The first “Ghost Recon Advanced
Warfighter” (GRAW) was generally well-received, and for good reason, as it
offered some intense, compelling squad-based gameplay. Many gamers initially
decried its high difficulty, but many others seemed to thrive on the challenge.
Regardless of which camp you may have fallen into, it’s important to note that
GRAW was a commendable addition to the pantheon of squad-based tactical gaming.
Fans of the original title are likely to embrace its sequel as well, as the GRIN
team has upped the gaming ante in several key areas. At the same time, however,
while GRAW 2 is well worth a buy, it also has issues, some of which linger on
from the first installment, that are sure to raise an eyebrow and cause a bit of
frustration along the way.
GRAW’s story places the player in
Mexico, in 2014, attempting to defuse accelerating terrorist activities that
seem to be making their way closer and closer to American soil. The story
unfolds via news reports with film footage and in the briefings offered by the
somewhat overwrought commanding officer to whom you report. Gamers who played
the first title should be right at home here, as they are once again placed in
the combat boots of Cpt. Mitchell, who heads up the Ghosts.
One of my complaints with the first
GRAW was that my squadies were annoyingly unresponsive at times. It was quite
frustrating to order a squad member to go to a particular location and have him
acknowledge the order, only to stay planted right where he was. Couple this with
the occasional pathfinding issues, and you have a recipe for frustration that
could often mar a generally compelling gaming experience. GRAW 2, however,
features a squad that is generally more responsive, but there are a still some
frustrating issues with friendly AI.
Gamers will still experience moments
where one or more of their squadmates fail to fire on a tango in plain sight.
Every now and then one of them will get caught on geometry when you order the
squad to follow you, and you probably won’t realize it until you pause behind
cover and peek back to see where your squad has situated itself, only to say,
“Dang it! Where’s Johnson!” Actually, it seems such incidents are sometimes
caused by the squad member simply not responding to the follow command, rather
than trying to follow and getting caught on some part of the environment.
The GRIN team has also updated the
Cross-Com to 2.0, which places an even greater emphasis on using recon and
intelligence to inform the moves you make on the battlefield. Players can now
view what their squadies see via both picture-in-picture and, if so desired,
full screen, which should, give gamers a higher degree of situational awareness.
As before, you can command your squad to engage specific targets, lay down
suppressive fire, or order them to specific locations on the battlefield, all
through the command menu.
Another noteworthy change is the
additional support elements available to the player, like the MULE, an unmanned
vehicle that players can remotely control. Running low on ammo and need to
take out a nest of snipers? Direct the MULE to your location, resupply the
squad, and get back to business. This is a really nice feature, though the MULE
(like the UAV) is not available in every mission. Run out of ammo and find
yourself without a MULE? Players will occasionally have other forms of support
at their disposal, such as air strikes and mortar attacks.
Players can switch between two modes
of engagement — attack and recon. When in attack mode, your squadies will, of
course, shoot on sight, but order them into recon mode and they will live up to
their team namesake and switch to silenced weapons (assuming you have outfitted
them prior to deployment) and avoid firing until fired upon.
The action in GRAW 2 is generally
quite intense, and quite deadly. As fans of the first title will expect, GRAW2
has some serious bite. The earlier portions of the game are, perhaps, a bit
easier, but notch up the difficulty to hard and you will really have to be on
guard to keep from getting mowed down in firefights, especially in some of the
later levels, which can get hairy quickly. Strategic use of cover and developing
a keen situational awareness are the keys to success.
In order to help you maintain that
keen situational awareness, GRAW 2 features a tactical map that will allow you
to plot and coordinate the movements, attacks, and rules of engagement of your
squad. Nice touch for those who are more interested in more methodical gameplay.
Or, if you aren’t interested in choreographing your squad’s every move, you can
opt not to take advantage of this particular feature. For what it’s worth, I
tend to use the map just to get a lay of the land, instead of setting specific
routes and actions for squad members.
