhelming for beginners. Multiplayer is fantastically detailed, rich and customisable with just the right amount of tactical play to keep all types of players happy. Adding to this to further wet your appetite is being able to play multiplayer co-op with 16 players at once. This mode really needs the cross-com to be utilised to work effectively. Only a week to go and you can all buy Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, safe in the knowledge that the single and multiplayer modes are great fun and they also look stunning. The only problem now is waiting…
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers