But the key differences between this game and the first GRAW don’t really come down to new gameplay features or visual enhancements. The simple fact is that GRAW2 is the better designed game, all round. In a sense, GRAW1 was all about the technology – what you could do with next-generation hardware – and the fact that the pacing was all over the shop and that it contained difficulty spikes that could make grown men weep hardly came into it. With the technology already in place, the team working on GRAW2 has been able to concentrate on smoothing out these issues and building a more enjoyable experience.
The mission design, better orchestrated in terms of moments of tension and patches of relief, takes much of the credit here, but we should also applaud the introduction of the medic and the mule. The first is a troop who can heal you and your other squad members on the field, and the second an armoured, land-based drone vehicle that, acting under your commend, can resupply and refortify you during missions. This makes the whole thing slightly less demanding (you can almost hear the hardcore whispering ‘dumbed-down’) but also much less of a slog. Gone are the days of dying repeatedly, or of finding yourself at a checkpoint two thirds of the way through a mission with precious little health, meaning you have to restart the mission from the beginning in order to proceed. The AI remains tough and intelligent, but at least it’s super-human. Your squad, meanwhile, seems more inclined to take cover and watch for outflanking targets, and less inclined to get stuck out of cover concentrating on one target while his chums take handy sniping positions around the sides.
This is a looser, less anal game. It’s more action packed, and even the usual ‘how the hell do I get out of this’ set pieces are more enjoyable. The game actually feels free to take chances, at several points cutting you off from your men, and even from your high-tech toys, to give you a more scary, close-to-the-bone combat experience. Even the on-rails shooting gallery sections are storming. Having been deprived of your best weapons and shot at by hordes of cowardly rebels, nothing says payback better than blasting them and their jeeps from the safety of an armoured helicopter. Let the soundtrack swell up, and enjoy that Apocalypse Now feeling….