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Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

It’s been less than a year since Xbox 360 owners collectively gaped at the first true display of their new console’s powers. Having been delayed from originally being a launch title in order to better fulfill sky high expectations, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter received great acclaim upon its release. Is its sequel, released barely a year after the original, a display of Ubisoft simply cashing in on its success, or is it really possible to create a great game in such a short timespan?

As stated above, GRAW1 was delayed because the developers were far from happy with the game’s state during the Xbox 360 launch period, and thus delayed it some four months for further quality assurance. Still, after the game was launched they were quick to say that the game wasn’t all they intended it to be, and that they would love to have another go at realizing everything they had wanted to do originally. So the big questions are now whether Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 succeeds in surpassing its predecessor’s achievements, or whether it’s merely an overpriced expansion pack for a game that was revolutionary in its time, but got far surpassed by now by Gears of War and excellent Tom Clancy sister title Rainbow Six Vegas.

The drone allows you to survey the battlefield ahead in full screen

Continuing directly after the first game’s events, there’s no chance for captain Scott Mitchell to get any rest and relaxation after three strenuous days in Mexico. On returning to his base it becomes evident that Carlos Ontiveros’ defeat was not yet the end of the Mexican rebel uprising. Being a superhuman US soldier, Mitchell is sent out again, undeterred by 3 days total lack of sleep, and travels into the border area to find out what’s going on with a bunch of missing nukes and missiles. Given that there is no official defense pact, the US cannot publicly enter the conflict, hence the Ghosts do what they’re best at, fighting with minimal support behind enemy lines.

It’s still 2014 though, and while Warfighting was already quite Advanced in the first game, the extra four days of technological research have brought some incredible new technology to Scott and his team. Satellite uplinks still allow you to communicate intel directly with headquarters, and spotted enemies are still marked with red diamonds on your display. New is that the CrossCom 2.0 is no longer restricted to just projecting small overviews in the top left of your view: it now allows you to take your support’s camera feed full screen, and give orders directly from their point of view. The consequences are immense, as being able to precisely guide your fellow ghosts directly to places of which you yourself have no direct sight increases the tactical options available to you greatly. And besides controlling the other ghosts, you can now directly guide scanner drones, tanks, Apaches and support helicopters using the same interface. While it was satisfying before to be able to pinpoint a target for a tank to shoot down, hiding out yourself while you guide the Apache to clean up some tanks before you and the infantry storm in to mop up the remainders is a massive improvement to the game.

Can you say ‘BOOM’?

The improvement wouldn’t be so big if support was still a sporadic affair. Not so in GRAW2, where the missions at first see you using extensive support from the Mexican loyalists, and later on public support from the US Army, up to and including full grade air strikes to bomb rebel encampments, and medic team mates to heal you and your men up after vicious fights. Tactics have become even more important, and the lone wolf tactic of just doing it all yourself is, while still possible, really no longer a realistic choice given the ease with which your support can clean it all up for you. A tad too much ease perhaps? Yes, definitely, I must say with much regret. The first GRAW had two difficulty modes, normal and hard, and its hard mode was definitely really hard. The sequel seemingly improves by offering three difficulties, but fails to offer true balance in this area: on normal mode the game was a breeze, and I finished the hard mode directly after that with 2 or 3 deaths in total. Most notably the gunrides, notoriously difficult before, have become far and far too easy in this sequel, with the gun overheating less quickly and far longer pauses between attack waves. While watching the statistics for the hard campaign, I noticed I didn’t get hit a single time while playing the hard mode.

Adding on the shame of the lack of resistance offered by the game comes that it doesn’t keep you busy all that long in single player. After already having completed medium difficulty, the hard mode kept me busy for approximately eight hours, and then it was all over again. Especially given the addition of an extra difficulty level, it’s a shame that the difficulty was toned down to a level where the game simply cannot challenge a hardcore tactical shooter fan enough anymore, and I didn’t even have to use the all-new medic for any mission. It would go too far to say that the campaign itself suffers greatly from the lack of challenge and duration though: the story has become far more intense, with more to shoot and get shot by, and in general far more action than the previous installment. It may only be eight hours, but those are filled to the brim with action and full scale military action involving multiple infantry and other support units.

You’re a ghost. Working heavily non-stop for 6 days and nights without sleep is normal.

Another couple highly notable improvements are in the graphics and sound departments. GRAW stunned us, but mostly because it was the first true display of the 360’s capabilities, and GRAW2 takes the game engine a couple notches further. Especially the explosions and weather effects are stunning at times, and the sights of burning Juarez from the sky and the gunride in a wild tropical storm surpass the standards set by Gears of War. Equally impressive are the blasts filling your room as explosions surround you, and your team is no longer restricted to simple repetitive sentences: all team members speak, and give intelligent comments about for example the number of enemies spotted. Epic music is masterfully used to enhance the atmosphere further during the most intense sections of the game.

