The year is 2013, the United States has developed a new technology for their army. It’s called the Integrated Warfighter System, also known as IWS. This has been developed for their elite troops called the Ghosts. There is a lot of advantage for the Ghosts with this new technology. Some features from IWS are a projected heads up display in their helmets, where they get updated information about the current situation, supported by satellite and video direct feed.
During a summit between the Mexican and US presidents, there was a military coup. Both presidents have been kidnapped in that action. You and your ghosts are ordered to go to Mexico City and restore the situation. You are Captain Scott Mitchell and you lead your team of 3 other Ghosts. In total there are 12 missions to fight through before you save the presidents.
So, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter it is… The game had a huge hype on the internets but I’m not the tactical shooter guy. Saw some screenshots, really liked what I saw but I thought it was not for me. But then this week another crew member found out that some shops were already selling GR:AW. I couldn’t resist any longer and went to buy it. Now, a couple of days later I can say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year.
The game kicks off with a really cool CGI sequence of some Ghosts (the soldiers you play Ghost Recon with) walking through Mexico City at dawn. It really sets the mood from the get-go. You see the same HUD you get in-game and some of the gameplay features are shown as well but I’ll get into those in a moment. Then the menu pops up, you get to chose between Campaign (Singleplayer), Multiplayer and Instant Action (1 - 4 players offline multiplayer).
At first the game walks you through the mandatory training, which is really needed. It explains some features like wall hugging and shooting. Later on it describes how you give orders to 3 fellow squad members. This works surprisingly well. Up on the digital pad tells your team to go to the spot you’re looking at, down makes them regroup at the place you’re standing and left and right allows you to switch between your squad and other stuff you can control. The other things you can control are backup units like helicopters and tanks and your drone. This drone is a really cool new feature. It’s a small flying blob you can send around the battlefield and it tells you were the enemies are hiding. But use it with caution ’cause the enemy can shoot it out of the air and it’s something you don’t want to live without. The singleplayer campaign has a good story and is a really immersing experience. There are no pre-rendered cut-scenes, no menu’s between missions. When you’re done with a mission you’re picked up by transport (usually a helicopter) and taken to the next area. Sometimes this involves some minigun shooting which can be pretty hard.
In these days good multiplayer shooters are scarce on the Xbox 360 (duh, the console hasn’t been out for more than 4 months). Sure there’s Perfect Dark and Call of Duty but this is just a whole ‘nother level of multiplayer sweetness. You can tweak any aspect of the gametype, from weapons restrictions to enemy (AI) density. There’s a 16 player co-op objective mode, team vs team modes, solo modes… The works. There are 10 maps you can choose from and all of them have their own little storyline for objective mode. The maps take you from rainy docks to a little desert town and all feature great level design. The game has kept me up for nights exploring all of the modes and levels with a couple of friends. Look no further, this is the best Live experience so far. The only thing that I really wanted to do but couldn’t was playing the Singleplayer in co-op. But we’ll have Gears of War for that later this year.
The character models and animations are amazing. And so are the weather effects. I was playing the desert multiplayer map one night and in that map sometimes a cloud obscured the sun. Since my TV was the only source of light in my room at that time I really had the idea that a real cloud was in front of the real sun in the scary world outside. Really impressive. As far as I know this is the first game to take place in Mexico City and it’s worked out pretty good. The light blooming, the skyscrapers, they all contribute to the really unique and realistic atmosphere. And then there’s the HUD. Since the game takes place in 2013 the Ghosts have some neat futuristic gadgets that really come to live using the power of the Xbox 360. You have a little picture-in-picture window in the top-left corner of your view at all times. It shows the current position of the unit you’re giving orders to (usually your squad) and gives you a good idea of what’s going on around their position. If you’re receiving orders from your superiors or get a little update on the current situation a second window pops up in the top-right corner. This works pretty darn good, it never gets in the way of the action and the game runs really steady. However there is one thing that could’ve been better. Some textures are not as high-res as they could be. This is my only point of criticism as far as the graphics goes, all in all Ubisoft made a really good effort.
Even-though I’m not a fan of the series this is the most impressive Xbox 360 game I’ve played so far. The multiplayer mode has kept me up for nights and the singleplayer campaign is equally awesome. I really suggest you pick this up ASAP, private! (I was talking to the non-fans like me out there, if you’re fan of the series you’re not even reading this, you’re in Mexico City telling your Ghosts what to do.)
Final Score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (how do we rank games?)