While the Ghost Recon franchise has become incredibly popular on consoles, the series hasn't forgotten its PC roots. That was evident in last year's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, which featured a PC version that was entirely different in content and style than the best-selling Xbox 360 version. And with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, it looks like Ubisoft will stick to the formula again, as PC gamers will get a version custom built for them, one that differs considerably from the recent Xbox 360 game. We got our first taste of this new GRAW recently, as we were able to check out the closed multiplayer beta test for some initial impressions.
In GRAW2, the US Army's elite special forces unit, the Ghosts, is again deployed to Mexico to deal with a force of rebels threatening the United States. The PC version is being developed by GRIN, the Swedish studio that also handled the work on the first GRAW PC game. The action in GRAW2 remains in first person, as opposed to the Xbox 360's third-person gameplay, so you're always looking through the eyes of your character.
The multiplayer beta test only features one level and two gameplay modes, though it gives us an idea of the changes that are in store. The first mode is team deathmatch. Basically, two teams enter a battle, and one team survives. Since GRAW2 is set in Mexico, the two factions are the Ghosts and Mexican Army rebels, though both sides mostly have the same weapons and equipment, so things are relatively balanced. The second mode is called recon versus assault. The Ghosts must destroy three air defense antitank systems (ADATS) on the map, while the rebels must stop them. However, the rebels are more heavily armed than the Ghosts. Ghosts can only respawn when an ADATS is destroyed, while the rebels are penalized by longer respawn times and fewer respawn locations whenever an ADATS is taken out. There's also a veterancy system in this mode, as players can unlock more powerful weapons over time.
Classes are a major new addition to GRAW2's multiplayer, and they define your role and armament on the battlefield. The first game didn't feature different classes; you simply selected from different weapon types. Now, there are five major classes in the game: demolitions, assault, rifleman, support, and sniper. The demolitions class is armed with a grenade launcher-equipped assault rifle, whereas the assault class is armed with a carbine that's good for close-quarters battle. The rifleman class is the most versatile class, since it's armed with a standard assault rifle. The support class provides heavy fire in the form of a light machine gun, while the sniper specializes in picking enemies off from afar.
The single level in the closed beta test is called Calavera, set in a Mexican shantytown positioned in a gully. The level itself is fairly large, and it could easily accommodate 32 players. Calavera is a tactical nightmare, as the outer edges of the town are elevated, providing a line of sight over most of the map. However, the lower levels of the town are a warren of buildings, narrow alleyways, dirt streets, and fenced-in yards. Snipers can climb atop any number of buildings, while infantry can stream through the built-up areas of the town. There's something here for everyone.
The one thing that hasn't changed is the pace of the game. If you're expecting a fast, Counter-Strike-style run-and-gun shooter, look elsewhere. The movement speed in the game is very slow and deliberate, and your rifle is usually at the ready. You can sprint, but it comes at the cost of lowering your rifle and being unable to shoot. You can hunch down into a crouch, as well as go entirely prone on the ground, but this reduces your movement speed considerably. So to be effective, you must use cover effectively, you should lean around cover to shoot at the enemy, and you should definitely work together in a team. The weapons modeling feels very authentic, which means that hitting someone is going to be difficult thanks to the incredible amount of recoil in the rifles. The best thing to do if you spot someone is to crouch down and bring the rifle up to use its iron sights. Trying to shoot from the hip is very inaccurate.
That's just a taste of GRAW2, for now. Keep in mind that there's a full single-player campaign as well as other multiplayer maps and modes that we haven't seen yet. GRAW2 looks promising, and Ubisoft should be recognized for publishing a version of the game that's designed solely for the PC. It would have been a lot easier to simply port over the Xbox 360 version of the game, but then it wouldn't have felt like a PC shooter. GRAW2 is scheduled to ship in June.