Okay, so this is definitely an old game to be looking at, but bear with me. Which game was the most hyped and also (I think) the highest selling of 2009? Need a hint? It was Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, and although it dates from 2006, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW, for short) deals with a similar brand of warfare, although GRAW takes place in a slightly near-future scenario. Does that it put it ahead of MW2? Probably not, but with all the attention thrown at Infinity Ward’s output, there is certainly a case for highlighting how good the slightly more tactically-focused Ubisoft titles are, such as GRAW, the Splinter Cell series, and Rainbow Six. GRAW is a series that is definitely worth noticing.
Upon it’s release all the way back in 2006, GRAW was the one getting all the hype. The 360 had launched only very recently, and of course, as with all new consoles, the launch titles had looked good, but had been developed before companies were perhaps feeling 100% comfortable with the new Xbox, and so they were put really pushing it too far in terms of appearances. The trailers showing for GRAW were turning heads and hype machines alike. Visually, the game is astounding, and the benefit of looking at it now in 2010 is that you can see how it still holds up, unlike Perfect Dark Zero, for instance, which looked like sensory-overload at the time, and looks just messy nowadays.
As with nearly every ‘contemporary conflict’ title, we are treated to the typical storyline of a group of terrorists doing something bad that we, as the good American soldiers, need to sort out and put right. What seperates GRAW out is it’s use of the CrossCom, a system that is currently in R&D in real life and that enables commanding officers on the field to see through the eyes of those for whom they are responsible. What this means for the player, then, is that rather than running into a room and shooting the shit out of a bunch of swarthy-skinned bad guys, much of it is spent designating targets for your team, whether those are other soldiers, support helicopters, M1A2 tanks, or even just your UAV drone, which allows you to scan the field ahead for enemies. For action-lovers, this might sound like a slow deal, but when you are in charge of 2 or 3 of these at once, plus keeping yourself in the clear, the multitasking becomes intense and great, great fun.
The sound is great, too. Weapons have pleasing rat-a-tats, ka-booms, and cracks as appropriate. It’s a great opportunity to practice your Spanish too, key phrases being examples such as ‘Grenata!’ which is pretty obvious. However, listening to, and being able to at least slightly comprehend, what your enemies are saying can really give you the edge. The ability to foresee a nearby explosion and get out of the way can make the difference between loading up the same section 10 times instead of 20 times.
Which leads on to difficulty. The game is branded as a ‘tactical shooter’ and as such it rewards players who take time to think about what they are going to do. That’s not to say you can dally about for an age, but the game wants you to consider your actions, and work out paths to take. A lot of this thinking takes place on the tactical battlefield map you call up with the Back button, which enables you to designate those aforementioned orders on a larger scale, not necessitating that you can see a target with your eyes in order to highlight it as the next subject to focus on. In short, running and gunning will lead to a lot of frustration and smashed controllers. This is intellectual warfare, if such a thing can exist.
Multiplayer-wise, I haven’t replayed that since 2006, and I would imagine that it is a little quiet these days, given that the sequel came out around a year later, and that the next title, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, is due out later this year. It was always enjoyable, and certainly of a similar difficulty level. A serious bug-bear for many, though, was that certain multiplayer achievements make outlandish requirements of the player, such as becoming the #1 player in the world. In that sense, this title is perhaps not for those who pride themselves on scouring every game they own to get their full 1000 (or even more these days).
In short, this game is really good fun, but certainly not a mindless one. These days, you can pick it up easily for under a tenner, and the sequel will set you back around the same. Both are easily worth a quick twenty pounds.