This week sees the release of the sequel to Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, which was one of the best games around the release of the Xbox 360. It's titled, originally, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. The same team is behind the game as the first, and the graphics engine is also basically the same, with just some minor tweaks. This makes the game pretty much a straight sequel to the original, but is that a bad thing?
The series is based in the Tom Clancy universe, and it's actually the fourth such game to hit the Xbox 360, with GRAW, Splinter Cell: Double Agent and Rainbow Six: Vegas the most recent one out. Rainbow Six was a really great incarnation of that series for the 360, so can GRAW2 compete?
The game kicks off where the first one left off. If you remember back to the first game, it had you stopping a political coup in Mexico, quelling terrorist activity there. This game starts out 24 hours later. You've been brought back in to stamp out the dregs of the resurgence, and as the game goes on, you start to apprehend the masterminds behind the original conspiracy. These guys are eager to use political instability to bring down the US, and it's up to your elite squad to put a stop to any such plans.
The big difference this time out is with your CrossCom system. In the first game, one of the neat things you could do was see exactly what your squaddies were seeing in the corner of your screen, as part of your HUD, and you could switch through those various views to keep an eye on them. For GRAW2, this system has been revamped and upgraded, and you can now pull up a full screen view of each of your team mates. This means you get to really see in detail what they're seeing. You can issue orders whilst in this mode, so if you send someone forward through the battlefield, you can track them on camera and continue to issue or vary orders.
You can switch back and forth between your own view of the scenario and what your mates are up to. The flexibility gives a new tactical bent to gameplay, because you have far better knowledge and control of your dudes. The tutorial level gives you some good insight into how this can work, and throughout the game you'll find yourself relying more and more on their help to get you through scenarios. Thankfully, Ubisoft has fixed the one problem with your team-mates from the first game, where you could heal everyone, but no one could heal you. Now, if you take a medic in your team, you can request a patching up - a major improvement!
This new full-screen CrossCom mode applies to some of the other vehicles in the game, like the spy drone. In the first game, your spy drone was a remote control droid which gave you a small, fuzzy picture of what was going on. Now, you can go fullscreen with your spy drone and control it directly from within that view, making it seek out everything that you want to see. This is essential, because 'remote surveillance' is a big theme this time out. You'll need to spend a fair amount of time watching what the drone is up to if you're to succeed on the battlefield, picking out enemy snipers and ambushes along the route to your objectives.
There's also a new vehicle called the Mule. It's like a little storage locker on wheels - it drives around and it's full of ammo and weapons. If you're running low on ammo, or you need to swap out your gun, you can call it over and stock up. You can also control it directly, which means you can use it as sort of mobile cover, sending it off to a point on the map and just kind of crouching behind it.