Just as we prepare for the imminent deployment of the latest in the franchise of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series, Focus MultiMedia reminds us all just how good the Ubisoft first person shooter title really is.
Aah, Ghost Recon. Like a shining beacon of gaming light it floods my memory like a large…flooding..type…thing, and is title that I hold dearly to my heart. Not only was the game simply light years ahead of anything else that was around at the time. And no matter which way the Call of Duty crowd try to butter that it’s just plain and simple fact! But Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was exactly what the title itself described it to be…this was advanced warfare, of a kind that we had never before experienced in gaming, and if truth be told it is probably the title that got a lot of today’s FPS Frag Head’s into the genre.
But in another truth its saving grace for many was probably its undoing for many gamers. That being its difficulty. This has got to be the toughest of all the FPS games out there, and certainly the most tactical of all, that’s for certain. But that, for me personally, was the games draw. That is what got my attention and that is what still grabs my attention even today. That’s why when Focus MultiMedia announced that they were repackaging the brand and selling it again, we knew that we wanted to be in on the act so that we could get the opportunity to review the title all over again. Not a bad way to spend da day or two, is it?
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, or GRAW 2 as it is more affectionately known in gaming circles, is what can be best described as ‘The Thinking Man’s Call of Duty.’ Upsetting as that may be for the staunch and loyal band of CoD Fraggers that defend their game of choice, it is, nevertheless a plain fact. It is certainly the most realistic of all the shooters that are out there, and without a shadow of a doubt its got to be the toughest? If you like to enjoy your combat titles with just that little bit more realism and sense of danger then why you are not playing GRAW 2 is just beyond me?
The storyline to the game goes a little something along the lines of: Bad guys have taken possession of a batch of Nuclear Warhead’s and are somewhere within the radius of the Mexican mainland, it is your job, along with the three other ‘Ghosts’ that you are able control and command, to infiltrate the area, find and despatch your targets with extreme prejudice and then successfully exfiltrate to a prearranged LZ. Got that soldier? Right, let’s get going shall we?
In fact, that’s pretty much it, and to be fair? Its pretty much all you need to know. Yours is not to question why? Yours is but to do or die. So with that you set off for the Mexican border with your fellow Ghosts in tow, ready to tackle the enemy and complete your mission regardless of who or what gets in your way. As we have stated already, if you like FPS Tactical shooters then Ghost Recon is your game no doubt about it. But if you have played this title on the rather more forgiving console format and this is your first mission on the PC as a Ghost, then all we can say is complete all the tutorial and swot up on the instructions as believe me, this is a tough a tactical shooter as you are ever going to get. One false move, one round that misses it target and wounds instead of killing and that’s it, you are being mailed back home to Mummy and Daddy in a small collection of boxes.
The combat in GRAW 2 is so lifelike that if you have a decent sound card and surround sound, or are playing through the HDMI or RGB to the TV get ready for some serious sound effects that I can guarantee will have you looking around the room at some point to locate screaming women and crying children. Or even ducking as the vicious buzzing of bullets zinging past your ears like angry wasps convinces your totally immersed brain that you are actually in a the middle of a combat zone.
The new patches that have been installed for the game since its release have also made for a far smoother gaming experience than previous titles from Mr Clancy. However it has to be said that this was always a great title even before the patches. The single or multiplayer game is as good as anything out there, and it is just unfortunate for us lovers of the more tactical side of the shooter genre that the developers seem to be favouring the run and gun frag head as the CoD generation seem to be getting more and more titles developed for their style of play. Sure fast is a lot of fun, for a while. But I want my gaming to have more bite. More meat on its bones than just ‘fastest finger first’ or who pays £100 for an Aimbot cheat? I want my gaming to tp leave my shirt sticking to me with sweat. I want my gaming to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when I here a twig snap behind me. Do I get that with any other form of online multiplayer FPS shooter? No, I do not. But with GRAW 2 I guarantee that when you are online in the multiplayer that you will be breathing sighs of relief during intervals, not listening to children bad mouth each other.
The game benefit’s from an absolute fantastic engine with great physics as it throws up uncanny realism with everything from the environment, the sounds of bullet casing hitting the concrete as you pump round after round into your enemies body right through to the way the victim falls to the floor depending on the calibre and fire mode adopted by the person who pulls the trigger. If you want real life you can’t beat a bit of GRAW 2.
Weapons are fully upgradeable, so everything from extended magazines, silencers and sights are available to you to customize your private arsenal. The briefing screens at the beginning and end of each mission allow you to change your kit and so opt for a more suitable load out to take with you on the mission at hand as opposed to being forced to scavenge your weapons off the corpses of fallen comrades and adversaries.
One particular feature that we have always liked in the GRAW titles is the ability to ‘tag’ your victims. Meaning that after spotting your enemies at distance you can then indicate, by way of a red diamond above the oppositions heads, to your fellow squad mates which targets you deem as priority and so which you want them to take out first.
This brings us nicely to the command feature of the game and the one that it seems that a lot of people have difficulty with. The number of times we have even read it in reviews where the gamer cannot get the teammates to do as he ordered and so dismisses the feature as unworkable and pooh-pooh’s it to all and sundry. The truth of the matter is that the person has not fully appreciated the physics and mechanics of the game, and so has just spotted the target and ordered his men to it without first scanning the surrounding area for obstacles, mines, fixed gun positions and the like, complaining that the soldiers do not move when you ask them to attack a tank with small arms is, quite frankly, pathetic and inane. As we have said, the game is true to life, and just as in real life there is no command that we are aware of that orders the men under you to commit suicide at your behest. This is not Ghost Recon Kamikaze Fighter after all.
So all in all we are openly very pleased to see that Focus MultiMedia now have the rights with which to repackage and republish the Ubisoft back catalogue, and bring them to a whole new audience and generation of PC gamers. Long may it continue. As if they are to bring titles such as this to gamers for a paltry price when all other formats are charging a small country’s national debt for a title then more power to them we say.
Graphics: light-years ahead of anything at the time, and still just as good-looking now as they ever where. Has not aged a day in the years following its release and if they could sell this magical formula to Ulay they would have a fortune on their hands. 10
Gameplay: The best tactical FPS title on the market bar none. It really is that good. If you want to experience warfare without actually fearing getting shot then this is the way to do it. 9
RePlay Value: Unfortunately forgotten by the online crowd we are hoping hat the titles rebirth by Focus will give its online community the shot in the arm that it needs. Single player campaign is still the best in the business though. 8
Presentation: A fantastic series that will be resurrected with the launch of the GRAW 3 title later this year. Deserves more support and far more advertising than it received and should have a far bigger community than it has. A true unsung hero. 8