I really am random with my posting topics, aren’t I. Manly soldiers and jailbaiting lolis on one page.
“What made Ghost Recon one of the greatest shooters of all times was the fact that you were a soldier. The fact that you can jump between your soldiers meant that none of them stand out; your entire hand-picked squad was equally special. This feeling of being a faceless grunt but also something of a veteran leader was very unique, and I have yet to play a game that has replicated this feel. […] Ghost Recon constantly reminds you that you are not ‘better’; you are a regular guy, even if your command the squad. It’s not your job to get medals (though you do get quite a few of them) but to do missions and keep your mates alive.”
– me circa 2007
Revenge of the Waypoints.
So, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
starring Tom Clancy. I heard some fair reviews of this game when it came out in July 2007, but never really got a chance to play it until now.
As can be seen in the opening, Ghost Recon is my personal Best Tactical Shooter of All Times. It’s accessible and easy to learn, yet challenging and at times punishingly difficult, but without feeling forced or unfair. To boil it down, it had Rainbow Six‘s intense gunplay but without the precise, exact, down-to-the-letter assault planning model that would scare away more casual gamers.
If only all firefights could be solved by doing the corner lean.
(And it certainly holds a record for Longest Time Installed on My Computer – over three years.)
Anyway, back to GRAW2. You lead a four-man l337 kr3w, the ‘Ghosts’, on run-of-the-mill missions: defend this chokepoint, intercept that column, help out beleaguered allies (and occasionally the other way around), et cetera – standard (war)fare stamped out since… well, since Medal of Honor.
“Scratch one piece of Russian scrap.”
Having a separate development team tailor the PC version of the game was a rare wise decision by Ubisoft. Unlike its console compatriots – which funnily enough looks quite like the recent Rainbow Sixes – GRAW2 PC does feel like an attempted throwback to those halcyon days of the original GR; when troop placement was as important as wired reflexes, and when going through missions successfully meant doing methodical, inch-by-inch sweeps of the entire battlefield (with your own eyes and your Tactical Map bird’s-eye view) in case some sniper is lying in wait for your succulent head to pop into his scope.
[Comparison: if you absolutely hated the ‘Sniper’s Last Stand’ level (ie. the “OMG where the fsck are they shooting from” one) from Medal of Honor Allied Assault, you might want to steer clear of this game.]
Inventory selection for the entire squad pre-mission is a welcome addition.
Judged on its own merits, GRAW2 wraps itself tightly around ‘Decent’. The action is frantic and difficult (punishingly), enemies are smart (usually), and every mission will have you outnumbered (innumerably). All of this is mired by a clunky interface, the AI’s performance whiplashes, and overall uneven pacing of the difficulty curve. While the first problem is fairly minor, the second and third join together to make an already challenging game very frustrating.
The AI problem really aggravates the difficulty. Most players (including me) can probably perform better if they know they can rely on their squad. If I order two of my mates ahead of the rest to draw fire, I need to know that they can hold their own until I can flank the enemy. This point is the biggest problem in the game: your teammates are unreliable. They can shoot as well as (or even better than) you, follow your orders, and are decent at finding their way around the map. On the other hand, they have a tendency to scream at you when they come under fire, instead of just finding cover themselves. Sometimes they just refuse to fire at all. Thankfully, once they are in a good position – solid cover, wide field of fire, not covered by an enemy machine gun or sniper, etc. – they can be deadly efficient.
Outside of taking a screenshot, it is an extremely bad idea to stay still while an enemy shoots at you.
Your team’s trouble at grasping the idea of ‘cover’ aside, the game experience is excellent – tense and gritty. The one word to describe GRAW2 is “unforgiving” – a game where a second’s slip-up, a single wrong move, or even just plain bad luck can lose you a teammate, or immediately Mail your Fission. All in all, if the game had gotten some… a lot… more polish before release it could’ve gave the original GR a run for its money. Though as it stands, it is still the best new addition to the series since Island Thunder.