Phil Larsen
31 Mar, 2007

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 Review

360 Review | Ghosts aren't meant to be this badass.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 is the sequel to the first Advanced Warfighter, and it’s had a rather speedy release. Hang on, we have to wait around for years between other sequels, how can GRAW punch out the goods so quickly? The answer to your question is yes – the series hasn’t evolved much. It’s still as great as it ever was, but the double-edged sword of quick turnover versus unchanged gameplay is apparent. Fans of the first game should go out and buy it right now, but the previously uninitiated should probably start with the original (it’s cheap now anyway). For the most part, GRAW2 has come to deliver what it does best, and we’re ready to ladle out bowls of the rich, creamy praise it so rightly deserves.

So…it’s a standard Tom Clancy plot. Terrorists, rebels, American soldiers, Presidents, bombs – you get the idea. Nothing surprising, nothing new. Scott Mitchell is back to save the day with his team of elite Ghosts, so it's good to have a familiar face on your side. In some ways the lack of an interesting storyline could benefit those just wanting to experience the incredible combat, but it would undoubtedly make those nondescript “find this X device and blow it up” missions a little more interesting. The single player campaign is split into three Acts, and while being long enough in their own right, we wish there were more. GRAW2 is indeed a shorter overall game that the first GRAW, but the near-perfect combat isn’t quite good enough to offset the disappointing length.

While playing through the single player campaign for the first time, you’ll eventually get the hang of advanced combat techniques. You’ll soon be sticking and sliding around the walls, timing enemy gunfire to pinpoint the split second for your own offensive maneuver, and tippity-tapping your way through all the support devices in your arsenal. Finally becoming confident with the system is immensely satisfying (although veterans of the first GRAW will ease straight in), but one eventually wishes there was more of a challenge to the single player campaign. Three difficulty levels are available (compared to two in the original), and for anyone who has managed to complete the first game, it’s highly recommended to begin on medium difficulty right from the start. Even then the enemy AI feels a little too forgiving, but it stills controls like a dream and is always tersely entertaining.

He's dead Jim.

He's dead Jim.
Bringing together the environmental graphic design and the hands-on gameplay is a useful tool known as the Heads-Up Display (HUD), and the on-screen indicators actually play a major role in tactical decisions. The changes in GRAW2 primarily focus on fine-tuning the HUD, so as to include a greater variety of control options, and a generally more appealing look. The problem is, most of the changes are exactly that - changed – but improvements are what we were looking for. The overhead 3D map is actually worse, having eliminated the fine scored lines around buildings, and this makes it difficult to distinguish the angles and subtle changes to the environment which could be useful in tactical strategy.

Mitchell is beyond capable when commanding support units, and all the original vehicles make a stunning return (with a few stellar Mach-speed additions). The infantry AI is also noticeably improved – but this lies mostly in their ability to take cover and avoid being killed, rather than their gunplay prowess. Targets can be pinpointed for the support to attack via the HUD display, overhead map, or new CrossCom camera. However, as mentioned, the support is a bit slow on the uptake, and on many occasions you’ll become exasperated at their inefficiency and put your own hide in danger just to take down that last enemy and progress further through the level. Outdoor, rugged environments are now far more common, so it’s important to get the first drop on the enemy with the high-tech equipment, or you’ll find yourself stranded alone in the desert with snipers (or even ground-based missile launchers) bearing down from every direction.

The new CrossCom abilities allow vision through support cameras. This means that at any time, using any support unit (be it heavy artillery, Ghost soldier or even UAV Cypher), a first-person viewpoint is available to be selected by holding the R button. While theoretically a nice addition, it doesn’t really help gain tactical advantage, and leaves Mitchell vulnerable to his surroundings. It’s rather disorienting, and you may learn all about it, play through half the game, then realise you never used it (or needed it) once. It’s available, but like most of the aesthetic changes to GRAW2, it doesn’t add much to the core gameplay.

Can't we all just get along?

Can't we all just get along?
The multiplayer component is deep, absorbing and ultimately a total blast. Best of all, the graphical quality in GRAW2 multiplayer is pretty much on par with the single player campaign, unlike the stripped-down graphics in the first installment. Up to sixteen players can duke it out in many different Team, Solo or Co-op modes, but the basic elimination games are easily the most popular. In addition to these, several Campaign style missions are included, with human players teaming up to complete rather basic objectives. The missions are a simple addition, but add plenty of longevity – and Achievement points to boot. The shockingly impossible “Climb to the top of the Universal Leaderboard” Achievements are gone, so those wanting to pick up the full 1000 points can breathe a sigh of relief.

