The elite "Ghost" operatives embark on a dangerous mission close to home, in this third full-fledged addition to the Ghost Recon series of squad-based shooters. The title's "advanced warfighter" alludes not only to raw talent and rigorous training of the special ops agents under the player's command, but also to a distinctive set of cutting-edge equipment, known as the "Integrated Warfighter System" (IWS), which these agents can use to perform field analysis, call for air or vehicular support, communicate with their commander and one another, and even share first-person perspective video feeds through a high-tech monocle device.
These immediate, informative, visual communication capabilities become especially useful in the game's sprawling urban settings. The main campaign in Advanced Warfighter plays out entirely in a single city -- but it happens to be the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. When the leaders of Mexico, Canada, and the United States meet in Mexico City for a highly publicized conference, the threat of terrorist attack is tripled, and so the elite Ghost team is assigned to protect the North American heads of state. In the role of Captain Scott Mitchell, players guide Ghost forces and spec ops agents through tense, densely populated city streets, where the situation has been confounded by the theft of secret nuclear weapons codes.
As in earlier Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon games, Advanced Warfighter's single-player campaign consists of a variety of tactical mission types, including recon, escort, and full-on assault. The game also supports a number of team-based, online multiplayer modes. While featuring the same basic gameplay and storyline as its console counterparts, the PC version of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is built on a custom graphics engine and can make use of the PhysX physics processor. The PC version also includes additional levels and supports a different first-person perspective.
The Ghost Recon franchise has had a fairly troubled past. After its initial success with the excellent first game, the series then made a faux pas with Ghost Recon 2, moving the game to a console format and ultimately cancelling the PC version. Fast forward to today and the Xbox 360 version of Ghost Recon 3 Advanced Warfighter has already shipped to critical acclaim, even we loved it; so it must have been good. Thankfully the PC version is not quite the same game; I think we all know that PC and console controls lend themselves to slightly different ways of playing a game. Developers GRIN had the tasks of reclaiming past achievements on the PC with the latest installment. Do we have a reversal of the alienation of PC gamers? There's every chance.
As one might expect GRAW is a tactical first person shooter, with the associated mission types that entails. As is the style lately, the tutorial takes on the guise of the first mission, but the controls are fairly common, the usual WASD control system, with three stances (prone, crouch and stand), and a cool ability to slide. After my initial disappointment of not being able to unhook myself from my parachute and fall to a messy death five thousand feet below, I remembered I was playing a Tom Clancy game, and seriousness and realism come first and foremost. The game progresses by taking you through the basic steps from then on, showing you the ropes by assuming the semblance of checking your equipment, calibrating your map, and so on.
Playing as Captain Scott Mitchell, in charge of a group of Ghosts, a specialist strike unit, you and your team will fight in and around Mexico City. The game is set during negotiations between Canada, Mexico and the US, and it will be your duty to safeguard your country's interests whilst removing a few evil terrorists from the face of the planet. No surprises there. As captain of the squad, you have fairly in-depth control over your lackeys. Anyone who is a devotee of the Tom Clancy series will expect to be able to plan the temperature of the coffee you get your second in command to bring you, and whilst GRAW doesn't go into quite that detail, you can use the UAV to scout out areas, and plan an assault by assigning orders to your team, and then giving the executing order. As time progresses, you will find that your squad is not exactly expert at following orders, but on the whole you can execute a well laid plan to an excellent degree.
Another stalwart feature that PC gamers will appreciate is the load-out screen. You have the ability to equip the squad with almost anything you want, and most weapons can be enhanced with the usual add-ons, such as a silencer, scope, etc. The facility to control the squad's load-out in such a way allows you to plan perfectly for a mission, depending on whether you think speed or firepower needs to be brought to the party. Grenade Launchers provide an explosive addition to any group, but may not be suitable for a fast or stealthy mission, where silencers would be much more appropriate.
The maps in the PC version are large, and will require a tactical style of play, much more suited to the platform, and PC gamers will no doubt appreciate this. Terrain can be used much more effectively, and should be planned around properly, using whatever you can for cover to avoid an untimely death. Above all however, GRAW is a first person shooter, there is no third-person view, so players will need to use the environment much more effectively, leaning around objects, and using prone or crouch to look under certain objects, all the while ensuring you can safely complete your objectives. Control over your team is available from a menu, brought up by middle-mouse. This allows comprehensive direction of your men, being able to assign them different duties, such as stay, follow, etc, but the largest control aspect comes from your tactical map, being able to set waypoints for your men to follow, and execute different orders. Sending your men into a narrow alleyway covered by terrorists may be fun once in a while, but after the once-dead, stay-dead approach begins to kick in, you will realize that suitable planning will be needed. Planning a flanking maneuver may make for more difficult game play, but it ultimately proves more rewarding.
Graphically is one area in which GRAW is so satisfying as it looks superb. The physics are well employed to provide a visceral experience, and further the feel of actually being in combat. Objects, such as the plants, will move with gunfire, and, whilst a box rolling after being shot adds little to the actual objectivity of the game, it allows the player to become all the more immersed in the action. On a side notice to this, people with a dedicated physics processor will be able to take advantage of the Ageia physics engine that has been added, for those who don't, irritation will abound at being forced to install the software for this card, a minor issue however.
Jumping into multiplayer provides you with a couple of modes. Firstly there is the fun co-op mode that provides the opportunity to play the campaign with friends. However this places you in a very challenging situation, as the checkpoint saves are gone. Lose Marshall at any stage of the mission, and it's game over. Successful completion of a mission however is extremely rewarding, and, unless you play with a regular group of friends, will not come often. Following co-op is the opportunity for domination style team play, the idea being to control zones on a map, earning points by scoring kills and controlling zones. Similar to most fps games, this is incredibly fun with two decent teams, but can get old quickly.
GRAW is pretty much what you would expect from a Tom Clancy title. It's a difficult game that can provide some real challenges. The return to the tactical map planning aspect is a welcome one, and will provide the more demanding PC gamer a desired test. The graphics are superb, and the physics add a whole visual dimension to the game. A vast amount of tactical possibilities should keep even the hardest to please gamer quiet, and when moves are successfully executed they provide real satisfaction. Less then perfect AI lets the game down a little however, as does the mostly ineffectual, if not pretty, physics. And whilst the game has lots of interesting ideas implemented they feel rather surplus to requirements. Its under the hood where the game really shines, forcing the player to use his team of ghosts properly, plan appropriately, and execute expertly to avoid the ultimate demise of a nation.
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