Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Ghost Recon has come a long way in a short space of time. There it was, at the start of Xbox Live, handing out coffee and biscuits to gamers, leading us round the online world that would consume our lives and sever relationships in the coming months. The second title was more glamorous, keeping in with the gritty tactical warfare that we’ve come to expect from Tom Clancy games, only with prettier graphics. Much like that good looking yet academic cousin we all hate and envy.
The helicopter rides across the city are something else.
And suddenly, there I was, standing at the top of a multi-storey car park with a rocket launcher slung over my shoulder and a smoke grenade in my hand. I’d already practised moving, strafing, taking cover, leaning and shooting before being shot at by an APC. Running behind a smoke screen, I was briefed by some guy in a helicopter to come up here and take out the armoured vehicle in order to move onto the next step of training. And with one stab of the trigger, all that was left was a burning lump of metal two storeys down.
Command a group of 3 soldiers, take out a group of resistance, control an APC whilst under cover to blow up another vehicle, run and duck into trenches and assist the team in clearing the area before running full pelt for a hovering helicopter to get the hell out of there. Cue the whining guitar solo of an incredibly bad version of All Along the Watchtower by Everlast, and I’d just learned the basics of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Welcome to the Xbox 360.
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“there’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”
It’s the year 2013. Deployed to Mexico City on a joint operation to capture Mexican military officials involved in illegal technology sales with Columbian FARC rebels, things get hairy when Mexican soldiers hi-jack the public signing of the NAJSA (North American Joint Security Agreement) and capture the Canadian, American and Mexican Presidents. You’re thrown into the action as the meeting falls apart, and it’s up to you and your comrades to think on your feet to save the world. Again. We should be getting a little tired of all these Mexican and Columbian terrorists threatening to take over the planet in most of our videogames, especially with all the talk of wars and terrorists on TV, but when Tom Clancy gets involved things usually get interesting, and GRAW is perhaps the pinnacle achievement on his CV.
There’s little point in jumping around and avoiding the fact that the visuals here are just simply gorgeous. I’m a little scared to rave on about graphics in Xbox 360 games, what with all the power behind my wooden-patterned faceplate almost ensuring that all games will look kick-arse, but Ghost Recon: AW looks absolutely sensational. Mexico City has never looked so stunning, with streets detailed right down to curb stones, litterbins, postal boxes, public phones and foliage. Of course, the real purpose of these objects is to give much needed shelter, however temporary, during a gun fight. Parked cars are dotted around the streets, all with full-breakable windows and pop-able tires, so you’re never safe when in hiding.
More helicopter rides.
The first level, for example, I’m on a highway exit ramp, slowly edging my way down behind cars. Zooming in on enemy soldiers patrolling the streets below, the graphics aren’t strained, and I’m watching this guy slowly bore himself to tears wandering about, occasionally kicking stones before slamming to the ground with a bullet in his ear. Better still, a few moments after sending him to the spirit in the sky, I’m crouching next to the building where some of my stray bullets landed, and the bullet holes are still there. There’s a cool puffing effect when bullets hit buildings and surfaces as debris is kicked up, much like when you see helicopters firing in films. Running across the street, a guy on higher ground empties a magazine in my direction, and all I see is lines of debris fly up in my face as I narrowly make it to cover. Did I mention that getting shot in the head is an instant kill? No? Well, you’ve got to watch yourself around the streets of Mexico, because Rambo certainly isn’t welcome and wouldn’t last past the first 5 seconds of the intro. It pays to plan ahead with the handy map allocated to the back button, shoot when the enemy is reloading and get team-mates to apply suppressive fire.
There’s also a fair amount of looking around corners.
Enemy AI is generally impressive, especially the way when you shoot into a platoon they all scramble for cover and fire back. Some fire blindly as others toss grenades, you can hear commanders yelling instructions and snipers will run for vantage points. Staying in one place just isn’t an option, because you’ll soon be out-gunned. The problem I found is there are still instances, although few and far between, when enemies will run at you from a blind side and pump lead into your body from point blank range. Surely the point of the game is to fire on sight, and not at touching distance?
That’s the single player mode though, and as fun and challenging as it is, a candle simply cannot be held to the multiplayer mode on Live. Up to 16 players can team up against or with each other with 8 a side, on search and rescue missions, capturing flags and territories or the bog-standard and much loved frag fest, in teams or every man for himself. The graphics still stand as strong as ever online, in particular one level at night on a tanker in the pouring rain is quite simply breathtaking. A few of us here at Thunderbolt Games met up and played for a few hours, this level one of them, and marvelled at its excellence. The sheer attention to detail is astounding, as when you enter a pipe for cover, bullets ring around in it and shake the screen uncontrollably.
There are plenty of weapons to choose from to cater each profession, from riflemen to grenadiers, with various forms of sniper rifles, machine guns, rifles, and grenade launchers. This allows teams online to set up battle plans from the off instead of hunting down particular weapons on the map, and if you ever fancy a change then simply swap for any gun lying on the ground. Two firing rates, from one bullet at a time to fully automatic cater for pot shots from cover or burst fire for cramped locations, and thanks to Clancy’s involvement, reloading and changing guns is realistic. No-more magazines lasting for hours, you can empty a clip on a platoon is mere seconds, then sit behind a wall yelling expletives as the enemy return fire and you’re still scrambling to reload. It puts an emphasis on team play, with certain members firing when others are reloading to form an unstoppable force. It’s all fun at the end of the day.
And blowing cars up, of course.
There’s not much more I can say without delving deep into the story and ruining things, or spend another 5 paragraphs telling how cool online play is. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is stunning, exciting, fun and exhilarating to play, a great example of the 360’s power and online service and an essential title for all Xbox 360 owners. See you online.
Over and out.