When Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360 last E3, one of the premier games on show was Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. It was the first game to really show what the system could be capable of and when it was delayed until 2006 worldwide, many wondered what 360 had to drive initial sales, other than technology. The game is finally here and the polish Ubisoft added in the interim was made it worth the wait. Ghost Recon is not a game, it's an experience, and it will leave you absolutely stunned that a "game" can be so enthralling, engrossing, life-life and still be so much fun and easy to play.
GRAW is set in the year 2013. The Mexican, Canadian and US president are meeting in Mexico City, discussing a treaty for weapons when the three of them are ambushed and kidnapped by militants opposed to the treaty. This is when the Ghosts come in. Throughout a three day ordeal, you will learn much about the Ghosts, complete dangerous missions and ultimately keep the peace and World War III from breaking out. It may sound cliche, but the game itself is far from cliche.
GRAW can be played from either a third person or first person perspective. In the third iteration of the series, Ubisoft has decided to go down Rainbow's path and you take control of one character throughout the whole game - Lieutenant Mitchell. If Mitchell dies it's game over, but if a team mate becomes incapacitated, the mission continues, without their help. You do fight alone and with teams, and many missions are a combination of both. Ubisoft has balanced managing a team, and looking after Mitchell's skin perfectly, in terms of gameplay and control.
GRAW feels a lot more like Full Spectrum Warrior than the previous Ghost Recon titles. There is a bit more focus on team movement and combat because of the Cross Com system used. In the top right corner of the screen, you have a video link with troops, vehicles or other things used during the missions. Each soldier has specialist skills and before you pick them up from the various trucks in each mission, you can assign their weaponry and who you want to come along. Generally, if something is required to complete a mission, the game will force you to take it so you won't get stuck.
The action in GRAW is second to none. There is no point in the game where you can really take a breather as you constantly have to monitor the integrity of the cover. Everything is destructible in GRAW and that includes cover. Once your men start taking hits, it's only a few bullets before they become hurt, and on the highest level, one bullet can be enough.
On the base level, the missions seem quite bland and boring, but it is the atmosphere and graphics which keep the game going. Setting the entire game in one mission and city was a masterstroke by Ubisoft. It has allowed them to immerse the gamer into a long conflict, and loading screens are replaced by briefings in APCs or helicopters. You will find yourself clearing enemy camps, rescuing prime ministers, taking out targets and generally just keeping the city safe. The missions are quite lengthy, but it won't be an age before you see the ending credits. However, don't be surprised if you want to replay this game again and again, trying new strategies each time.
Mexico City provides the perfect backdrop for the game and the urban environments offer quite a challenge. The one disappointment is that Ubisoft have defined certain areas as mission specific, move outside these (and some are quite small) and your communications begin to fail. The destructibility of the city is also high; we destroyed a petrol tanker, which in turn blew up a petrol station and most buildings around it. The whole thing was done like a Hollywood scene with stuff flying everywhere and huge structures tumbling. This happens more than once, and it is what reminds you just how good the 360 is.
Visually this is the game Microsoft has been waiting for. We finally have a game that truly shows how unbelievably lifelike the 360 graphics can be. There are times where the screen appears photorealistic, especially in HDTV systems . The aforementioned explosions look stunning to say the least and the character models are highly detailed, giving the player a closer attachment to their team then previously seen before. Sound effects are also well done with militaristic style voice acting present throughout and the soundtrack is so good - we hope Ubisoft releases it as a CD.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter truly is the game that defines the 360 in its early life. Everything up until now has been impressive, but nothing compares to the impact this game will have in terms of what you expect from your game playing experiences. If you have a 360 you absolutely must own this game, and if you don't, then buy one, just to play this game.