The multiplayer department is regrettably not up to the same levels. As with its predecessor, GRAW2 tones down the graphic engine quite a bit while in multiplayer, sacrificing the majestic explosions and many of the effects vital to the campaign atmosphere. While the excuse is understandable, being that it succeeds in maintaining a stable high framerate even in heavy group fights, it’s a true shame that the multiplayer section of the game definitely fails to deliver what a true sequel should do. Much like the Chapter 2 DLC, we are given a pleasurable amount of new multiplayer content, spanning 6 massively cooperative missions parallel to the main campaign, and a large number of varied maps to rumble on with a huge number of game modes. While it certainly delivers content-wise, the failure to really improve on GRAW1 with better graphics and more detailed maps makes the multiplayer section more of an expansion than a worthy standalone full-price game. Even the much-criticized limitation of the first game that you cannot use cover in MP was not amended, and you are still limited to awkwardly leaning over to glance around corners. Still, it’s undeniably still fast and furious, and it’s just as good as ever before: it just missed some great chances to improve.

“Yo, medic dude, gimme some drugs mmmkay?”

The lack of changes in the multiplayer section highlights that the game is essentially just an evolution of the first game, not an entirely new game. It is, to answer the original questions, a deluxe expansion set, with a ton of new content and a game engine that’s received a few more months of tweaking. Emphasizing its status as expansion set is the menu system, which is essentially identical to its predecessor, up to the same dramatic music. A minor improvement here is the support for clans and online clan matches, but while many multiplayer fanatics may rejoice at this feature, it proved unstable throughout: it locked up my box twice while connecting to the clanserver, and failed 9 out of 10 clan invites I tried to send when I eventually managed to get a clan up and running. Thankfully the achievements are much better than before, being evenly spread throughout all game modes, rewarding you for trying different playing styles as well as eliminating bullshit leaderboard achievements.

While a large part of this review was undeniably and unavoidably spent comparing the game to its predecessor, the game is released as a standalone package and thus has to be judged that way. The intensity of the single player campaign coupled with its at times incredible presentation makes it a must-have for any tactical shooter fan, despite its relatively short duration. The multiplayer is good by any standard, and will keep you entertained for weeks if you’re more into the tactical kind of Xbox Live gameplay. But yes, apart from all the good things it’s a shameless cash-in, that falls short of becoming a classic in its own right, and simply gives us more of what we loved last year, without truly innovating or leaving the treaded path.

Final Score: 8 out of 10 - Good (how do we rank games?) Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 newsvine:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 furl:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 reddit:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 fark:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 Y!:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 gamegrep:Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

29 comments on 'Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2'

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Comment by Tucky on 2007-03-14 23:47:06 | Reply

awsome game. love online but lots of people drop out when the game starts, needs to be fixed.

Comment by Colby on 2007-03-15 04:49:06 | Reply

It is still having the people dropping out problem? I had that problem on the first GRAW. In fact I couldn’t even play a Co-op game because it would drop me out EVERY time.

Comment by OLethalOShadowO on 2007-03-14 23:48:30 | Reply

this game would have been more accuratly reflected with a $50 or $45 price tag, not because od quality but because of lack of innovation especially in the shorter single player.

Comment by McGrude on 2007-03-15 00:06:24 | Reply

But all those budget Francs that were not spent on the single player were spent on the multiplayer. There are many more maps and more game types than were available for the original GRAW. It was totally worth it (although I also got it at Fry’s for 34.99).

Comment by McGrude on 2007-03-15 00:06:58 | Reply

Doh! I guess I meant “…budget Euros…”.

Comment by Tucky on 2007-03-15 00:00:18 | Reply

its all about online. and thats all i play :D

Comment by Rizzle-Q on 2007-03-15 00:04:35 | Reply

Yeah, I gotta say that GRAW1’s single player campaign was longer and more satisfying compared to GRAW2. Also, I would have like to see the single player campaign be playable with another person co-op style over Xbox Live or System Link. But of course that option was left out again just like GRAW1. The campaign levels in multiplayer are still fun though.

Comment by dark shady on 2007-03-15 00:05:59 | Reply

and graw 2 have clan support !!!!!

Which works flakey at best, as I described :)

I’m going to back him up here. I still have not accepted his clan invite because every time I try I have to go back to the dashboard because “Receiving Clan Data…” takes tooooo long.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-03-15 15:14:27 | Reply

I joined but nothing was happening.

Give me a shout if it starts filling up and you start actually playing clan matches, until then I may just have to make my own clan and try and get naughty words into the name.

