Preview By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-4 (2-16 System Link and Online)|
|Accessories:||System Link, Xbox Live (online play, leaderboards, content download)|
As much as online play has defined the Ghost Recon series, the series has just as much been about change to me. The first game in the series was lacking in the graphics department, but provided a slow-paced, realistic warfare experience better than any game had ever delivered before. The Island Thunder standalone expansion brought about a dramatically improved multiplayer component (new co-op modes, online scoreboards, and more), as well as another full-length single-player mode. The full sequel, creatively titled Ghost Recon 2, brought about the biggest change yet with the addition of the Lone Wolf mode (including the awesome Gun Camera), a very useful third-person perspective, and full support of Xbox Live 3.0. The graphics were also improved dramatically, as at the time of the game's release it was perhaps the best-looking Xbox title ever. Although not everyone (myself included) was completely satisfied by the changes, there's no denying that it made the series more accessible to the average gamer. The recently released Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike was a lot like Island Thunder, with better online support and some minor presentation tweaks.
Now with Advanced Warfighter (headed to every console imaginable and PC), the series looks to change dramatically once again. Sure, once again the player takes on the role of Captain Scott Mitchell as he controls a squad of Ghosts through a variety of missions. However, this time those missions take place entirely in the urbane goodness of Mexico City. The apparent lack of jungle warfare has me a little concerned since the series was built on open environment skirmishes (although there will no doubt be some edge of the city action), but by focusing on a single city the team should be able to create an environment more detailed and immersive than any yet.
As the title would suggest this game is really all about the warrior of the future. In 2013 the U.S. Army rolls out the Integrated Warfighter System (IWS), which completely changes the face of modern combat. IWS combines advanced weapons systems, satellite communications and enhanced survivability into one fully integrated combat system. Following an insurgency in Mexico City, the Ghosts are deployed to the center of the conflict to regain control of the city, save the president of the United States of America, recover stolen nuclear codes, eliminate a band of renegade soldiers, and more.
At the heard of the IWS is the Cross-Com, which is a communications device powered by satellite technology. By attaching directly to a soldier's monocle, it provides full situational awareness and command of the battlefield. This will allow the player to peek in on what other squad mates are seeing in real-time video, have better command of the Ghosts and other remote forces, direct artillery and air strikes, and receive on-the-fly auditory intel. Waypoints are also making a much welcome return along with an upgraded map system (in the PC version at least, their status is unknown for consoles), and the soldiers themselves will be improved with new abilities such as sliding.
As I mentioned above the Ghost Recon series has been largely known for it's multiplayer support, and Ubisoft is once again promising "industry-leading" gameplay with a host of new features. What we do know is that the game will ship with ten multiplayer maps, which seems a bit sparse compared to recent online titles (Summit Strike alone shipped with 24). However, these maps will offer a great deal of customization, including setting various parameters, changing the number of enemies, setting specific goals, respawn points, time limits, and more. Details other than that are scarce at this point, but you can probably expect most of the modes series veterans are familiar with along with additional IWS-related features found in single-player.
Graphically, Advanced Warfighter looks to be one of the most promising Xbox 360 launch titles as the included screens attest. Focusing on one city has really allowed the team to bring it to life, with incredibly complex environments and slick presentation. My only concern is that the new busy HUD may be a little too distracting given the series' emphasis on careful gameplay and/or a little too removed from the gritty urban environments the game takes place in. Judging by the screenshots it looks more like Metroid Prime than Ghost Recon 2.
Overall, I'm extremely excited about the direction the series is headed in and this looks to be the most enthralling Ghost Recon yet. It may not be the system seller Perfect Dark Zero or The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be given it's coming to every platform under the sun, but it should be one of the best launch titles in a long time.
Posted: 2005-09-30 21:23:52PST