In Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, we got an idea of what the US Army's Advanced Warfighter project involved. Ubisoft based the technologies in the game on the Army's project to turn the low-tech infantryman into a networked, digitally integrated fighting machine. This manifested itself in GRAW, where you could rely on your high-tech gear to help turn the tide of battle in a vicious fight to defeat a Mexican Army coup in Mexico City. Fittingly, in the upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, you'll be able to take advantage of the 2.0 versions of that gear to carry on the fight as the action shifts to the US border with Mexico. We got a chance to give the game a test-drive to check out this new equipment, and it's clear that you'll be more lethal than ever once you get your hands on this new gear.
Though GRAW 2 is set immediately after the events of the first game, there was apparently enough time to outfit US Army Captain Scott Mitchell (your character) with the latest gear before he is sent out again to fight. In GRAW 2, the Mexican rebels have brought the fight to the area around El Paso, Texas, and you'll have to fight to defend US soil. This also means that you'll go from the urban combat of GRAW to more rural and wilderness battles.
In GRAW 2, the heart of the Advanced Warfighter system remains the Crosscom, an advanced communications system that does a lot more than simply let you talk to your squadmates. In addition to giving you the positions of all of your squadmates, as well as identifying and targeting hostiles, the Crosscom gives you a video feed that lets you see what your fellow soldiers see. This video system gets a huge upgrade in GRAW 2. Previously, the video feed was limited to a small window in the corner of your helmet-mounted display, which was sort of like trying to watch the big game on a postage stamp-sized display. In other words, it wasn't that helpful. In the sequel, you can now switch to a full-screen view of the action by simply holding down the right bumper on the Xbox 360 controller, and this improvement isn't just for looks. By using the full-screen video feed, you can now move the camera around, issuing orders and commands to your troops remotely.
For example, imagine a situation where your squad comes under fire from an entrenched enemy. You can get cover and lay down covering fire while ordering the rest of your team to a point where they can hit the enemy. They'll automatically engage the enemy if they're under the assault rules of engagement (the other rule of engagement is recon, in which they'll hold fire unless fired upon). While they're firing on the enemy, you can switch to their camera, and if you detect another enemy or a target of opportunity, you simply lock the cursor on the target and hit the up button on the Xbox 360's D pad to issue an attack order. This essentially lets you be in two places at once.
The Crosscom becomes even more useful when commanding the drones in the game. If you played GRAW, then you'll remember the aerial surveillance drone that gives you a bird's-eye view of the battlefield. You now can have full control over the drone, as well as receive full-screen video of its surveillance feed. All you have to do is select the drone by hitting left or right on the D pad and then hold down the right bumper to receive the feed. In full-screen view, you can move the drone around by using the right joystick, so you can scout ahead of your location easily this way. Just remember that enemies can see the drone too, and they'll open fire on it, so don't let it linger too long in one position.
GRAW 2 will introduce another battlefield utility drone: the Mule. It looks like a miniature armored personnel carrier, but the Mule is probably going to be your best friend in the game. Basically, the Mule is a mobile resupply point, which is capable of rearming you if you're running low on bullets or if you need to swap your assault rifle out for an antitank missile launcher. In addition, the Mule will patch your wounds up so you can get back to full health.
However, the Mule can also be useful in a number of other ways. If you need to scout ahead, you can select the Mule by hitting left or right on the D pad and then give it a movement order by simply pointing to the location and hitting the up button on the D pad or by holding down the right bumper. This gives you a full-screen feed from the Mule's camera, and you can use the joystick to drive it yourself. You can then use the Mule to draw enemy fire and use the camera to locate the source of that fire.
Another cool aspect of the Mule is that you can use it as mobile moving cover. Let's say that you need to cross an open expanse under heavy fire. If you order the Mule to move ahead while you stick behind it, it'll shield you from the bullets. But you need to be careful because while the Mule is armored, it's not invulnerable, and we lost our Mule after letting it take too much damage.
You'll also be able to use the Crosscom when it comes to larger vehicles, such as a Bradley fighting vehicle, but you won't be able to control those directly. However, you can use the full-screen video feed to see what the vehicle commander sees, and this is useful for designating targets or scanning the battlefield from a relatively safe position. And like in the first game, you can still give general movement orders to vehicles, so if you're working in conjunction with an M1 tank crew, you can tell the tank to halt while you clear the area of antitank missile-armed infantry.
The new Crosscom system represents a significant improvement in GRAW 2 because you'll be able to use it to think and act more tactically than before. The positioning of your soldiers is now important because they become remote cameras from which you can observe and direct the action. However, it also looks cool because the video feed looks like the action is being captured by a combat cameraman. The game takes a few liberties in that regard--a "phantom" camera usually shows you a third-person view of your soldiers--but it's a nice cinematic effect nonetheless. You'll be able to check it out for yourself when Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 ships next month.
Stay tuned for a look at the other specific new features in GRAW 2 in the coming weeks