Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was released about a year ago and was met with rave reviews. The game has had such great success that Microsoft and Ubisoft partnered up to include a copy of the game with the Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle, which I ended up purchasing.

Anyone who's read my blog in the last few months will know that I did not like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter at first, and its taken me a lot to get into. I found the controls a bit clunky and it has some cheesy design decisions, however once I re-paced myself and really gave it a chance, I did mainly enjoy the game, especially because it was free.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is set in Mexico City in 2013. The Canadian Prime Minister, US, and Mexican Presidents are gathering together to sign a new joint security agreement, however a rebel Mexican General has seized this opportunity to stage a coupe. Luckily the Ghosts, elite American soldiers, are in the city on a separate machine and are able to spring into action once all hell breaks loose.

To be honest, while certainly having an interesting back story the game's story itself is rather weak and simplistic. There is no real drama or tension, however the game's focus is really on its tactical shooter gameplay.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is meant to be played from a third person perspective. You take control of Scott Mitchell, Captain of the Ghosts, and you're sent on several missions ranging from escorts, to base assaults, to securing locations. There's a good variety of missions in the game, completed either solo or with squad mates, however some are implemented better than others.

As Mitchell you can change your stance from standing, to crouching, to lying prone, change your weapon's rate of fire, zoom, hold your breath, use a frag or smoke grenades, and most importantly, take cover! Like Gears of War, the game is all about cover except that even on Normal, Mitchell is much more fragile than Fenix is. And yes, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter also uses the same styled inadequate checkpoint system that Gears of War uses, and yes, you can heal your squad mates but if you die it's game over. I ranted and raved enough about those brain dead design decisions in my Gears of War review, so I won't repeat them here.

Squad control is done a little differently than the norm in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. You have what's called the Cross-Com, a tactical device built into your HUD with info fed to it from satellites. Basically, it helps you quickly identify targets, track your squad, locate objectives, etc. It has video displays to see what your squad is seeing, to receive video briefings, and to control a surveillance drone. The concept of the Cross-Com is really cool, and one of the game's big appeals.

For your squad, you often get to select three other team members (you can have a rifleman, grenadier, sniper, etc.), and you can give them very simple commands like move, regroup, etc. You can also set them to being defensive or offensive. This also goes for the choppers, tanks, and other vehicles you'll be able to briefly control in the game.

While your squad mates are certainly helpful and can also provide a nice distraction for the enemy, I often found their AI really dumb. They sometimes had problems keeping up with me, acquiring targets, etc. which made them more of a liability. Still with a full squad and in certain situations, fire fights were intense, challenging, and fun.

Graphically the game looks great. Character models are solid, and the environments, though lower textured, are massive. Flying in on a chopper and actually seeing a fully rendered version of Mexico City is just breathtaking. Audio wise the game has great sound effects, but average voice acting and mixed music. Some of the game's music really suits the tone, but some "sell out" tracks are thrown in at weird moments and just feel out of place.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is also not a very long Single Player game, and if you sit down for a while, you could probably win it in about 8 hours; a few play sessions. Granted the play time was extended for me simply because I had to keep reloading checkpoints that kept forcing me to repeat long jaunts or battles I had already cleared several times before, and one time the game even glitched and prevented me from completing an objective, and therefore advancing, after 30 minutes of hard work. The check point system decided to simply not work then to, and I had to start the whole level over again.

So what's the verdict? Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is a good tactical shooter with some nice features, great graphics, and good battles, but it's honestly over-hyped and in my opinion not worth the purchase. I wouldn't have bought it if it didn't come with my system, and my advice to you is simply to rent it. You'll be able to win it in your rental time.

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