The original Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was the first real game on the Xbox 360 to show what the system could do. It was a marvel of technological genius paired with stunning graphics and intense gameplay. Of course, with such a high pedigree and success a sequel was inevitble, however how quickly this sequel has come to being is a real concern. It's only one year since the original game shipped and given the detail in next generation games, it was hard to see a quality game being put together in a year. To an extent Ubisoft have managed to do this but it fails to impress as much as the original.
GRAW 2 picks up where the first game left off. Mexico has been saved, and the Mexican president evacuated to the United States to sign a peace pact. However all is not well in Central America with militias rising up to take on the US forces and local forces in protest of this alliance with the US. The ghosts are once again called into action and as the colonel says "you've really done enough for one man today, but I have to call on you again". Unfortunately, due to the 24 hour time frame difference between when GRAW's storyline finished and GRAW 2's starts, technology improvements in the game are limited which is a disappointment.
The game is once again controlled from a third person perspective, and can switch to a first person perspective for precision shooting. While you are limited to controlling the one character, you can now give orders while looking through the helmet cameras of your teammates. This is actually quite a useful feature as it is entirely possible to now play the game as a tactical commander and not fire a bullet throughout when you are in squad based combat. It's also nice to see your character giving hand movements when issuing orders while looking through the other member's visors.
Unfortunately, it is quite easy to label this game as a full priced expansion pack, as the missions are very similar in feel and look to the previous game. This is because they are once again set in Central America. Whilst it is nice to see the story continue, releasing this game with a lower price point as an expansion to the original would have been much better. This is basically our biggest disappointment - the game is just too close to the original game and if you didn't find the first game all that interesting, you won't find anything new here.
There are some more innovations which have worked well however. You can now control the UAV drones and specifically target areas plus you now also occasionally have the option to control helicopters and other vehicles through the cross-com system employed in the original game, although you won't find yourself doing much new in the way of actual objectives which primarily remain as destroying tanks, saving the hostages etc. Overall the gameplay is very reminiscent of last year's hit and as such you should be able to get right back into it without missing a beat.
Despite the fact that this game is continuing on from the original game, there is an in-depth tutorial. This wouldn't be a problem usually other than the fact you can't skip it. Those who played the original game will find this one of the most frustrating thirty minutes of gameplay as you have seen it all before. It's good for those who are new to the game, but a real drag for those coming in as veterans of the series.
Visually the game remains one of the best looking titles on the 360 despite using the same engine as last time around. The characters are highly detailed and the frame rate remains stable even with lots of vehicles and explosions on screen. This really is the standout feature of the game and it's easy to see why this is one of the 360's pin up games and will continue to be so for a long time. The voice acting is a little wooden and uninteresting but the cinematic soundtrack makes up for this. Some of the cinematics are also very epic in nature - there's nothing quite like flying into the warzone surrounded by helicopters getting the briefing on the fly.
Multiplayer still remains one of the game's strongest points and you can again take other gamers to war on Live. It's still one of the best games to play on Live with its only real competitor being another Ubisoft title, Rainbow Six Vegas.
All in all, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2's main flaw is simply not changing enough since the last game. While there is always the case for "if it's not broken, do not fix it", nevertheless it is still hard to justify the full price for those with the original game. For those new to the series, this is absolutely a must own game, but unless you really got into GRAW 1, GRAW 2 is more of the same and is best rented, which is the reason for the significantly lower score than last time around.
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