It was only a matter of time before Ubisoft's Ghost Recon series blasted its way to the PlayStation Portable, and it makes a very solid impression with Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2. The Ghost Recon series has always been about playing with the latest and greatest weapons taxpayer money can buy, from the boots of an elite US infantryman. And the PSP game is no different because you'll get to blast enemies half a dozen ways.
It's a bit strange that this is called Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 because this is the very first Ghost Recon game for the PSP. The game itself also bears very little resemblance to its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 cousins. Rather than try to port the superb console game onto a handheld, developer High Voltage instead created a brand new game built specifically for the PSP, complete with an original story and setting, though it's also one that makes sense in the context of the series. In the console GRAW1 and GRAW2, you play as U.S. Army Captain Scott Mitchell as he, along with his fellow soldiers, battles rebels in Mexico. Throughout those games, it's hinted that the Mexican rebels are getting their weapons from somewhere in Central and South America. In the PSP game, you get to go after the source of the rebel's weapons, though the fact that you're still playing at Scott Mitchell stretches the plot's credibility just a bit. After all, if you're familiar with the series, he's supposed to be busy up in Mexico at this time.
Still, that plot quibble is minor. GRAW2 serves up a four-to-six-hour campaign that takes you through jungles, swamps, towns, and military bases. What's impressive is that the PSP game manages to squeeze in a lot of the functionality found in console games. You aren't just running around with a rifle; you're a fully networked soldier able to call on multiple assets. What's missing is the ability to command other soldiers and vehicles, so you're pretty much an army of one in this game. This means the PSP game doesn't have the tactical depth of the console games; thus, the ensuing experience turns out to be fairly linear. At least the game gives you different ways of taking out the enemy. You can call in an overhead drone and drop bombs on enemies or call in naval artillery on their heads. You can also try to be creative with grenades and explosives.
All your abilities make for a slightly cumbersome control scheme because you'll have to manage the drone while waging a firefight and swapping weapons. It's a bit too easy to mix up the controls. Another issue is that there are some frustrating escort sequences that will want to make you hurl your PSP at something. For example, in one sequence, you have to escort a vehicle through enemy-infested streets, and there's absolutely no margin for error. The vehicle won't stop for you, so you have to have an incredible amount of patience to play through this sequence until you get the chain of events down perfectly.
The weapons in GRAW2 are plentiful, including the SCAR assault rifle, the OICW all-in-one super rifle, the Zeus antitank launcher, sniper rifles, silenced submachine guns, and even enemy weapons that you can pick up off the ground. Weapons have a slightly different feel to them, and frankly, we preferred the nonscoped weapons because they were easier to wield in a firefight. The enemy artificial intelligence can do some smart things, such as drop to a prone position when fired upon and running for cover. But it's also predictable and can be completely oblivious of a firefight going on 100 feet away. Still, that's about par for the course for PSP shooters.
GRAW2's biggest weakness is its lack of any type of competitive multiplayer suite. There's only cooperative multiplayer with another person, which lets you tackle the story together. There is no kind of deathmatch or team deathmatch or the like, which is disappointing when you consider what other games on the platform deliver, not to mention the fact that the Ghost Recon franchise is well known for its competitive multiplayer action.
The production values in GRAW2 are good. There's a nice range of environments to play in and a fair amount of detail packed in them. The game can be played from both the first-person and third-person perspective, depending on your tastes. Some of the animations are a bit clunky, such as how enemy soldiers can go from standing to prone instantly, but otherwise the action is smooth. And the audio is fairly standard for Ghost Recon, from the prerequisite weapons sounds to the voice chatter over your communications system.
In the end, GRAW2 makes for a solid single-player shooter, but the lack of any kind of competitive multiplayer cripples the package's value quite a bit.