Tom Clancy is a prolific author. Heâ€™s written numerous books about secret army units and all sorts of other army-related drama, including a bunch of which (based on the Jack Ryan character) have made very successful Hollywood blockbusters. In addition to kicking butt and taking names in the book and movie forms of media, heâ€™s actually a serious brand in videogames as well. Between Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 alone, there are more than 70 games across more than 15 different platforms!
The latest, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, has just been launched on the PlayStation 3 â€“ some six months after it hit the Xbox 360 (way back in March) and nearly two months after the PC release (back in July).
The premise of the game is simple enough â€“ youâ€™re in charge of a crack top secret group of elite armed marines, whose task in life is to solve problems by using their wit, the high tech gadgets at their disposal and of course their guns. Typically this means operating behind enemy lines, anywhere from a miscellaneous third world urban sprawl to a barren desert terrain to an inner city warzone, straight out of todayâ€™s (or tomorrowâ€™s) headlines.
Through a rather complex interface (seriously â€“ Rainbow Six Vegas offers the same functionality but itâ€™s way simpler to use) you can order your troops around, set their status, control a UAV and generally run around and blow stuff up. Fortunately the controls, whilst still complex, are a significant improvement on those seen in the original Advanced Warfighter. They could do with further simplification but if you persevere youâ€™ll pick them up in reasonably short order.
The array of weapons and items (you can choose different scopes for each of the different scope-mountable rifles, for example, as well as a vast array of support equipment, grenades, etc) is impressive, and the choice you make really does impact how the battle plays out. The terrain of each of the areas is usually diverse enough to allow you to approach it in a number of different ways, depending on your play style (just so long as your play style isnâ€™t CHAAAAAARGE-oriented; youâ€™ll die, really quickly).
Graphically speaking, this is a pretty lacklustre game. Thereâ€™s a long draw distance but when the city scape you can see is a bunch of boxes on a boring and flat terrain, which is all very flatly lit, thereâ€™s not much joy to be had from the vista. This lack of visual excitement is something youâ€™ll have plenty of time to observe, thanks to the frequent and extended pre-level sequences that place you in a helicopter, jeep or other vehicle where the only control you have is to look around. Even the characters are pretty average â€“ but then, Heavenly Sword has kind of ruined other games for us in that regard, for the foreseeable future.
Where it is impressive is in the explosion and smoke effects â€“ the combination of high impact sound, bright/expansive visuals and the shake of your camera makes for quite an impact. Sure, it looks like you set off a mini-nuke when that small vehicle exploded but hey, it looked cool â€“ who cares if itâ€™s realistic. There are the occasional frameouts but for the most part, the frame rate stays high enough so as not to impact your ability to eliminate terrorists in a hail of bullets. Just donâ€™t expect the level of visual polish and speed as seen in the Call of Duty 4 beta on Xbox 360.
The aural scope of the game is pretty good â€“ weapons sound great, explosions have a good level of thump and you can pick up the type of vehicle and where it is just from the sound effects â€“ a great advantage in a game where you can easily be surprised by enemies coming up on you unexpectedly. The voice acting is also excellent, with frequent clips from your team mates adding to those used in the cutscenes and on the pseudo-CNN videoclips.
So at the end of the day, what has Advanced Warfighter to offer? Itâ€™s a good game with a good chunk of content that will take you a while to get through, a good array of difficulty levels to allow you to customize your experience to your ability and a passable, pseudo-Clancy story of political intrigue that plays out as you progress. If youâ€™ve got a 360, thereâ€™s no reason to buy the PS3 version â€“ with the 360 version currently retailing for around $60, you could pick up two games for the price of one and have the exact same experience.
However if you donâ€™t have a 360 and youâ€™re looking for a Clancy-themed strategic shooter, this is your only option. Fortunately itâ€™s a pretty good one â€“ thereâ€™s enough here to justify the purchase, even if people wonâ€™t automatically pick that youâ€™re playing on a next-gen console.