I guess Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2) had some of the faint praise it’s been damned with coming. First you make a dazzling game that arguably defines what we expect from next-gen gaming, then you follow it up a scant twelve months later with a sequel that – at a glance – looks virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor. Setting the game back in Mexico only makes things worse. Is this really a sequel, an update, a 1.5 revision or just a glorified expansion pack? Can Ubisoft really expect us to cough up around £40 to find out?
Well, on some of these points I can’t argue. There’s no doubt that GRAW2 looks eerily similar to GRAW1. I’m told that the engine has seen some enhancements, but the simple fact is that GRAW looked stunning a year ago and still looks stunning now, while GRAW2 looks the same with maybe a little, barely perceptible, extra gloss and detail. OK, so it tries to look different. After a brief training session the game proper kicks off in the Central American sierras, giving you ample opportunity to appreciate gentle pastoral scenes of slow-turning windmills, grass and rock – albeit inhabited by tanks, helicopter gunships and bloodthirsty insurgents. Before long, however, you’re back to the city streets, and back to the same effects that hit us last time; heat-haze, blinding HDR lighting, glorious smoke and incendiary explosions, and more textural detail in the average level than most previous generation games delivered in their entirety. Still, old GRAW hands may appreciate one graphical improvement: at least there’s very little sign of tearing.
You won’t notice much development in many other areas, either. The interface is broadly similar, and so is the general game style. You control your Special Forces protagonist, Captain Mitchell, from a third-person, over the shoulder viewpoint, and command a squad of three through D-pad commands on the main 3D view or a schematic tactical map. Surveillance drones can also be used to provide live intelligence on the battlefield, and in most cases getting through each mission is a simple case of a) moving towards the objective detailed on your HUD b) using the squad or drones to identify hostile forces between you and that objective c) moving the troops into a position where they can tackle said forces without being blasted into tiny bloody chunks and d) ordering them to open fire while providing what firepower you can yourself. Complete the steps, then repeat for the next objective. Easy stuff.