April 13, 2008
Anyone with a passing interest in first person shooters will be well aware of Tom Clancy games, as the previous Ghost Recon titles set a fairly high benchmark for tightly paced single player and extremely addictive online action. After the lull following the launch of the 360, when very few games were released for what seemed like an age, the launch of GRAW was seen as a sign of better things to come. The fact that the game still ranks as one of the best selling titles on the format two years after its release is proof of its appeal, not to mention the fact gamers lined up in droves to play arguably the first truly big title on the 360.
Ubisoft have almost built an empire based solely around Tom Clancy games but it was always going to be a big challenge for them to make full use of the new hardware at their disposal, especially considering the anticipation surrounding its launch. Thankfully they seem to have kept faith with all of the facets of previous Ghost Recon games while adding a few new features that are sure to please both old fans and new. The game has also added a third person viewpoint to the original first person view, giving gamers an option to play in a more traditional manner or to have a more action orientated perspective. For anyone who has played previous Recon games the new viewpoint will jar a little and seem somewhat strange, leading to the inevitable switch to first person. Stick with it awhile and it will soon become second nature but it does seem to be more of an aesthetic inclusion than a useful one.
The storyline revolves around a terrorist plot in Mexico City, which has been replicated in gorgeous detail down to even the dodgiest of advertising boards, with our team of Ghost’s tasked with stamping out the rebel threat through a variety of missions. A Mexican General, Ontiveros, and his son have decided to stage a coup around a peace conference held in the city, with the intentions of stopping a joint security agreement from taking place as well as trying to take control of U.S. nuclear weapons. The story is thoroughly believable with news excerpts throughout the game reporting on your team’s progress, just like news reports that you’d see on the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you feel that each and every mission is just one step in the bigger picture. Being taken from one hostile situation to another by Black Hawk adds to the feeling that you are involved in an actual conflict, as it seems that you are never given a moment to rest due to the urgency of the situation.
A nice touch is the ability to control your team through the cross-com order system, so you can get them to take cover or advance in a bid to provide covering fire. Throughout the game you’ll also get the chance to give orders to a variety of hardware too such as tanks and helicopters, tasking them to clear out enemies and secure safe passage for your more fragile team. The system is fairly intuitive with commands issued either in the heat of battle or via the Intel map which gives a basic layout of the area along with any spotted enemies. From the map alone you could guide your team into combat and issue orders, but because enemies tend to pop out of the woodwork with very little warning it would be unadvisable. The addition of an eye in the sky UAV, which can be used to scope out enemy positions via the map is also highly useful as it can stop many a potential ambush. Just be sure not to leave the poor little guy floating too close to the opposition or he may well get shot out of the sky for his trouble. If there is one gripe it’s that you can only issue orders to your team as a whole, preventing any kind of advanced tactics or specific role delegation. While the weapons on offer are fairly varied you seem to have little choice about the weapons you can carry at any one time as the chance for changing them are few and far between, your team mates are also generally assigned certain roles and equipped accordingly (sniper, heavy gunner, assault etc).
The game itself is far more tactical than your generic FPS, as you are often required to move forward slowly under cover rather than opting for a mad gun rush into the midst of your foes. The fact that missions can suddenly blow up in your face or change due to a more urgent crisis helps to keep you on your toes, though having said that the game is fairly linear with new areas only opening up after you’ve fulfilled a certain objective or advanced to a certain point. At least the script does a job good of making you feel like you’re in a conflict in a state of flux, with the tide of battle constantly shifting. It stops things from feeling like a simple trudge from point A to B. Despite this you’ll probably breeze through the game on the lower difficulties without breaking a sweat and even on the hardest setting you’ll only run into a few major trouble spots. It’s worth saying that you’ll probably find yourself staring death in face a lot more when you first start the game, as the slow and steady approach takes some getting used to but will reap its own rewards.
The graphics on offer are first class and a lot of effort has been put into creating a superb Mexico City, with even minor details given the full works as you fly over expensive townhouses and dilapidated suburbs. Thankfully because of the size of the city it offers plenty of scope for a variety of locations with missions staged throughout industrial complexes, shady streets and lush parks. You’ll often forget that the action is packed into only one place as the developers have done a great job of mixing things up. The voice work is top notch too and for once the story actually feels like it could be based on actual events, and there aren’t many games you could claim that about. Your cross-com will keep you constantly updated with chatter from your allies and enemies as well as news reports on the conflict. It all helps to make things as realistic as possible and keeps you interested in what is going on around you.
If you’ve had enough of going it solo then there are eight co-operative maps (half of which are downloaded from the Live Marketplace) for up to 16 players to take part in. The missions are set after the events of the game and are based around a number of different objectives with a high number of enemies lurking in the jungles of Nicaragua. This mode seems to offer even more fun than the main game as it gives you a chance to work with your friends and operate as a fully fledged team, each of you able to choose your weapons load to suit how you like to play. The odds of a team made up solely of snipers getting that far is slim but you get the chance to prove me wrong and the maps are all big and varied enough to warrant multiple attempts. You can also head on over to regular multiplayer action, with a variety of maps and options available to tickle your fancy. It’s not easy for new players to immediately compete with veterans who can snipe you from half a map away and are covered by a dedicated friend, but build up a team of cronies and you’ll soon be able to dish out as much punishment as you receive. The nice thing is the fact that you can play any of these modes in split-screen too so no need to find a stranger to buddy up with if you don’t want to.
Solid voice over work and the ultra realistic sound effects you would expect from any Clancy game means that you are swept into the battle zone.
Lovely urban battlefields, realistic troops and some neat visual touches including the gun-cam and your UAV eye in the sky, third person view doesn’t seem to work quite as well but thankfully it’s a choice rather than a requirement.
A nicely paced tactical shooter and a great blast online as well, the co-op missions are a treat and the fact you can play multiplayer from a single machine is a rarity nowadays.
A fine addition to the Ghost Recon series, with enough new tricks to keep you hooked. Perhaps not the vast leap we would have expected from the series but will keep new and veteran players alike happy
A good mix of completion achievements mixed in with attainable online offerings, helped by the fact most of the online/multiplayer achievements can easily be acquired on just one machine. The real killer comes in the form of the atrocious leader board achievements that are all but impossible to grab legitimately anymore and requires hours of boosting otherwise. Good luck.
The first ‘big’ game to grace the 360 and the numbers more than back it up in terms of sales. The single player is short but offers a realistic and entertaining campaign while the online mode offers tactical team combat that requires genuine co-operation, the online co-op maps are just the icing on an already tasty cake.