Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer – Ubisoft
Publisher - Red Storm Entertainment & Ubisoft Paris
Xbox Live Multiplayer: 1-16
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
One year after the release of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) for the Xbox 360, Ubisoft gives us GRAW 2. The original GRAW’s release was much anticipated and did not disappoint with its fabulous graphics and action packed gameplay. The game was well received as it earned positive accolades by many reviewers including myself who reviewed the title almost a year ago to the day. So one year later GRAW 2 arrives and Scott Mitchell and his Ghosts are back. I have to admit when I had heard a sequel was coming out so soon after the initial release of GRAW I was very sceptical. The last thing I wanted to see from the franchise was a GRAW 1.5 or a glorified expansion pack. Fortunately the game manages to offer enough for this concern to be alleviated. Yes, much of the gameplay, controls and visuals are similar however there is lots to offer in GRAW 2 and it provides a multiplayer experience which will last gamers quite some time.
Once again Ubisoft delivers in the visuals department. The graphics, like those in the original, are arguably the best selling feature of the game. The lighting effects are also very good in GRAW 2. The night time levels look incredibly realistic and do not compromise the graphics or gameplay in any way. I found that the lighting in areas like the deserts, forest regions and urban areas are all done to perfection. As with the first GRAW the lighting is a critical component of the game and often can an impact on your gameplay experience throughout the campaign. For example, the skyline is slick looking and the glare from the sunlight just peaking over the top can sometimes blind you just like in real life. This just adds one more obstacle throughout the game.
The environments overall are very detailed and look fantastic. Compared to the original, everything just appears a little crisper and cleaner. The backgrounds are highly textured and stunning and the player models look very realistic and control very smoothly. The multiplayer graphics also do not disappoint either as nothing is lost when you go online. The levels continue to all look very good and will keep you coming back for more. Overall I am impressed with the graphics, however I really expected nothing less from Ubisoft this time around.
As far as the sound is concerned, GRAW 2’s audio is an excellent complement to the fantastic graphics and the following really stood out for me:
- All the weapons have distinctively different sounds;
- The soundtrack does not disappoint;
- Explosions and battle sounds incredibly realistic; and
- Character Voices are clean and only add to the gameplay.
I am starting to sound like a broken record; however you get much of the same in GRAW 2 compared to the original. GRAW 2’s weapons sound very similar to GRAW’s weapons, but hey, if it isn’t broke why fix it? It appears that is what Ubisoft did with this sequel. The different guns, tanks and rockets all return with subwoofer rattling sound and all are unique and sound like their real life counterparts should (not that I have ever fired a rocket or driven a tank though). Overall, the weapons sounds are sharp and bang-on.
The soundtrack is once again very good and always seems to remind me of the movie Black Hawk Down. It can get very dramatic at times and it does have a tendency to over-do-it in some instances. Nevertheless, it does add to the realism and atmosphere of the game and certainly gives you that Tom Clancy experience. As for the voice acting in the game, it is not that bad but nothing really stands out in this department. Finally, everything does take advantage of 5.1 surround sound. Overall the sound scores high marks from this writer.
GRAW 2 essentially picks up where the last one left off as it takes place only a few days later. The year is still 2014 and your elite military fighting unit, the Ghosts, are back. Rising conflict between Mexican loyalists and insurgent rebel forces has thrown Mexico into full-scale civil war. Under the command of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghosts are called upon to face an imminent threat to the United States. All in all, the story is solid but nothing incredibly original or riveting. I may have been spoiled with the original; however the Mexican theme now appears somewhat old. Many would argue that in order to be considered a true sequel developers should have departed from the Mexico scenery.
In terms of the single player campaign some of the gameplay has remained the same while in other ways there are some new changes since the first GRAW. Similar to the original you can command your Ghost team every step of the way and the controls do not take very long to get used to. The training missions are second to none and will get you back into GRAW shape in no time flat. In GRAW 2, you also control a UVA drone (to locate enemies), tanks and some helicopters throughout the campaign mode once again. You also command lethal air strikes with jet fighters, and replenish armaments on the battlefield using an unmanned artillery MULE, both of these are new to the game. Also new to the series is that you can now see through the eyes of one of your team mates or vehicles in full screen view. Personally I rarely used this feature but it’s a great option nonetheless. The really good clarity of the visuals is also worth mentioning when viewing through your team mates eyes and I was somewhat taken back a little bit of how good this looked.
Another change you will notice this year is the improved Artificial Intelligence (AI). I found myself getting flanked much more this time around as the enemies seemed a little smarter and somewhat more aggressive. Last year I called my squadmates my ‘band of idiots, but in this latest instalment the same cannot be said for my GRAW 2 squad. Improved squad-mate AI now feeds you more of the information you need with some pretty descriptive commands. They also seem to be more effective killing machines and manage to stay out of the way of enemy bullets this time around as well.
It only takes you about 6 to 8 hours to complete the single player campaign which is a little on the short side. I was actually stunned how quickly I finished the game. The overall difficulty of the game is also a bit of a concern. If you are an experienced gamer, especially when it comes to shooter games, the missions will not present too much of a challenge. I recommend putting the setting on realistic right from the get go as it will give you a little more of a challenge than if you put it in the lowest setting.
GRAW 2 truly shines in the multiplayer arena and is what gives the game its lasting appeal. If you enjoyed the original GRAW’s online experience then there is no doubt you will enjoy GRAW 2’s online offerings. Simply put, it’s better this time around. The multiplayer aspect of the game has lots of depth and is rich in content. There are many game types to choose from, there are lots of weapons, there is a large variety of maps and the co-op missions are very enjoyable. GRAW 2 has also introduced clan support where you can set up and manage clan details online and on the World Wide Web. In terms of the game types, new ones have been added which offer some variety and make the games a little more intense.
In terms of the Xbox Live achievements, there are lots up for grabs and some will take you quite some time to unlock. The achievements also give the game some replay value and will require you to purchase the game if you plan on unlocking all of them.
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