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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Ubi Soft

 

Developer

Ubi Soft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 9, 2006

 

 

- Deep tactical-based action

- Incredible graphics in the early stages

- Some fantastic missions

- Extensive multiplayer options

 

 

- Can get pretty tough, especially with sparse checkpoints and health restorations

 

 

Review: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (XB)

Review: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (XB)

Review: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (PS2)

 

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Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Score: 8.8 / 10

 

Iíve never played a Ghost Recon game before, although after Advanced Warfighter, I think I should really hunt down previous Ghost Recon games. Itís a superb blend of action and strategy, and like other recent Ubi Soft titles, comes with both an excellent single player campaign and a decent multiplayer mode.

 

As typical for Tom Clancy games, the era is the near future, and the stability of North America has gone haywire. The Canadian prime minister has been killed, and the Mexican president hunted by a group of rebels seeking to overthrow the government. As ace American soldier Scott Mitchell, itís your job to take to the streets, ghettos, castles and backwoods of Mexico to quell the insurgency.

 

ghost recon advanced warfighter          ghost recon advanced warfighter

 

The ďAdvanced WarfighterĒ stands for all of the nifty high-tech equipment you and your fellow soldiers carry around, most notable the fancy visor. Although the camera is always placed over your shoulders, your visor keeps track of all important data, including the locations of your comrades, enemies and objectives. Itís especially useful when hunting down bad guys - not only does it show their distance and health, but it also outlines their figure in red, making them stand out from the scenery. You usually carry three kinds of weapons at a time - a rifle, a handgun, and some grenades - but you can pick up enemy firearms so ammo is always in good supply. In the most of the stages, you have command over three other soldiers. Directing them is fairly simple, as you just aim where you want them to move, press Up on the d-pad, and theyíll gladly follow your orders. They can be injured if you put them in the line of fire too often, but can be healed if you get to 

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them quickly enough. At certain points, you can also command helicopters, tanks and recon units, and commanding them works in the same manner. Although it seems rather simplistic, taking advantage of your comrades is extremely important, as fighting alone will tend to get you massacred. In general, the AI is pretty good, although youíll still notice occasional moments of stupidity as they jump right in front of your shots and complain about friendly fire.

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While the Xbox 360 games that have come out since launch have looked pretty decent, there hasnít been anything you could really brag about and show off to your friends. Advanced Warfighter changes all of that. You can actually get distracted by the detail on your soldierís uniform,  and the fantastic animation makes it look even more realistic  When you first step off the helicopter and into the blazing hot streets of Mexico , with the beating hot sun reflecting off the sandy streets, it almost subconsciously makes you sweat. Unlike most games, the bloom effects arenít overdone and are put to outstanding use.  And even though the Grand Theft Auto games created some finely crafted cities, the urban areas in Ghost Recon feel more authentic, both in its realistic layout and extravagant detail. Unfortunately, some of the later levels take place at night, and these donít look nearly as gorgeous as the opening stages. The action is always letterboxed, regardless of whether youíre running in low or high res.

 

But itís more than just the fancy graphics that creates the authenticity of war. The camera shakes clumsily behind your soldier as he runs, which is disorienting at first, but greatly supplements the realism. As bullets whizz by, your visor will get disrupted and the screen will fill with static. If an explosive goes off, the whole screen shakes and the icons on your screen briefly glitch. There are even certain points where scramblers will cause the whole system to screw up, forcing you to use your thermal vision to pick our bad guys and feel you way to your next destination.

 

There are also some fantastic set pieces in-between the typical ďrun to this waypointĒ missions. One has you cornered in the smoldered ruins of a recently destroyed building, as you try to pierce through the smoke and debris to take on a swarm of rebels before they can kill the president. Another has you manning a chain gun against an onslaught of enemies, which is pretty simple - until they bring out a nearly invincible tank, and the only thing you can do is dive to the ground and wait until you have command over an allied tank to return fire.

 

ghost recon advanced warfighter          ghost recon advanced warfighter

 

With all of the weapons and tactics that Ghost Recon throws at you, itís easy to get a bit overwhelmed, despite the thorough tutorial mission at the beginning. Still, itís far from an easy game - a few stray hits will send your soldier to meet the Game Over screen, and checkpoints can be sparse. Additionally, health regenerations are quite rare, so itís all too common to take a few shots in the beginning of the stage and then spend the rest of the operation hobbling around enemy territory with your life indicator in the red. These are similar problems to the first two Splinter Cell games, and youíd think Ubi Soft wouldíve learned by now. There are also some minor control problems, especially when trying to cling to certain surfaces to take cover.

 

The multiplayer portion of GRAW was designed by an entirely different team, and it shows. Most of the visor functions are gone, the letterboxing in low-res is gone, and you canít hug onto walls anymore. Still, none of this should really matter, because the game is more focused on fast-paced action. There are four major game type: Campaign, Elimination, Territory and Objectives, and each can be played Solo, Co-op or Team. The campaign mode is completely different from the single player game, with four completely new scenarios to play through, even if you want to go at it alone. Up to four players can participate on a single console, and up to sixteen can connect with Xbox Live. You can customize your characterís class, their face and their uniform, and youíre given pretty free control of setting options like the number of respawns allowed and the amount of enemies youíll face. Most of the graphical effects have been toned down to make the game smoother, but it still looks pretty decent.

 

Although it couldíve used an easier difficulty setting for the single player mode, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is otherwise one of the best action-strategy games to come out in a long time. Combined with the robust multiplayer and incredible presentation, Ubi Soft has produced one of the first real showpieces of the 360 hardware.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(March 27, 2006)

 

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