Less than a year after the original launched on 360 (and went on pick up several technical achievement gongs) the sequel has landed. That fact alone may have you think the sequel's been rushed, and could possibly include similar bugs and inconsistencies as the first, but GRAW 2 has been given the polish it deserves.
You could argue that this is the game the original should have been. The difficulty and pacing have been better thought out, giving you a more immersive experience without those moments of yelling at the screen after being unfairly shot or having to go back and replay an entire level.
As far as the story goes, GRAW 2 continues directly after events of the first game. Back in December last year content producer Olivier Dauba told us, "The remaining rebel Mexican forces are gathering along the US border. Most of the remaining civilians are there and the US government has gathered intelligence that a weapon of mass destruction has possibly been sent there by rebels from Panama." That pretty much sums it all up nicely. After a couple of quick training exercises to sharpen up the skills - it has only been a year - it's off to war.
New additions to the formula include the Mule and the Cross Com 2.0 system, which gives you control over your team members and gadgets. The Mule is a four-wheeled unit that acts as a weapons cabinet. You can control it like a team member (to turn up behind you with more rockets for example), use it for cover or even use it to distract the enemy. Just don't let it get destroyed or it's mission over. The Cross Com can also be used to you a bird's eye view of the battle, allowing you to scan the area for hostiles. Enemy AI keeps up its end too. They're a bit on the stupid side, but at least they run off and duck behind cover if you don't get them first time. It's obvious straight away that GRAW 2 feels a bit more arcadey and forgiving than the original...
Visually the game deserves another round of applause. Running on a 32" HDTV you can't help but smile at its beauty. Some of the locations might look a little washed out and faded in parts but overall Ubisoft's developers have once again put many others to shame with what they've achieved on the 360 hardware in a relatively short space of time. We came across a few graphical glitches (yes, we were playing retail code on a retail machine) but they made us laugh more than anything.
Presentation is outstanding with the familiar HUD quaking with information and updates on your situation at every turn. Your US army superiors constantly beam in to tell you of the situation and any updates to your objectives. There's no slow-down either when all this is going on. Switching between you tactical map, weapons, team commands and stances while the talking heads are shouting at you in your HUD is as smooth as you like.
All this can be relentless at times, in a 24 kind of way. The game throws so many things at you so quickly that you might be put off by it all. But the user interface is simple and easy to get the hang of quickly, which makes decision-making on the battlefield simple.
Rarely does this pace let up, as there's always a set piece around the corner. Early on in development Ubisoft promised some pretty special explosions and smoke effects and it's a job done well. The game is still very liner, but it wants you go where it points you for a reason. Usually it's a tank blowing the shit out of the building you've just walked into, or a helicopter ripping up your immediate surrounds with gunfire as you cower behind a thin brick wall before the cavalry arrives to unleash hell on your tormentors. All very pleasing on the eye, it must be said.
The single-player game's shorter than the original and at the speed it's been created, the words 'expansion' or 'add-on' spring to mind. But there's plenty of opportunity to extend the experience by going back, ramping up the difficulty, and going after all the achievements.
As is standard now, there are several Xbox Live modes to keep your interest too. These include a great two to four player co-op mode, and space for up to 16 players on XBL with plenty of maps. But it's the same story as all the other Ghost Recons online, you need to be a ninja at the game to stand a chance of actually having some fun. That or you could just round up your mates who aren't as hardcore as most of GRAW's following.
One of the most technically impressive games on 360 that doesn't stray from the tried GR formula.
- Awesome in the visual department - truly
- User interface keeps things simple
- Impressive set-pieces
- Very similar to the original overall
- Occasional bugs
- Feels more like an expansion than a sequel