marino's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) review

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Welcome to the Next Generation

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Originally scheduled for the launch of 360, Ghost Recon proves to be worth the wait by presenting truly next-gen gameplay along with astounding graphics.  GRAW, as it seems to have deemed itself, takes place in 2017 in Mexico City.  The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada are visiting the Mexican President for a summit.  You are Scott Mitchell, a captain in the elite squad of Ghosts.  When a major portion of the Mexican army turns against their President and attack the summit, the Prime Minister is killed and the two Presidents become trapped and/or lost.  Through a non-stop adventure through Mexico City commanding Black Hawks, Bradley tanks, and a squad of the most elite soldiers, it is up to you and your team of ghosts to infiltrate the city, rescue both Presidents and spearhead the quelling of the rebellion.  This is Tom Clancy and Ghost Recon at their best.     
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Quite simply the best graphics on Xbox 360 so far.  The first thing you'll notice is the massive scale of the city.  Mexico City is home to 9 million people, and the game depicts that in the opening scene as you fly over the metropolis at the gunner position of a Black Hawk.  Every little detail is done with perfection, from the glaring (almost blinding at times) Mexican sun to the rising smoke from industrial factories.  The city feels real.  Aside from the city itself, the game's interface and HUD is unmatched aesthetically.  Although most of the game takes place in third-person, your view is as if you were looking through Captain Mitchell's visor.  This allows you to take advantage of quite a few technological advances the Ghosts have.  Over your left eye is a monitor that allows you to see through the eyes of almost any ally on the battlefield, whether it's a squad-mate, Black Hawk pilot, Bradley tank gunner, or even a UAV hovering high above the city.  As a Captain, this allows you to give commands to your squad and support vehicles with unprecedented insight.  Occasionally, video feeds will appear above your right eye which usually come from your General who gives you updates on the rest of the military's positioning as well as local news information.  Graphically the game is just phenomenal.  Character models, special effects, destructable's all here.  This is what you expect from next-gen.     
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Ghost Recon has always been a bit of an acquired taste in terms of gameplay, and this game is no different.  Newcomers may feel a bit overwhelmed at first, but once you get the hang of it, you realize how incredible the control setup is.  With a touch of the D-Pad you often have control of upwards of a dozen soldiers.  The AI of your team is pretty solid, although they do occasionally do something questionable.  As a commander in the field, you also have the ability to view a 3D topographical map of your area and use that to issue your commands to allies.  This works much like the commander role in Battlefield 2 since you can drop the interface at any time and keep moving on foot.  The over-the-shoulder third-person view is excellently done, much in the same was as Resident Evil 4 before it, although GRAW adds the much-loved ability to switch the camera to the opposite shoulder with a simple tap of RB.  This works exceptionally well in multiplayer when hiding behind something slightly wider than yourself.  The guns all control as you would expect them to, with one exception.  On long range rifles, when you zoom in, you have the option to hold your breath (LT) to steady your aim.  "Enhanced reality" is still in tact from E3, which I loved then and still do now.  Basically this means that when you spot an enemy, he will briefly flash with a red silhouette.  If anyone on your team spots an enemy, they will show up as a red diamond on your visor and on your map.     
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Much like it's brother Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon takes pride in offering the best possible sound quality available.  Every single gun from your simple side arm to the Vulcan cannon off the side of a Blackhawk has its own impact.  If a grenade or RPG goes off anywhere near you, it will be literally deafening.  Your ears will ring.  The orchestral score in the menus fits well, but the licensed tracks that pop up during helicopter cutscenes seem a bit strange.     
Replay Value 
The campaign is excellent.  The production value on the campaign alone is worthy of high praise.  The campaign is a seemless adventure.  At no point are you ever taken back to menus as long as you play.  A rally point ends each mission and you are immediately transported to the next location if necessary.  It adds to the overall captivating feel that you really are in Mexico City.  The campaign should take you 10-12 hours to complete the first time, then they offer an increased difficulty for even more Achievements. 
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The original Ghost Recon was one of the first Xbox Live games.  GRAW carries on the legacy in bold fashion.  The online maps are completely separate from the offline ones.  All the regular modes of play are avaialble as well.  The options given to the host are astounding.  You can even customize what you want yourself to look like online in each of the four class types.  Once you actually make it into the game, you are given about 10 seconds to select weapons from your class's specialties before the match actually begins.  Aside from the regular CTF, territory, elimination, etc matches, you can play up to 16 people in co-op missions that are also separate from the offline campaign.  Co-op missions with 15 other players is something you have to see to believe.  In all forms of online play, voice chat is a must.  If you get in a group of people who don't communicate, you will get slaughtered swiftly.  If you die, you can no longer speak, but you can still see what your teammates are seeing since your visor is still on after you die.  So at least you're not gonna be too bored if you die early.  The menu system is a little slow and clunky, but the actual gameplay online runs without a hitch.  GRAW is a must-have title for any Xbox Live player.     
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The best Ghost Recon so far.  The best game on Xbox 360 so far.  Everything about it is top-notch.  From the scenic views of Chapultepec Castillo and Angel Plaza to commanding tanks and gunships at the touch of a button.  An excellent display of high-definition graphics and sound design wrapped around one of the best single player campaigns in recent memory along with one of the most robust online components ever seen on a console.  If you have an Xbox 360, Ghost Recon is a must own title.  If you don't have an Xbox 360, GRAW may be the reason to finally push you over the line and buy one.  (Besides, Oblivion comes out in two weeks anyway). 
*** This review was written for shortly after the release of the game. ***

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