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Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

It feels a lot like Black Hawk Down and that's a good thing.
The game also includes a 48-hour trial to Live and in-game tips.

Posted: March 10, 2006
Written by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Imagine the robbery scene from Heat, Black Hawk Down, Team Fortress Classic, Counter-Strike, Full Spectrum Warrior, and Splinter Cell rolled into one nice package and you've got a good idea of what it's like playing Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox 360. Right before I left to drop the $64 on this game, I turned to my friend and said, "Maybe I should just rent it?" I realize now how stupid that plan would've been had I followed it through.

I've never been a huge Tom Clancy fan and other than a few run-ins with Rainbow Six (including one LAN game with NVIDIA engineers and other webmasters), my experience was limited with his games. Ghost Recon sounded interesting and the screenshots I had seen were damned impressive - yet I expected a bit of a bore: a slow-paced strategy game with complicated menus and impossible team controls. When I stopped in to Best Buy I had little knowledge the game would keep me playing for 8 hours straight, generally impressing while only occasionally sucking.

Realistic environments convince you that you're
at war in the ghetto.

Ghost Recon = War Simulator

GRAW is a simulator that takes place in the year 2013, which considering the pace of technology available, it is surprisingly realistic with very intense action. My first Ghost Recon experience took place with my friend's 50" LG Plasma and a nice set of Klipsch F2 speakers. I imagined that since the game was on the Xbox 360 and I don't play many PC games anymore, the graphics would be impressive in 1080i. Initially I was taken back -- it looked more realistic than most games I'd seen on the new console yet with truly impressive details. Immediately I noticed the game was less cryptic and complicated than the original Full Spectrum Warrior, but difficult enough to give a gaming veteran that pays extra attention to details and controls a slight edge in warfare. I only played the first training mission for a few minutes before I quit to play multiplayer and adjusting was easy. We agreed the best environment would be another friend's Sharp DT400 projector (110" screen) with a better sound system including the bigger F3 speakers, so we quickly migrated to this area for multiplayer gaming. It's difficult to write anything negative after having the privilege to play in this setting: it was truly an awesome experience.

"You can't exit tactical map as long as you
havn't move the team to its destination."

What Sucks

The worst thing about GRAW I've noticed so far is the poor frame rate and resolution experienced in 4-player split-screen mode. With the graphics as great as they are, it's truly hard to knock Red Storm for this, because each time that Xbox 360 fires up four individual screens at this level of detail it's a miracle of modern science, but it's still a nuisance. In comparison, two player mode is nearly flawless, yet four player chugs along at what appears to be a lower resolution and greatly reduced frame rate. Perhaps by reducing some shooting effects, decals and model detail, a better trade-off could've been made, although Ubisoft certainly must have had its reasons.

The projector tends to highlight faults, especially in dark environments, making it very noticeable when the frame rate hovers around 20-25 frames per second and dips below that at times, particularly in high action gunfire battles and night levels. We had a four player defense mission on the dry dock map, which is played at night with rain. Quickly turning on night vision apparently drops the frame rate to the teens with motion blur that probably resembles LSD at this frame rate, causing instant death. No game is without its faults and most of these are nothing to take too seriously - that console was working its ass off rendering those four screens and the load couldn't be taken lightly. In one or two player modes per console, the frame rate is rock solid and the images look stellar.

RPGs really do blow shit up.

Some of the effects left a bit to be desired. A letdown in particular was observed as a helicopter was shot up then exploded. The explosion sounded weak and less thundering than cannons from Call of Duty. Also, as the helicopter spiraled downward, it was unbelievable, regardless of how beautiful it looked. Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe it was caused by inaccurate physics. Overall though the physics and visual effects are incredible.

The artificial intelligence is weak at times, especially in multiplayer split screen mode. In campaign mode, we were required to assault an area with two enemy players. Slowly we walked in and gunned the city down. However, at one point there was an enemy sitting by a tree with a fellow solider. After we started shooting at the first enemy and he began counter-firing, the second player still sat there, motionless as if he hadn't acknowledged our existence yet. The enemies at times would flock in waves like lemmings, into my huge 100-round machine gun only to get picked off like flies. They were no threat, as if they didn't have the sense to tell themselves, "hey, that dude has a big ass machine gun and is mowing all my buddies down". Other times, particularly in single-player missions, the AI was quite responsive and even intelligent in their approach. To change the difficulty you need to play with switches instead of an outright difficulty level: enemy population, number of respawns, type of goal, and so-on. Playing online or against friends is a different story and does not apply to this form of artificial intelligence.

A couple other gripes worth noting are the sticks' sensitivity level (which is a bit low and unless I'm mistaken cannot be changed) and the annoying voice (like Solid Snake with hemorrhoids) of the main character in single player campaign missions.

"I ain't got time to bleed"
I pushed my team hard and there were many casualties.


