Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

I've been looking foward to the release of this game for quite some time now, and it was definitely the first game I was hoping to play when I got my 360. In a rather smart move, the game was delayed till now, to really put some more work into it. I have to say, from the way it looked before launch at X05, it was worth the wait. I've always been a fan of the Tom Clancy games so I am biased somewhat. Anyone who see's this game can definitely say that this is one of the best looking 360 games released to date. It's laden with nice effects, great lighting and character models to fine texture work. The lighting especially since you can really feel the intense brightness and heat of a desert sun. There's no slowdown in the framerate with all this going on, and the animations are smooth and lifelike.

The game is set in Mexico City in 2012, and the storyline, well you can ignore it with ease, but the gist of it is, Nicaraguan and Mexican rebels have made a very real attempt at a coup. You play as Scott Mitchell, a captain in the U.S. special forces, commanding an elite squad known as "The Ghosts." Your mission as you come into the game is to gather intel on a possible uprising, while the presidents from Mexico and the U.S. negotiate their respective co-operation to quell it. That is, till it blows up in everyone's face. Mexico City is suddenly invaded, and you have to get both presidents and a couple of high ranking generals to safety. Until you realize, nowhere in Mexico City is it safe.

One of the greatest new features in this game is it's practical authenticty with the military's hardware. More then just new guns, you now have full access to unmanned aerial vehicles, which have been deployed on missions since Vietnam. Only now has it really begun to boom, with the Army training their men how to use them effectively. In the game it's represented quite well through the cross-com. A really evolved head's up display. you can switch control of your UAV, squad, and any support units at the press of a button, allowing you to give them basic orders, which, as basic as they are work effectively. Send the drone in to hostile territory to locate enemy targets, which then appear on your HUD and the tactical map, allowing you to formulate a tactic to effectively eliminate the enemies, or complete whatever objective you may have. The drone isn't invulnerable, and the enemies can shoot it out of the sky, which leaves you with nothing but running from cover to cover, and hoping you see the bad guys, before they see you. Which would be bad, since your enemies are well equipped with AI that takes cover, throws grenades if you sit still too much, and will lay down enough fire to make running to the next piece of cover look like one of the more foolish things to do. Take care of your drone, and it will provide a great asset.

The AI as I mentioned before is pretty good. It's not great but it gets the job done and makes the game challenging. One of my issues with previous Ghost Recon games, especially Summit Strike, was the superhuman ability of the AI to pick out a camouflaged soldier, mainly me, from 300 yards out through thick forest. I can't see them, so of course I die. I haven't run into this problem yet, but then again this is the desert, not a forest, and it's mostly urban territory you're running through.

Your teammate AI is decent. It doesn't fail on any major level, like my teammates suddenly chargin a tank from cover. They won't do that unless I order them too. They do however sometimes get in cover, and when I come to cover, they move out of the way. most of the time in plain sight. Who they shoot at instead of going to cover.

Another problem with the game is it's lack of polish. There are an increasing number of documented glitches, from the squad AI failing to move evern if ordered, to one that I have personally ran into, which is an animation not being called, so while I'm crawling, the character model is standing up arms outstretched, like it just came from a 3D rendering program. That is something I can't forgive or deal with. The developers delayed the game to polish it, but it's still not finished. It was probably rushed by the publisher, Ubisoft, so that way it could make it in time for the all important fiscal year earnings. Good for them and the stockholders, but it sucks ass when we have to deal with it. I hope a patch is in the works to deal with it, but there shouldn't be any excuses. It definitely could have used a bit more polish.


This game will be the new Xbox Live king, provided there are enough Xbox 360's out there. You have the standard deathmatch, and team deathmatch options, along with territorial control modes. Up to 16 players in any of these, which is still somewhat disappointing. With the advent of next-gen hardware, why haven't we seen any games with more than this? Technically, in some of the co-op modes, you can have 16 players, agianst 16+ AI controlled enemies, but that still isn't as cool as say 32 player team matches. The maps are extremely well done, filled with different hiding places, and plenty of cover. Sadly, the graphics take a noticable hit, with less effects and player models that aren't as great as the single player. Does it matter to me? Not at all, but it is worth mentioning. The best part though, is the inclusion of a seperate multiplayer campaign. 5 missions, designed specifically for the multiplayer arena. It carries it's own story, and the setting is different then the main game. There's also support for up to 4 players on a single Xbox, in any game mode. With alot of games not supporting this, or not supporting this well, it's great to see.

Overall this is a game any Xbox owner who loves shooters should buy. Although alot may find it frustratingly difficult, it's only because of the high degree of realism and authenticity involved. It's never frustratingly difficult for any other reason. Ubisoft and Red Storm have at this point, created the finest Ghost Recon game to date, and lets hope we can look foward to this level of quality and fun, with their next releases. albeit with a few less bugs.

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