GRAW is a series I’ve had mixed success with in my life as a gamer and, while I love the excellent sniping action and slow, steadily stealthy pace, I’ve found myself at pains to offer the past instalment of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter any continued dedication. Part of that is probably that I’m a sucker for a good story and some character driven narrative and, for all its efforts and detailed military records, most Tom Clancy games (with the exception of Splinter Cell) have been full of cardboard cut-out characters.
Still, for stealthy gameplay and decent, tactical co-op the Ghost Recon games are hard to beat, so when the PC version of GRAW 2 landed on my desk I decided that I’d take it out for a whirl and see just what new changes had been made to the tried-and-tested tactical shooter genre.
Would GRAW 2 shock us by actually making us care about the characters, or would squad members go unmourned as they fell? How does the gameplay hold up and what changes have been to the system since the last game? These are all questions we wanted to answer as we strapped on our Cross-Com 2.0 headgear and moved onto the battlefield.
Just because it says Tom Clancy on it...
So, where does GRAW 2 start us off in terms of story? Well, according to the back of the box “The Ghosts have less 72 hours to stop a nuclear attack on U.S. soil.”
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Gee, that’s tough. It’s even more tough that the box doesn’t give players any more idea about the plot. We’re not told why there might be an attack on the U.S., nor exactly how many hours less than 72 we have to avert this catastrophe. You’d think that a game with the Tom Clancy name on it would at least try and give us a few more plot tidbits, but oh no, not here. This is video game territory after all and, unless the story is about pirates or ninjas, it should be assumed to be non-existent.
In-game however, the reverse is true and we were swamped with details via the extensive mission briefings which give about two or three pages of meandering waffle, all of which inevitably boils down to killing Mexicans. The briefings are made even more of an endurance trial by the video feed in the upper right corner which plays incredibly lame, simple CG mockeries of CNN whilst you try to read the pages of needlessly in-depth detail.
The CG news feeds are frankly awfully done, with no lip-sync to speak of and no mute button or way to pause it or replay it. The models go through a single, simple animation and then loop until the accompanying audio file has finished playing and decided to let you read.
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After struggling through these trials to read the first briefing, we decided to simply skip over them from then on and instead focused on in-level briefings which communicated mission objectives perfectly through in game orders (which appear in the top right and use the same kind of awful CG loops) and visual clues on the Cross-Com.
In fact, while we had a good idea of in mission objectives, we had such a flawed understanding of the overall plot that we had to look it up on the Internets in order to understand what was going on.
Apparently, the game takes place just 48 hours after the first game and deals with the continuing conflict between the Mexican rebels and the U.S army, who have joined with the Mexican loyalists. The rebels are rumoured to have possession of a dirty bomb, which is made from scavenged nuclear warheads, and the U.S. of A. sends the Ghost team, lead by the player, into Mexico again in order to assess and tackle the threat.
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So, it’s the standard ‘OMG! They set up the bomb!’ set-up, though the story thankfully picks up a bit and comes to something of a mildly thrilling conclusion as the story continues. However, the fact that the story is told so clumsily and forces players to either wade through acres of drivel or skip lightly through fields of blissful, confused ignorance is a definite early flaw for the game and one which GRAW 2 struggles to deal with effectively.