War's hell, and this game simulates it well. The easy-to-master controls, balance of power, realism, and action create one heck of a great simulator. GRAW defines the genre of war simulators, with numerous features that anyone will appreciate. There are more on-screen indicators than you can shake a stick at, including an enemy/vehicle health level, range to waypoints, and nice overlaying map. There are plenty of extra bells and whistles to keep everyone happy which can be toggled for custom multiplayer games.

Commanding allied troops is very simple. You simply choose the group (if there's only one allied group to control, it's selected by default) using the left-right arrows on the D-pad, then press up on the D-pad for the location you want to move them toward. Pressing down causes troops to regroup. You can also set waypoints on the map (brought up using the Back button) and attack specific units by highlighting them and hitting Up. The left shoulder button (L8) is used to switch between Recon and Assault modes. This button will toggle your units between a sneaky ninja approach and a "kill everything that moves" assault.

The seemingly never-ending modes of gameplay will please anyone even remotely interested. You've got deathmatches, team battles, campaigns, assaults, defenses, and more. You've got territories to occupy, seek-and-destroy, and specific rescue missions. The key here is replay value and this game packs it on.

Cameras are well executed and further enhance its gameplay. The default view is a 3rd person over-the-shoulder camera that allows you to see the ultra realistic character models run and dive in real-time. Drones, deployable cameras that let you fly around the map to scope out enemy positions, come in handy during hostile situations. The Drone is also available in multiplayer, although I think it takes away from the action on large Live games because it keeps you busy with something other than combat. Cameras follow your commanded troops in a small window, allowing you to babysit them as necessary. You can command other units as well, including helicopters and armored vehicles, with cameras to view them as they tear through the battlefield.

Neat dust effect, but it seems completely invisible
when you're normally walking or driving.

Playing GRAW on Live is a rewarding experience. Since the pace of action is nearly perfect, it's easy to group multiplayer into teamplay and it seems even the worst of players follow this trend, with few junior Rambos trying to save the world. It's easy to change weapons, respawn, meet up with teammates, and jump back into the action, keeping it fast-paced and interesting. Online is where the strategy truly shines as it becomes man vs. man, and it even allows multiple players on a single console to play over the Internet, advancing this new era in online gaming.

Using your Xbox Live profile, you will build experience and other players can view your progress. Your military rank is determined by various accomplishments. You can also customize the appearance of your player to an extent.

The helicopter flying over the war-torn city was incredible
and the machine gun brought back fuzzy Gunblade memories.

Graphics and Sound

The environments vary from cities to jungles to deserts, and beyond. Most environments are extremely realistic with great surround sound, offering distractions such as police sirens and whizzing bullets. The cities are especially convincing with some interactive terrain, buildings, and vehicles. You'll find yourself taking cover behind cars, dumpsters, and park benches as you struggle to survive barrages of enemy fire. Occasionally you may see some clipping on terrain or textures that tear at seams, but these small problems are few and far between.

Character and vehicle models are great, leaving little to be desired. The time spent developing realistic character movement is appreciated. When something puts out a lot of heat, it blurs the camera appropriately. The lighting effects are absolutely state of the art, offering photo realistic scenes that will leave your jaw on the floor. The camera filters and iris effect are mind-blowing. In darker levels in heavy fire, the bullets and explosions illuminate the level like Freemont street in all its glory. These light shows might catch your eye for just long enough to get you killed. Smoke effects like smoke grenades are a mixed bag. While Call of Duty does a good job with smoke effects, Ghost Recon does the job better in most ways, particularly seen in its variation of colors (as opposed to all bright gray) and more transparent effect. Ghost Recon has some of the most impressive visuals ever seen and it's truly next-generation.

Who Should Buy This Game?

If you're looking for the safest way to grab some weapons and go to war, Ghost Recon is your ticket. If you liked Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six, F.E.A.R., or even Golden Eye, you'll love this game. GRAW would be a great tool to demonstrate your new home theatre system to friends. Its minor shortcomings are greatly overshadowed by its high points, offering a unique and immersible experience, the likes of which most games fail to even scratch the surface. If you like shooters, action-strategies, realistic combat games, and team-based combat, this is definitely a title to add to your library. It's so easy to be able to turn on a single device that lets four players sit in a room with wireless controllers and fight a huge battle that it's hard to recommend any version at this time except the Xbox 360's version, even without having played the other versions available. In addition, if you've got the coin, this is the perfect opportunity to upgrade your surround sound and maybe even your television.

categoryscore (out of 10) notes
gameplay9.0excellent war sim that doubles as a shooter/strategy, all with great replay value
graphics9.5crisp and clear, with nice effects and amazing lighting
physics8.9at times perfect, at other times disappointing
sound8.8generally very realistic, some voice acting sucked...
ingenuity9.7brilliant HUD, weapons system, and gameplay, evolutionary for the genre
overall9.0a few bugs, but this is a great game and belongs in all Xbox 360 collections

If you want to see more screenshots, check out IGN here.

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