In a strange, inconceivable move, the wall cover mechanic is still stripped from multiplayer. You can’t sidle up to a corner and peek around for incoming enemies; rather you must awkwardly face the wall and strafe left or right, completely exposing yourself in the process. If Ubisoft offered up some explanation why the cover was eliminated from multiplayer, it may soften the blow – but regardless, it sucks. To hazard a guess, it may be an attempt to create a faster, more explosive game that won’t result in too many “camping” strategies, but the option to include it would have been nice.

GRAW2 looks amazing. There’s nothing to do but praise the graphical quality – particle effects, explosions, animations, cityscapes – everything looks incredible. Just assume it’ll look unreal, and you won’t be disappointed, but there is one niggling issues which needs to be discussed. Night missions are a little too prevalent once more – it’s not that we hate the new and improved night vision (disposing of the terrible green blur in the original), it’s just that the graphical realism is severely reduced. For example, a city street at night may have a streak of moonlight illuminated along an oil slick, with ambient shine from the street lamps shining softly – but it’s pretty much impossible to fight. Night vision strips it all down to a basic texture map, and all the extra graphical tweaks are lost on a bunch of white blocks and grey terrain.

Taking down tanks is an everyday thing for these guys.

Taking down tanks is an everyday thing for these guys.
In what may be the most surprising aspect of GRAW2, it features one of the best soundtracks available on the Xbox 360. Expect plenty of brilliantly composed pieces heightening the atmosphere during the epic battles, and a bunch of subtle, intriguing tunes during stealth missions. The sound effects are also phenomenal, as every bullet rips through your surroundings. Wait around for the massive aerial-to-ground melee near the end of the game for an auditory experience you’ve never heard before. Pump up those speakers.

For all intents and purposes, this really is just an extension on the original GRAW format, with a select few aesthetic and functional differences. On some occasions the interface seems to have taken a step back, and become too cumbersome for its own good – but for the most part it’s a learning experience, very much like the first GRAW. It would be easy to condemn a new entry to an acclaimed series for the lack of innovation, but the core shooting action remains so incredibly strong, it’s still an easy recommendation. We sincerely hope that in future Ubisoft doesn’t take the easy road and churn the brilliance of GRAW fundamentals into a bunch of carbon copy titles. For now, though, this is premium gaming and a must-play for absolutely any Xbox 360 owner.
The Score
Regardless of the clear setbacks and lack of evolution, this is still one of the finest titles available for the Xbox 360. If you don't like tactical shooting, the GRAW series will change your mind. It's that good.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 Content

05 Mar, 2008 The Co-op Collection, part deux.
New GRAW 2 content now available
30 Jan, 2008 Make way for 'The Co-op Collection'.
New Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 DLC revealed
18 Oct, 2007 More achievements to be unlocked as well.
7 years ago
The shockingly impossible “Climb to the top of the Universal Leaderboard” Achievements are gone, so those wanting to pick up the full 1000 points can breathe a sigh of relief.

They left out cover tactics out of multiplayer again?! Blah, what's the point of including guns with cameras in them if you can use them as they were designed icon_confused.gif
7 years ago
Great review and one I agree with on pretty much every aspect. As other places have said it is essentially GRAW 1.5, but that is in no way a bad thing because GRAW one is bloody awesome and so is this game. I enjoyed the three Acts in the single player campaign although the game as an overall is a little on the short (and easy I might add) side which is disappointing in a way. As the review says the soundtrack is absolutely brilliant but that doesn't surprise me as GRAW's was as well. Graphically the game looks great even in SD (just like GRAW did) and yeah, the game is an awesome sequel even if it is just more of the same. Last but not least, it has Jet Fighters which were nailed brilliantly. They way they sound as they make their attack, the way it looks as they fly on by (really fast); it all just comes across as being real and Ubisoft nailed it. Too bad you only use said support in only a few areas.
7 years ago
Does this game support 4 player splitscreen on the one console? I heard a rumor that GRAW 1 did. Can anyone confirm this?
7 years ago
I've not tried it with 4 but when I play 2 player the screen where you choose your character is split into 4 sections so I would imagine it does support 4 player split screen.
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