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Ever since the 360 was first announced and the name Ghost Recon was mentioned, fans of the previous games have been salivating over the release of Advanced Warfighter. The game has gone through lots of changes since it was first announced, in its first showing, many 360 fans saw some amazing graphics on show, then a few months later, the graphics were downgraded and the framerate seemed to be lower than a spectrum title. Thankfully UBI has put in a great deal of work on Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter since then and it really does show in the final product, its just a shame that there were not more titles like this that show off the power of the console available at the 360 launch. The question is, has 4 months more work on the game made enough difference to what was expected to be a launch title?
The face of war has changed. Enemy lines blur and there is no longer a clear opponent. New enemies and new threats require a new type of warfare -- a new type of soldier. Enter the Ghosts.
In 2013, the U.S. Army will implement the Integrated Warfighter System evolving what we know as the modern soldier. IWS combines advanced weapon systems, satellite communication devices and enhanced survivability into one fully integrated combat system. The IWS program has been developed to meet these new threats head on. Now, it can be tested on the battlefield.Following an insurgence in the heart of Mexico City, the U.S. Army's most elite Special Forces team is deployed to the center of the conflict to regain control of the city. Greatly outnumbered but fully equipped with the IWS, this elite team is the first and last line of defense on the battlefield. They are the "quiet" professionals. They are the Ghosts.
So at last most people can get their hands on the 360, now that stores have good stock and with the release of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, let's hope we have the first really great game on it too. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter sticks to the same squad-based shooting idea of the previous games, you get to play in first or third person views, depending on how you prefer it and you use a blend of slow paced leadership and all out attack on enemies. Once again the game is based on the "near future", this time in Mexico in 2013. Seeing as the game is set a few years in the future, you get your hands on what are expected to be weapons of the future along with other guns you'll already know about. Your main character "Scott Mitchell" comes equipped with the Integrated War System, this combines Satillite communications and controls with various weaponary, what this really means is that the effect on the game through this new technology is a step up from previous Ghost Recon titles.
Firstly you can now call on the tactical map any time you want to by pressing the back button, you can issue basic move and fire commands via the tactical map. You may not think this is such a great new feature, but when you get to use the AUV (a small flying spybot style craft) which you can direct over the map to scout ahead and find out where enemies are hiding, it becomes a very useful feature, especially in a strategic way when you take out threats in specific areas to bypass others.
So what other new features do we have now? Well we have a "picture in picture" view in the top left of the screen that shows up what your units can see, though this is pretty useless as its too small to see anything important. During the game you also receive news broadcasts and mission updates in the top right hand corner of the HUD, getting cutscenes this way works well and avoids the between level ones that had become the norm, it allows the game to flow more smoothly than ever before.
One big problem I had with the older Ghost Recon games was that they felt like it was you and three others against the world and no matter how large the enemies were, you would still come out on top with ease. With the new tactical map and slow burning gameplay, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter finally gets over that problem by making it feel like a more modern hi-tech style war than just 4 men against poor enemy AI.
The best innovation in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is one that is so simple, I'm surprised other titles haven't used it before, it is the way your soldier (Ghost) reacts with the scenery around him. While in previous Ghost Recon games it has been relied on you pressing certain buttons to do simple things like peering around corners, using walls as cover etc, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter does away with this. All you need to do is move up towards a wall and keep the controller held in that direction to take cover against it, then you can automatically peek around corners just by holding the direction you want to go. It's so simple, yet it works so well. This also flows into the firing mode, hold the direction button to peer our and then pull the left trigger will put you into a very slightly zoomed-in view, this then lets you fire off some rounds via the right trigger button, let go of everything and you'll get back behind the cover. If you have a weapon that allows zooming, all you need to do is click down on the right stick and it will zoom in for you. It all works so well.
Moving your squad around is easy, to direct them, all you need to do is to choose a point and press up on the d-pad, this moves them into cover. This isn't always perfect though, there are times when you move them to a cover area, yet one member of the team decides it would be good to stick out a bit too far and get a rain of bullets fire down on him, also there seems no way to get your squad to do the same stance as you, if you want to be laying down on the ground, forget about your team doing the same, they'll still just stand there ready to be shot down!
The game is most fun when you are commanding your squad around, this drops when you are on single solo missions, especially later in the game when it tends to become a frustration to play rather than the joy it was and should have been all the way through. The enemy AI is great throughout, though sometimes its too good. Thankfully UBI have added what would at first seem like a very good checkpoint save system, this means that if you die, you can continue on from the last checkpoint...so what's the problem? Well if your health is very low, there is no way you'll ever get it back up again unless you restart the entire level, because despite being able to heal your squad as many times as you want, you can't get any healing at all.
There are bugs though and I can't finish this review off without mentioning them, sometimes your guy will start to fly around instead of laying down flat on the ground, scenery pops in and out of view, grammar errors in text, enemies can fall under the ground and keep firing yet you can't take them out as they are buried underground and you can't see them. Squads can ignore you, some can get stuck in walls, and healing your squad can be a nightmare when a clipping bug has them halfway through a wall. A great game can be ruined by bugs and when you are paying £50 for a game on the 360, you would hope basic bugs like these would have been squashed with just a few more weeks of testing as I can't see how they got missed.
The multiplayer side of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is pretty good, the game is playable offline and online over live! with the chance to play against up to 16 other players. Multiplayer sticks to the regular games you would already expect such as deathmatch, capture the flag, last man standing and domination. But they have added a few more such as sharp shooter, thief, recovery, defend and hamburger hill. They are good at what they do, there is no doubt about that, but it feels like they are just games you have played over and over again and there isn't anything new on offer.
The good news is that the co-operative levels are very well done. There are four new levels in the multiplayer part and allow you to take on the enemy AI in the way you do in the single player game. Voice com gaming is a lot of fun in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. The multiplayer co-op modes feels very detached from the single player side though, they feel more like deathmatch games against some dumb enemies as the bot AI is not good at all. Worst of all though is the decision not to let players play the single player campaign in co-op mode online. this could have been fantastic, but instead its another missed opportunity.
There are more good points though, the load times are extremely fast, I can't believe how fast they are actually as there is so much on show in the game you wonder why other titles take so long to load levels. It's not a joke when I say that the single player campaign flows as if there are no load time at all, it really is that fast.
Graphics & Sound
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is without doubt one of the best showoff titles for any 360 owner to have on hand to send their friends into jealousy. The setup from the last Ghost Recon game is massive, and its not just the high-definition resolutions that make the difference, the lighting effects are superb, with lots of use made of HDR lighting and an exceptional level of detail on textures and suchlike. The way the game makes Mexico City feel so real is something I haven't seen done in any other game before, the only problem is that it seems like a ghost town as there are no civilians in the game at all, except those that a primary objectives. Not everything is rosy though, the game suffers from what looks like a v-sync problem that seems to show up in other UBI titles on the xbox, the only good thing here is that it only happens when you are connected up via the VGA cable it seems. Sound is great, bullets sound real, explosions can be deafening and the chatter from your squad and from mission briefings is really well done and clear as crystal.
Despite a number of bugs that show up during the game and the lack of a campaign co-operative mode, its quite a feat to say that Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is still an excellent game. The single player game is still very good indeed, it takes a while to complete and has a good number of achievements for players to collect and has a good feel of slow paced moments and all out pant-pooing when you are set upon by multiple enemies. So what can I say, I'm disappointed and pleased at the same time, the game is still good yes, but not as polished or as amazing as it should have and could have been with some more work.