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» Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (PC)

 


 

 

If you gave the first predecessor a chance you probably liked it. Regardless of which version you tried you got solid gameplay, good visuals and some pretty intense movie like action scenes. The Xbox360 version leaned a bit towards pure actions while the PC version catered to a more mature, tactic seeking crowd. With GRAW 2 for the Xbox360 Ubisoft played it safe and delivered an exact replica of the first with some minor adjustments done here and there, repacked in a more rural setting. Can they strike gold with the PC version as well, or are we PC gamers a tougher crowd to please?

Brutally hard

PC-only gamers like to complain how a lot of the recently released games suffer from “consolitis”. The main signs games with this disease show are interfaces tailored for joypads and a general lack of challenge. The PC version of the original GRAW surprised on both fronts, as not only were the keyboard + mouse controls perfectly suited for the first person shooter adaptation of the 360 game, but the developers also made sure the game was challenging enough to keep tactical shooter fans entertained for the whole length of the game. It seems that somebody at GRIN wasn’t quite happy with the later though, so they made sure the successor was even more challenging or dare I say unfair. I’m all up for difficult tactical situations where you have to think quick to survive, but putting players into impossible situations where trial and error is the only possible means of completing a mission is a different story.

The 9 missions you’ll play through don’t sound like much and you’ll complete the first six without breaking a sweat, at least when compared to the remaining 3. And out of the 3 last missions the first two simply pale in comparison to the pain and suffering you’ll have to go through to complete the final mission. At first glance the whole thing shouldn’t be too difficult, as it starts in a similar fashion as the Xbox360 version mission. There is one slight difference though. Whereas the mission on the Microsoft console was hard but otherwise enjoyable, the PC version serves a plate filled with agony, endless restarts and learning command strings by heart. In fact, the final mission epitomizes all that is wrong with GRAW 2. First and foremost, your teammates (up to 3) offer any kind of support only half of the time. The rest they spend getting shot at and panicking, instead of taking cover or (god forbid!) killing foes. Don’t be surprised if you’ll lose at least one member of your squad in the first few minutes of every mission.

Thankfully the authors opted to include a save anywhere feature. While some of the suspense gets lost when you can save before popping your head out of cover, you’ll thank your lucky stars after a few attempts at ridding Juarez of all the terrorists that plague it. And just like with the dodgy AI of your teammates, the final mission shows the biggest weakness of this save mechanism. When you use saving in a game almost exclusively so you can jump out of cover, get killed and note down the terrorist positions you know something is not working as intended. The random intelligence of your squad mates only aggravates the situation as you will often, through no fault of your own, lose your entire squad. The funny thing is that if you are lucky, following the same pattern next time might actually yield results.

If you scrolled down to see the score you must think that I’m either barking mad or that the game does have some hidden qualities. Though I’m not saying the first is not true, the game does have a bunch of redeeming features. Focusing on the single-player experience alone, the game can be extremely enjoyable when all the mechanisms are working as intended. In fact, when the AI of both your teammates and the opposition (who tends to ignore fallen comrades) works and you don’t get spotted by a hidden enemy 10 miles off the game comes pretty close to a blend between the original Ghost Recon and GRAW. Mind you that these moments are literally just that though – moments.

It’s all about the tactics

I’ve been raving about the difficulty of the game for 4 entire paragraphs but I’ve yet to touch on the gameplay mechanics. As with the original PC version of GRAW the game is a tactical first person shooter where you issue real-time orders to your squad members. As before you can do this by either using the context sensitive menus that appear when you scroll with the mouse wheel and point with your targeting reticule. The other way is by using an overhead map where you can stack up orders and orchestrate carefully planned flanking actions. Unfortunately the lackluster AI will kick in here as well, and you’ll often need to reload simply because one or more of your teammates got stuck on some corner. When that doesn’t happen and you and your colleagues managed to spot enough enemies (which then appear on the map marked in red) to avoid any enemy ambushes the gameplay is pure gold. If you happened to see the GRAW 2 ad we have been playing here on DH you know precisely what I am talking about (if not, just grab one of the countless trailers that are floating around the web).

