Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox continues the disturbing trend of releasing games on different platforms that have the same name but offer vastly different gaming experiences. If you were wondering if Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox might offer something similar to the superb tactical shooter of the same name on the Xbox 360, you can stop wondering now. It doesn't, and it's not even close. GRAW for the Xbox is the perfect example of what happens when you try to cram too much game into a system that clearly can't handle it. The graphics are only OK, even for an Xbox game, and compromises in the gameplay design hamper the experience, making GRAW feel like just another military-themed shooter.
You take the role of Captain Scott Mitchell, a squad leader in the Ghosts, an elite unit of light infantrymen in the US Army. Mexican separatists have attacked a North American summit going on in Mexico City, and they have killed the Canadian Prime Minister, while both the US and Mexican presidents have gone missing. Along the course of the game's approximately 10-hour campaign, you'll need to rescue both presidents, recover the nuclear "football" that was also lost by the US president, and take out the leader of the uprising. The campaign will take you through different parts of Mexico City, including Camp Chapultepec, downtown, and outlying shantytowns.
The heads-up display uses an overlay with digital information. This includes your health and ammo readouts, as well as a couple of picture-in-picture video windows that show you the view from your squadmate's helmet camera, and another window where you'll receive orders from off-site commanders and officers. These aren't nearly as impressive as they sound on paper, though. The video screen that shows the view of your teammate looks more like a slide show than anything else, as it updates in single-digit frame rates. The window that shows your commanders giving orders aren't even true video screens, as they just show a loop of the men flapping their mouths, like an animated GIF. These windows and the way they are implemented in the Xbox version of GRAW make them a waste of screen real estate and they do little to add to the ambience.
The rest of the graphics are pretty average as well. Unlike other Ghost Recon games, you play this one from a first-person perspective, so all you see is your gun model. The character models offer decent levels of detail, but the texturing both in the dense urban areas and in the outlying areas looks somewhat drab and sloppy. The bright, high-dynamic range lighting that gave GRAW on the Xbox 360 such a unique look gives way to a plain, yellow-orange haze on the Xbox version during daytime segments, making everything look oddly washed out. Some of the urban levels are decently spacious and sprawling, but repetitive-looking buildings make the areas look more like an overgrown tract-housing development than a true metropolis. Excessive fogging in the distance also hinders the look of the game, and even the gameplay when you try to snipe from long range. The animations for the movement of your teammate and enemies moving around are decent, but the death animations can be odd at times. Shooting enemies in GRAW usually results in them flopping backward or convulsing violently like you're watching a bad B-grade action movie. Framerates can also stutter, at times, usually when the game is trying to load up more dialog when you trigger a scripted sequence.
The gameplay here isn't nearly as tactical as you'd expect, based on previous games on the Xbox, let alone GRAW for the Xbox 360. Your movement speed is extremely fast, and trying to peek around corners is awkward. You can't go prone in this game, nor can you climb over even short walls or obstacles. The scope drift as you're peering through a rifle sight is excessive as well, making it difficult to aim even while kneeling. The result of all this is that you'll often find yourself just sprinting through a hail of fire to get a closer shot at an enemy instead of trying to find a covered position from which to shoot. The run-and-gun nature of the game takes away from the traditional Ghost Recon flavor and makes it feel like just another military-themed shooter.
The mission types are still nice and varied, as you'll rescue VIPs like the president, escort armor through thickly defended areas, and set up defenses at outpost areas against assaults. You'll also get the chance to call in attacks from choppers and sniper teams, though your control over these helper units is pretty limited. You only have control over one teammate in this version of the game, as opposed to a full support squad of three in the 360 version of GRAW and previous games in the Ghost Recon series. This further limits your tactical options, and makes GRAW feel even more like a standard first-person shooter. Your teammate is pretty good at eliminating enemies, but on more than one occasion he got stuck in the environment somewhere and we had to go back and fish him out of a tricky alley or corridor.
GRAW's sound isn't particularly good either, as you can actually cause quirks in the sound mixing by completing objectives more quickly than the actors can update the action via the dialogue. In other words, the stuff they're talking about in your video screen may have actually happened a few minutes ago. In other cases, the dialogue doesn't quite reflect what's happening in the game. For example, the level where you move through a shantytown with armored support has you walking along with an M1 Abrams tank in the Xbox version. The dialogue from the 360 version is recycled for use in this game however, and it talks about you supporting a Bradley-armored fighting vehicle instead of an Abrams. Sloppiness like this may not be that annoying to some people, but it serves as a great example of how this version feels more like a rushed port than a game that was really designed to be played for the Xbox. The best thing that can be said about the sound is that the guns sound good here, and the voice acting is pretty good. But even the sound mixing of these can be a little disjointed and sloppy at times, like when a helicopter explodes just overhead, and the sound of the explosion is a fraction of a second late.
Multiplayer action on GRAW is available for four players, split-screen, or for 12 players on Xbox Live or system link. There are a good variety of adversarial modes and maps, ranging from typical ones like last man standing, or team sharpshooter, to assassination and others. These modes and maps generally work pretty well, but they still feel fairly standard. Online cooperative mode is available in this game for up to two players, and you can take on the campaign missions together. The typical array of online features like leaderboards, friends lists, and the ability to create online squads is available, though.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox doesn't measure up to its namesake on the Xbox 360. And, to boot, it isn't even nearly as good as the last Ghost Recon game for the Xbox, Summit Strike. Too many compromises in the gameplay design, and sloppily integrated assets and ideas from the Xbox 360 version of the game drag this version down into mediocrity. Those who aren't picky about their military shooters will find some redeeming value here, but for others, GRAW just doesn't feel all that worthwhile, regardless of whether or not you've played it on the 360.