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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) artwork

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) review

"That's not to discount the game's prominent sense of realism, though. It only takes a single, well-placed bullet to see you off and the wounds you collect in mission do not magically and conveniently vanish. By all means, run head first into that small circle of tents with your gun blazing -- just expect to be dead long before you spot your first target. Both the angles and the numbers are always against you."

I've owned Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfare for ages now, but I'd never really sunk any time into it. I delved perhaps one whole checkpoint in the main campaign and beat the first of four co-op levels through nothing more than sheer bloody-mindedness. I played the game like I would play Quake or Halo and I got killed enough for the local undertaker to retire from.

My first death was during an attempt on the first of four co-op stages after one of the AI guerrillas was cheeky enough to flank me and lodge a single bullet in the back of my skull. No shield took the blow, no health bar dropped; down I fell. Dead. I sighed and called my team-mate over to revive me and, much to my chagrin, found out that the smoking hole running through my skull actually killed me permanently. Much to my friend's chagrin, the same rebel peeked around the corner and ploughed a few choice shots into his chest, putting him in the same predicament.

Several dozen attempts later, the level was beat, a whopping eight achievement points were mine and no lessons were learnt. GRAW collected dust on my shelf for over a year.

It was only recently that, by complete mistake (Halo 3 had been filed away into a music CD by someone no doubt fed up by their constant multiplayer thrashings) that I picked up the game to kill some time. It was either that or sink even more hours working a thankless job on this very site.

Luckily for me, but unfortunately for anyone out there hoping that the Spectrum 128k database is completed anytime soon, I rescued GRAW from the cobwebbed corner I'd stashed it away in and quickly discovered what I was doing wrong. Turns out that GRAW is not so much realistic as it is plain sadistic.

That's not to discount the game's prominent sense of realism, though. It only takes a single, well-placed bullet to see you off and the wounds you collect in mission do not magically and conveniently vanish. By all means, run head first into that small circle of tents with your gun blazing -- just expect to be dead long before you spot your first target. Both the angles and the numbers are always against you.

Fight with your head first. Otherwise, leave Mexico in a body bag.

But when the zip closes, at least you'll have company. The war-torn nation is in the middle of a bloody coup thatís drawn specialist US forces in to police the world, as they are wont to do. Things start as they mean to go on; youíre dropped in the middle of a hot zone and asked to rendezvous with an agent in the heart of a dilapidated town. Scan your surroundings and notice the small group of guards at the bottom of the slope you stand upon. Use your assault rifle's scope to zoom in, take a knee to reduce your target size in case they return fire and hold your breath to steady your aim. Aim for the head for a quick death; go for the throat for an agonising one.

The mission soon goes sour and you and three other soldiers find themselves hounded out of the city by hostile forces. You'll need to fortify yourself on a bridge as troops below hail you with bullets, play hide and seek around long-rusted trains in an abandoned station and try and utilise the sparse and interspersed cover in wide open city squares while trying to stay out of hidden sniper scopes.

It's here that the Advanced Warfare moniker starts to earn its keep. High-calibre sniper rifles that shoot through walls, rapid-firing assault rifles that spit gas grenades and a huge collection of handguns aren't your only or even your most effective weapon. Circling above your besieged platoon is your very own personal mini-satellite that tracks and identifies both hostile and friendly targets. This will save your life over and over again.

Cautiously creep through the starting stage in urban Mexico and find your pick up point only a heavily armed garrison holed up on massive warehouse away. Fanned out by the security gate and using burnt-out trucks and concrete boulevards as cover, the numbers your squad face are overwhelming. Poke your head out for even a quick snatch of returning fire and you risk getting hit by the sheer force of the defender's attacks. The answer: hold your ground. A screen full of red diamonds presented by your little helper in the sky shows you exactly where each of the rebel gunmen hides, and there's a helicopter on the way.

Select command of the gunbird, point it in the direction of the soldiers and release death from above.

It was around this point that exactly how I was meant to play the game clicked. I ordered my troops to not charge through the urban war zone but to creep through narrow side alleys and peek from behind burning debris and from atop fog-curtained rooftops. Fire fights stopped being run and gun and became battles of wits. Cover was utilised, the angles of fire were weighed out, calculated and random hails of hopeful bullets were replaced with carefully plotted shots. One bullet, one kill -- there was no margin for error, because the resounding bark of a firearm would certainly attract unwanted attention. Here, you donít fight soldiers who graduate from the Storm-trooper School of Marksmanship; youíre up against fellow pros thatíve just as much chance of pulling off a quick head-shot as we did.

So I worked the odds. When airlifted alone into a hostile-choked enemy installation armed with nothing but a sniper rifle, I bode my time. I kept my calm when, mere seconds into the level, a loaded truck full of enemy targets accelerated dangerously to my position and emptied out a platoon of soldiers. I didn't run in guns a-blazing; I lay in the cover of darkness. I held my breath and took out the initial troops that stormed from the vehicle from behind my sniper scope, and I used thermal vision to root out those who had gone to ground and wait me out. I vanished into the thick forest the encampment was built around when an attack chopper flew in low to pepper me with bullets and I slowly watched and learnt the routes of the enemy patrols. I circled heavily-guarded signal-jamming equipment, took my shots and vanished back into the night only to appear somewhere else minutes later to assault the encamped squadron with a new angle of head-shots and hand grenades.

I was unseen, I was ethereal -- I was a Ghost. I learnt that being so is the only way I could dream of winning the war I fought.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 04, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted October 23, 2009:

Awesome review, dude. I actually liked it more than I did Halo 3. The bits about the thankless job, about playing the game like you did Quake, about shelving the game for ages (something I did as well!), and about the enemies not graduating from the Stormtrooper school of combat--well, they conspired toward a pretty entertaining read. Killer ending too, with the Ghost bit.
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EmP posted October 23, 2009:

Thanks, Marc. I remember spending ages on this one, so I'm glad it's been noticed.

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