After you finish the game and try to replay it you’ll come to the bitter realization that all of your carefully executed ambushes, the incredible headshots and all the rest didn’t happen because you outsmarted the terrorists or because you noticed a path that lead you behind the enemy lines. It happened because the authors decided it would happen. Despite the size of the levels and the seemingly very open ended nature of the levels, most situations require a very specific approach. Sure, you might decide to emerge from the left alley instead of the right one or you might use the car as cover instead of a wall, but that’s pretty much it as far as your choices go. The gun nests placed around the game will coerce you into intricate actions that more often than not are the only possible way to tackle the situation. While you won’t realize this at first, playing through the game twice will show you just how little freedom you had the first time.

You’re not alone out there

Thankfully there is an area of the game where most if not all of these issues simply don’t matter – online. The game sports a surprisingly robust set of online features. The classic deathmatch and team deathmatch are obviously present, as is the popular king of the hill mode. PC gamers will hail the return of online co-op as well as the inclusion of an assault-type mode called Recon versus Assault.

In Recon VS Assault you play as either the rebels or one of the Ghosts. Your task depending on your selection is defending or sabotaging three AA batteries. The mode plays like a more tactical and realistic version of Day of Defeat. With no AI issues  present these 24 player matches make the game shine. Some of the online-exclusive co-op missions also support up to 24 players and can become quite chaotic at times. The fact that you don’t have to worry about having stupid teammates makes it worthwhile though. And as if all of this wasn’t enough, you can play the entire single-player campaign with up to 3 friends online. The enemy AI doesn’t improve a bit and the odds will still remain very unfavorable, but being able to cover a friend as he ducks for cover is a memorable experience.

Technically the game isn’t bad, though you could hardly call it a technical marvel. The engine itself is above average, which was plainly obvious in the original GRAW, which still looks great. Unfortunately though the choice of environments and color palette makes the game look bland. There are still enough details seen everywhere to satisfy all of you 8800 owners out there, but you’ll definitely miss seeing colors other than dark brown. Outside of that the looks are fantastic, with animations being some of the best we have ever seen. Seeing soldiers switch from running to crawling or crouching doesn’t sound exciting, but when they are so well executed you can’t help but stare. You’ll also be staring at a lot of advertisements in this game. While in theory they are all well placed they tend to stick out like a sore thumb, especially because of the sheer number of billboards you’ll see at the same time. Can you imagine seeing 5 billboards with Intel ads on them at the same time? I couldn’t, but now I can…

Conclusion

If I wanted I could have reviewed GRAW2 with 2, maybe 3 sentences. I’d have said the game is a harder version of the original with an improved save system, solid online features and a slight change of scenery. If you look at it that way, I just spent the last 10 paragraphs for naught. Well, believe it or not, the game deserves more than a couple of sentences. Despite all my ramblings about the issues the game has I still spent hours upon hours with it. I even started replaying the game, something that doesn’t happen all that often. And the amazing multiplayer made me forget about all the other games I usually play online for a good week. So yeah, GRAW2 is hardly perfect, but when everything is working as intended it doesn’t get much better than that.


Gameplay
78/100

Tactical FPS fans will love this game, but only if they are ready to beat the odds… once every few minutes.

Graphics
80/100

The technology is great, especially if you own a PhysiX card. The drab colors don’t do it justice though.

Sound
79/100

Weapon sounds are great and some of the tunes rock as well.

Value
85/100

The singleplayer will take a while to complete, especially the final missions. Online is where the action is at though.

Multiplayer
90/100

Games rarely deliver such a fleshed out online experience as the one found here. If you have friends that are into tactical shooters you will all love the online co-op missions.

Overall
(not an average)

80/100

It is hard not to recommend this game because of the amazing online experience it delivers. If you plan on playing the singleplayer part only, you might want to reconsider however.

 



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