Comment by Derka on 2007-03-15 00:16:58 | Reply

I only agree with this rating because of the online problems. Other than that its a 9.5

That’d be ignoring the obvious problems with the difficulty level and the campaign length. The game is ‘good’, hence the 8, not ‘close to excellent’.

As we stated before, we try not to rate games according to common IGN standards, being that 7 is crap and 10 is perfect. We use the full scale, meaning that 1 is crap, 4 is barely worth money, 6 is average, 8 is good and 10 is excellent.

Comment by J1980/ welljasona / UK Jay on 2007-03-15 00:36:18 | Reply

A few people on my friends list got this and have the full 1000 gamerpoints unlocked already…Im assuming it must be way easier than GRAW1….im yet to buy it - I want it, but GRAW1 bored me….

Comment by nofear360 on 2007-03-15 01:03:34 | Reply

“It’s still 2014 though, and while Warfighting was already quite Advanced in the first game, the extra four days of technological research have brought some incredible new technology to Scott and his team.” LOL it sounds like you’re mocking the storyline

Not so much mocking as subtly pointing fun at, and I agree completely ;) but if this entire game is wrapped up in three days I have complete faith in the characters to get a heck of a lot done in that amount of time. I’ve had it for five days and I still haven’t beaten Act 2.

Comment by nofear360 on 2007-03-15 01:33:29 | Reply

That’s what I meant :P

I am :) The first game spanned 3 days and nights, hence no sleep for Scott & co, and now right on the next day they continue for another 3 days and nights of non-stop action. And lo and behold, apart from working 6 days straight without sleep, the engineers even manage to invent new technology!

It just went too high on my bullshit-o-meter not to mock it ;)

Also Doug: you suck :D I completed the complete Hard storyline within 24 hours, including sleeping, eating, doing other stuff, and playing ranked matches for a while. The 8 hours I mentioned for the hard campaign was correct, two 4-hour sessions.

I got to day three last night but no achievement :(

Comment by Rol on 2007-03-15 10:44:14 | Reply

This didn’t interest me to buy until I rented it. It’s got some of the best graphics sound and multiplayer options yet seen in a 360 game. 18 maps online (excellent). Options we kind of got as standard on the old xbox but still I’d rather see content at the moment as this seem to be the current bugbear with almost all next-gen games. Definitely better than GoW for the long haul and with a bit more playing time might champ R6:Vegas

Comment by SNIPERWOLF 79 on 2007-03-15 11:09:37 | Reply

Keurentjes, your review was spot on, its a real shame ubisoft haven’t listened to the fans concerns over lack of cover and updated graphics. Rather than making framerate excuses, ‘ubisoft’ should just admit they are not as good at programming as ‘epic’. Gears set the bar for online grpahics and the other developers haven’t caught up yet. The new map designs are far superior to GRAW1 though, so thumbs up on that.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-03-15 15:16:12 | Reply

Ain’t I played you online? On GoW?

Comment by Rol on 2007-03-15 11:33:27 | Reply

But only 4v4, smaller and fewer maps, less weapons. Graphically GoW excelled with the character models, no doubts, but it raised the bar only by its limits also. Unreal will really show us what Epic can do with the 360 for a bigger online game.

Comment by SNIPERWOLF 79 on 2007-03-15 13:22:55 | Reply

Good point and time wil tell, however, its really difficult to get a graw 2 match with 16 people thats stable, i wouldnt mind them reducing the max peole to 12 in order to up the graphics engine so it looks ‘next gen’ rather than a 3 year old pc game. Most lobbys seem to be between 10 and 12 people anyway. But hey, the gameplays still superb and its good to have a change of pace from GOW once in a while, so its all good!

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-03-15 15:17:54 | Reply

I host all the time and the reason most rooms sit at 10-12 is that the room is at is most stable for some reason with that amount of people. Minute you go above 5-6 people are getting chucked right at the start.

Comment by SNIPERWOLF 79 on 2007-03-15 16:19:02 | Reply

Hey Glovner, think I may have played you online at GoW, ur names familiar. Ur right about the 10-12 people in a lobby, anymore and its multi drop outs after weapon select. Dont think av ever played a stable game with 16 people and i played graw 1 multiplayer to death aswell. Ubisoft blame it on peoples varying connections but surely if thats the case they should just set it up like halo 2 which is proven to work. Considering this was a major probelmn in graw 1 ,to not have it corrected in an ‘official’ sequel is bit dissapointing.

Comment by ubihard on 2007-03-16 08:21:23 | Reply

And have you noticed it’s a 1080p game looks great on 720p but 1080p is…………. no word to say it.

Well I reviewed on 1080i, and like I said it’s definitely beyond stunning at times :)

Comment by Denko on 2007-03-16 12:30:21 | Reply

is it just me or does the multiplayer feel like i am back in 2001 graphic wise? (and also a few fun things have been taken out imo)

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