AMSTERDAM--After touting Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter pretty much since the announcement of the Xbox 360 back in May, Ubisoft finally offered us a playable version of the upcoming futuristic shooter at Microsoft's X05 event. Previous iterations of the franchise have placed you among the Ghosts, an elite squad of military specialists who are dispatched to deal with anything the regular troops can't handle. The third Ghost Recon follows the same basic model but takes place sometime in the future, to give fans access to the latest developments in military hardware.
Based on the demo mission we got to play, it looks like Advanced Warfighter will do exactly that. Anyone looking for the dry, ultratactical shooting "action" of the first Ghost Recon shouldn't get their hopes up. At its core, this third game plays very similar to Ghost Recon 2, which moved the camera to a third-person perspective and emphasized run-and-gun shooting much more than the original game. You've still got the same basic moves. You can go to crouching or prone positions, rolling over when prone to get out of the way of enemy fire. You can also back up against a wall, Splinter Cell-style, to avoid enemy fire and set up a quick return shot. If you've played Ghost Recon 2, you'll instantly feel at home with the controls here.
The most noticeable changes to Ghost Recon's gameplay with Advanced Warfighter are the result of your new equipment. The best example of this is your highly advanced visualization abilities, which make it a lot easier to pick out and keep track of important targets and threats. When you go to a zoom view with your multipurpose assault rifle and make visual contact with an enemy--even partial contact, if he's mostly hidden behind cover--your gear will be able to identify the soldier as a threat and will create a red overlay showing you the outline of his entire body, even if he's obscured by a wall or object. Obviously, this makes it a no-brainer to pick him off right when he comes around the corner.
But how about those squad tactics? Advanced Warfighter will put you in command of a team of troops just as in past games, and this time you'll have some hardware to make your allies even more useful. The game will sometimes pop up a picture-in-picture window that shows you what one of your squadmates is seeing, complete with a static sort of overlay to make it look all video-like. This came in especially handy in the mission we were playing, which initially tasked us with reaching an industrial sector but quickly changed the objective when a soldier named Ramirez was pinned down by enemy fire. We had to immediately redirect to his location along with our squad and help him out. Previous Ghost Recon games have featured a lot of missions in rural areas, but this mission centered on firefights around corners and from behind cars and cargo crates, since it was situated in a dense urban setting. Since the whole of the game is set in Mexico City, we imagine the other missions in the game will play similarly.
We also had a chance to play the multiplayer component of Advanced Warfighter in a two-on-two match set on a hilly, rocky beach area. The multiplayer here seems to be quite similar to past entries (though with far better graphics, of course): you'll be doing a lot of creeping around in a crouching or prone position to avoid other players' fire, since one or two well-placed shots can end your reign right quick. One cool feature ties into the single-player mode: you'll get that picture-in-picture video window in the upper corner of your screen that shows you everything your teammate is seeing. Since we were only playing a two-player game, it always defaulted to our compatriot, but we imagine you'll be able to cycle through all your allies' viewpoints in larger team games.
Advanced Warfighter doesn't look quite as good as that superb trailer released back when the game was announced, but it doesn't stray too far from that footage, either. Imagine the same style of gameplay and the same effects, but in lower res and with a less consistent frame rate. More important, it seems the gameplay featured in the trailer is intact, and that should please fans of the series as much as any graphical upgrade. We'll bring you more on Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter in the weeks leading up to its release.