Most of the coverage on the newest installment in the Ghost Recon series has focused on the Xbox 360 version of the military shooter. Up until now we'd seen neither hide nor hair of current-generation console versions of the game, which are due out around the same time as the Xbox 360 and PC versions. We recently got a chance to go hands-on with a recent build of the Xbox version of the game, to see how it compares with its big brother on the Xbox 360. If you're looking for more-general coverage of what the game is about or how the campaign plays, you should definitely read our
The Xbox version shares the same objectives as the 360 version of the game. You take the role of an elite light infantryman in Mexico City, part of the security task force guarding the leaders of Canada, the United States, and Mexico as they meet in a major North American summit. Mexican insurgents attack the summit, killing the Canadian Prime Minister and putting the leaders of both the US and Mexico at grave risk. You'll find that your combat objectives in the sprawling city of Mexico change quickly as you fight your way from one part of town to the next, guarding the surviving national leaders as best you can in the beginning of the game. Within just the first couple of hours of the game, you'll pluck snipers off of rooftops, destroy enemy truck convoys, escort VIPs to safety, and engage dozens of insurgent soldiers swarming to overrun fixed positions. Your weapons range from standard assault rifles to sniper rifles, grenades, and even timed explosive packs.
Your view includes a heads-up display with picture-in-picture capabilities. This lets you see the action from your teammates' perspectives, as well as receive video orders from superior officers or intelligence information from assets on the battlefield like UAV robotic recon planes. The video feed from your teammates' helmets isn't exactly smooth at this point--in our build the feed was a bit of a jerky slide show, but you're still given enough detail to tell what he's looking at. This is important, because the city streets in Advanced Warfighter are laid out in a surprisingly wide and sprawling fashion for an Xbox shooter. You can usually pick out at least two or three different possible paths to your objectives, which will vary the encounters. For example, one early encounter had us moving down a side street, which allowed us to maneuver around an insurgent vehicle convoy to avoid combat. When we replayed the same portion, we chose another street, which led us to a machine gun nest that allowed us to easily engage and destroy the same convoy.
While tactical decisions like that seem to be pretty common in the game, don't expect a completely slow-paced combat affair. Your movement speed in the game is surprisingly fast, and sprinting allows you to move even faster to move from one piece of cover to the next. You can also use some simple squad commands to position any subordinate soldiers from one place to another, or call them back into formation. You'll still need to be careful, as you can only take a few hits before going down, and if you happen to turn a blind corner right into an enemy, it's quite possible to die in a single hail of bullets. To help you on your missions, you'll find supply stations scattered conveniently around the battlefield that allow you to patch up wounds and resupply ammunition for both you and your squadmates. These also serve as save points, though the game does seem to include a generous number of automatic checkpoints.
From what we've seen thus far, the visuals in the game are comparable to your average Xbox shooter. Character models show an adequate level of detail, as do the urban street environments, which include numerous ladders and outside stairwells for getting on the roofs--the higher vantage point is a definite plus for combat. We do have some concerns over the look of the game at this point. Whereas the Xbox 360 version can use high dynamic range lighting techniques to show off brightly lit times of day such as dawn and dusk, the same scenes in the Xbox version aren't looking quite as dramatic. Right now, the daytime scenes in Advanced Warfighter on the Xbox simply bathe everything in a bright orange-yellow haze. Again, the game still definitely looks on par with current-generation console shooters, so temper your expectations for this game in that regard.
There were also some noticeable graphical hiccups and stutters in-game, particularly while the game would load up and play video sequences in the cross-com heads-up display for you. Hopefully these sorts of issues will get ironed out in advance of the game's release next month. As it stands, Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox still has a chance to position itself among shooters, thanks to its relatively unique setting in a major city, as well as its ambitious presentation, with so much going on in the heads-up display. Keep an eye on GameSpot for more updates on all versions of Advanced Warfighter as the game's release date approaches.