Once you get past the lighting you start to notice some superb atmospheric effects that make the environment even more convincing. Water is beautifully done in GRAW and rainy levels are a joy to behold. I found myself constantly dying in a multiplayer map set in a dockyard as I just wandered around gawking at the scenery – the way the rain drops splashed into the surface water on the floor was just mesmerising. As if the rainfall wasn’t enough, random flashes of lightning would briefly illuminate your surroundings and reveal detail that you had no idea was there – if you’ve ever seen ATI’s Toy Shop demo, it’s similar to that, but fully playable! At the opposite end of the spectrum there are subtle heat haze effects that highlight the hot and arid locations – look through your scope and the horizon will waver as the heat rises off the ground.
Graphically GRAW epitomises next generation gaming, but there’s a lot more to a great game than graphics alone. Thankfully this game isn’t just a pretty face, and there’s a lot to be commended elsewhere. The single player campaign mode is challenging to say the least and there’s enough variety in the missions to keep you plugging away to the end. I won’t go into much detail about the storyline, but it’s fairly predictable US flag waving fare. Set in the near future, Mexico is plunged into turmoil as rebels attempt to overthrow the government – luckily the US is on hand to send in some crack troops and save the day. Like I said, very predictable, but no more so than your average mid-budget Hollywood action movie – throw Steven Seagal into the mix and GRAW could be easily a Channel 5 midweek movie.
It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the control method, and generally it all works very well. The default view is an “over the shoulder” third person method – this works pretty well, especially if you’re used to the Splinter Cell series or even SOCOM on the PS2. Personally I prefer a first person view in a game like this and a quick trip to the options menu granted my wish. To be fair both views have their plus and minus points, but I’m so used to playing first person shooter games on the PC, that the over the shoulder view just feels a bit alien to me.