GRAW 1.5. Uh…I mean…2

I was a bit reluctant to pay full price for this, given that it was getting criticism for being more of a mission pack and reviews have mentioned a short campaign. But at the same time, I loved the first GRAW and played a ton of multiplayer as well, and if they only criticism of the single player was the length (no mention of horrible difficulty spikes, dodgy checkpoint spacing, stingy health system, and at least one horrible bug) then it was a fairly sure thing that I’d get on with it.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

What ultimately sold me, though, was that the achievements were all nice, round numbers. I still resent the first one for leaving me with a deformed gamerscore thanks to the weird numbers for finishing the co-op campaign. Only fives and tens here!

GRAW was one of the first games that really looked like you were playing it on a next-gen console but, like PGR3, going back to it isn’t especially kind to the memories. GRAW 2 makes it look much worse. The explosions, in particular, are gorgeous; some of the best in any game that I’ve seen. There’s a moment on the very first mission when you plant C4 in a cave and get to see the smoke and debris blown out through the cave entrances when it detonates. It’s a fairly incidental effect but it looks amazing.

Ubisoft has ground down those rough edges, particularly with regard to the frustration factor. There are fewer moments of drawn out battles without checkpoints, the new medic gives you a health boost without having to struggle to the next ammo box, the enhanced Cross Com (complete with full screen feeds) allows you to command your team and support vehicles accurately when they’re out of view, and your chaingun on the Black Hawk doesn’t overheat within seconds. Now I’m playing the game on the hardest difficulty and finding it challenging rather than infuriating.

The main complaint is that the game is short. Eight hours on the hardest difficulty short. Also the script is quite rubbish, full of annoying military stereotypes. Not in the tongue-in-cheek way that Gears did it either, where at least it knew that it was stupid as hell. Just people ending every sentence by calling you ‘soldier’ and giving inspirational speeches while you’re trying not to get your head shot off, which lets down the otherwise stellar sound – suitably epic music and some great use of the surround.

Multiplayer in GRAW seems to get rave reviews that I just don’t understand. It looks far worse than the single player, lacks many of the features (no cover, for example), controls sluggishly, and, unforgiveably given the graphics, often runs like a dog. I just wish they’d used the single player engine because the gulf is even wider this time. Competitive play in this is rubbish, frankly, and the multiplayer suite is only saved for me by the fun co-op campaign which has more variety in its objectives over last time. If you’re somehow liked the first one in competitive multi you’ll still enjoy this one, I’m sure, but I didn’t then and still don’t now after a year of better deathmatch experiences.

Fuck Rainbow Six (excluding multiplayer). The GRAW series is where I want my squad-based military action to come from. Just give it more than a year before the next one so that we can get a campaign of a decent length. And stop the multiplayer looking like an Xbox game.

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