Players will find themselves trying
to fulfill a number of varied objectives as they make their way through the
game. For instance, early on, you have to fight your way through resistance in a
small village to get access to anti-aircraft guns that need to be taken out
while another mission has you taking on a nest of rebels desperately trying hold
their ground. There aren’t any groundbreaking tasks you’ll be asked to complete,
but they are varied and strongly linked to the story.
You will often have at least two
ways of approaching a particular situation—direct assault or using stealth to
position your squad to optimize their chances of success. The stealth option
isn’t always available, but does have a strong enough presence to be considered
a viable gameplay option. GRAW 2 is by no means a “sandbox” game, but its level
design is flexible enough to allow for more than style gameplay. It is
particularly satisfying when you can flank the enemy and take down quick and
quietly from behind.
As one would expect, GRAW 2 boasts
an impressive array of weapons ranging from pistols to fully automatic assault
rifles and grenade launchers, each exquisitely modeled and textured. Players are
granted a number of weapon customization options, but, as before, must stay
mindful of their weight limits. Further, players will have access to all the
customization options from the very beginning, so you can fine tune your kit from
Once you have had your fill of the
single-player mode, the multiplayer modes are well worth plunging into. Unlike
its predecessor, GRAW 2 offers a well-developed cadre of multiplayer modes,
including deathmatch as well as team-oriented and cooperative play. With such a
wealth of multiplayer options, gamers should have no problem finding an avenue
into the online mayhem.
I may be in the minority on this
one, but I would argue that both GRAW and GRAW 2 leave something to be desired
in the visuals department, and, admittedly, pinpointing exactly what that
“something” is has proven quite difficult. Perhaps the best way I can phrase it
is to say that both titles offer visuals that feel a bit “washed out.” Perhaps
this was more noticeable the first title than in its sequel, but it is still
there somehow. The lighting effects and some of the textures, as well as the
weapon and character models, are right on target, but somehow I have not been
overly impressed with the visual “feel” of the series. In contrast, one might
look to “Rainbow 6: Vegas” as a counterpoint; the visuals were generally so
vibrant and alive with color I found my mouth watering in some instances. Make
no mistake, though, I do not wish to accuse the GRAW series of being visually
sub-par, as plenty of visual detail has been put into both titles; rather it
just seems as if, overall, its environments are rather bland.
As was the case with GRAW, its
sequel is no slouch in the sound department. Weapon sound effects are downright
impressive. You don’t just hear the AK-74’s report; the crisp audio makes you
feel it. The soundtrack is generally well done, but sometimes I found the tracks
to be more distracting than immersive, so I would opt to play with the music
off. The voice acting is also generally on the mark, but it slips just a bit
during some of the news reports and briefings. Overall, though, is well on par.
No matter the title or its pedigree,
it all comes down to just one question: Is GRAW 2 worthy of your money and time?
If you are at all a fan of squad-based tactical gameplay, go for it, but keep in
mind it is not without its occasional frustrations. You may want to play through
the single-player campaign a second time on a harder difficulty, but it’s more
likely that you will get the rest of your money’s worth by cashing in on the
Review Scoring Details
Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
The gameplay is in line with the first GRAW. Tactics and strategy will win the
day. The updated Cross-Com and other additions add to the title’s strategic
depth. However, some old frustrations rear their ugly heads every now and again.
GRAW 2 isn’t ugly by any standard, but its environments, like those of its
predecessor, fail to really impress. Character and weapon models are spot on,
Overall, the sound is well done, but the voice acting slips in a few places.
Weapon sound effects are top notch.
Later levels are likely to have players sweating a few bullets in comparison
with some of the earlier levels that are bit easier than what veterans of the
series might expect.
GRIN upped the ante here with the various tweaks and refinements they made to
the system. For the most part, they work quite well.
Multiplayer is well worth the price of admission, with a slew of online modes
available, each of which is well-developed and substantial.
GRAW 2 is not a revolutionary title, but it is a generally solid sequel that
offers gamers a much wanted opportunity to become Ghosts again. Definitely worth
a buy for fans of the genre.