Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Review

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Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Grin


Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox and PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible video card with 128 MB VRAM, 12x CD-ROM, 5 GB HD space, Windows 2000/XP or more recent operating system

Not too far into the future, the US President, Mexican President and Canadian Prime Minister are meeting in Mexico to sign the North American Joint Security Agreement (NAJSA) when civil war breaks out. A faction of the Mexican military has attacked all three leaders and threatened North American peace. Fortunately, the elite Special Forces unit known as the GHOSTs is in the area and has been dispatched to meet up with Secret Service agents and protect all three dignitaries.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GR: AW) illustrates a simple point: don't engage in urban warfare if you can possibly avoid it. The Ghost Recon franchise is noted for its realism, making it one of the most lethal shooters available. Despite the fact that the GHOSTs in this latest game can take even more punishment than before, the combination of urban ambushes, AI difficulties and the game's checkpoint system make GR: AW a sometimes grueling experience.

This is not at all the same game released for the Xbox 360, Xbox or PlayStation 2. Certainly, it shares the same plot and setting, but the play is surprisingly different given the superficial similarities. That said, this is exactly the sort of experience that should entice hardcore tactical shooter fans. You control a squad of four GHOSTs, playing as Captain Scott Mitchell and leading his three teammates. Over and over, the GHOSTs will face ambushes, armored vehicles and difficult assaults that can only be faced down through careful squad management.

A Breakdown in the Command Chain


Machine gun emplacements and snipers can only be dealt with by surrounding the opposition with our small but well-trained and well-armed GHOSTs. To this end, Mitchell has access to the Cross-Com, an intricate and clever system that allows Mitchell to rapidly assign commands to his squad. Alternately, Mitchell can assign an extensive and complicated series of commands to his squadmates through an overhead view. In principle, this should allow for tactical supremacy and nail-biting action. Unfortunately, the AI for both your enemies and squadmates is erratic and more often than not results in bullet-biting action.

Pathfinding is easily the biggest problem shared by your GHOSTs and enemies. They have no problem plodding forward in a slow run facing an obstacle, hoping against hope that the wall will somehow move. They sometimes have trouble following orders, and don't get to their destination. While your squadmates will seek cover, occasionally they seek the cover that you are secluded in, meaning that a squadmate's ass may suddenly occlude your combat sight just as you are drawing a bead on that troublesome sniper. And sometimes, they'll just shoot you in the back. Or the front, for that matter.

Good For the Mouse Hand


A quicksave function would make all of this tolerable (and possibly fun), but GR: AW operates on a checkpoint system. The checkpoint system requires you to pass certain widely spread points or achieve certain objectives before continuing. While this does thwart quicksave "cheating" and give the game some difficulty and longevity, it's also a pain in the ass. Given that the GHOST squadmates are unreliable, by the time I completed most sections, it was because I knew the location of every ambush, understood the random variation in spawns and had practiced (against my will) like a professional gamer. In fact, by the time I completed a level I could usually headshot every enemy, without assistance from my squad, except the very last.

Just to aggravate matters, enemies materialize at certain points, breaking the sense of realism... lethally. There's nothing like clearing a street and ducking into cover to scout out the next alley only to have a rebel soldier spawn next to you, guns blazing.

Plenty of Brilliant Art and Sound... Except the Ads


Despite all these problems, GR: AW sports some of the best visuals to grace urban combat, as well as spectacular sound design. The textures and weapons look realistic, and you can follow the familiar report of a machine gun's percussive fire using the directional audio. It's not surprising that the game requires a beastly machine to run in full detail, but there is something that substantially detracts from the magnificent environment. That environment is filled with advertisements that are entirely out of place, given the setting. Sure, the ads use minimal Spanish, but Ubisoft's futuristic vision of Mexico City has its residents consuming only Axe body spray, Dodge vehicles and Nokia phones in an otherwise drab and gritty metropolitan area.

If all of the above sounds negative, that's because a few issues (AI, ads and checkpoints) substantially detract from an otherwise impressive and involving game. The stark realism and detail of GR: AW are amazing – you can snipe drivers through the tiny windows of armored vehicles and equip your squad as carefully as you desire. There is a really nice integration of plot and action that starts from the very first sequence when you receive your orders while parachuting into Mexico City from a Blackhawk helicopter. Hopefully, patches will help rectify the remaining issues and make this a truly great game.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 12, 2006 6:42 PM.

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