War isn't cool. People get shot and blown up and stuff. But when you're sat in front of your TV with a copy of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter buzzing round in your Xbox, the joy of its absorbing warfare is going to keep you stuck to your controller like it's coated in superglue.
Advanced Warfighter is special. You've played wargames that hark back to the bigger wars in history, particularly WWII, with its ancient guns, propeller-driven warplanes and simple metal helmets. There are so many of those it's almost getting boring using the same feeble old guns to waste Nazis. On the other hand you've also had your fair share of sci-fi shooters, with laser guns, farfetched time-travel and teleportation. Escapism is all good.
Advanced Warfighter also takes you into the future. But it's a uniquely believable interpretation of what war might actually be like in the near future. It gives you a
realistic idea of the kind of equipment the military might be carrying into the battlefield in years to come, and how this technology will affect the way they do battle. It's not just guesswork either - the development team worked with real military sources to ensure the game is as authentic as can be. The guns and gadgets you use are all based on real-life military weapons and actual concept designs.
It's amazing to think that you get to see some of the hardware that's being developed for the future battlefield in action. Going hands-on with the cool guns and gadgets featured in the new Ghost Recon got us all excited like boys on a Christmas morning...
The most significant of all are the many impressive functions of your helmet (or your on-screen HUD). Your fancy soldier-hat is actually part of an advanced satellite system called IWS (Integrated Warfighter System). You can see the map in the top-right of the screen. Similar to the Metal Gear Solid games, it not only displays the layout of surrounding structures but also the positions of any hostiles. Handy, but not a complete cheat - your helmet's cool tracking system will only track the locations of enemies you've seen. These positions also show up on your main view, outlining anyone in your sights with a red marker, as well as friendly personnel in green and mission objectives in blue.
Waypoint markers and enemy locators have featured in countless games before. And though Advanced Warfighter deserves credit for justifying these features with actual technology, essentially they're nothing new. But what is amazing is the box on the top-left that links you to your comrades during missions, which shows you what your partner is looking at. This is linked to your helmet's tracking systems - the positions of any hostiles he sees will be fed to you and tracked on your HUD. It's also useful if you drift apart - you can look at the visor to see what he's up to.
Giving orders to your squadmate couldn't be easier. Pressing up on the D-pad sends him in the direction you're facing. If you send him forwards into points of cover, he's useful for scoping out areas for hostiles before you tip-toe in. You can send your guys to attack a specific target by tapping up while aiming at the hostile you want floored. Tapping Y switches your man between Stealth and Assault modes. In Stealth mode they do their best to stay hidden and only shoot when shot at. In Assault mode they go berserk like Taz the Tasmanian devil, blasting crazy shots and lobbing grenades at anything that moves. It's not a mode you want to be using often.
What struck us almost instantly is the reserved nature of the game - it isn't the crazy, all-out action shooter the trailer footage led us to believe. We were expecting a frantic, high-octane battle to kick off from the word go - something comparable to the intense Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. But the first mission quickly proved us wrong.