We've taken a sniper's aim at "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2," the newest installment in squad-based warfare from publisher UbiSoft and a sequel to one of last year's best games.
It's a definite step up from the original — and that's saying a lot.
The game has a refined interface, even better graphics and an engaging multiplayer experience that balances out the extremely short single-player mode.
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Called "GRAW2" for short, this new title (Rated E, $59.99 for Xbox 360, $49.99 for Windows PCs) picks up in the year 2014 with Capt. Scott Mitchell.
He leads the U.S. military's elite Ghost Recon unit and arrives at Fort Bliss, Texas, near El Paso, just in time to deal with a civil war in Mexico that threatens to boil over into the United States.
The resulting action makes for some of the best tactical squad-based gameplay around.
The single-player game is incredibly short — I wrapped it up in an afternoon — but at least it provides a quick rundown of the many improvements over the original.
The real game exists in the deep, varied multiplayer modes, which include online matches with others on Xbox Live as well in-person games with up to four people.
You'll have to make some basic decisions before each game — who do you want to accompany you on the battlefield?
In single-player mode, you will be the one giving orders with a few well-considered button presses.
The basic mix of gunner, rifleman and medic unit works well for most fights, but there will be times when you'll want to swap out those spots for more specialized combatants like the grenadier, who can expertly destroy armored vehicles.
Different units make for different tactics, too. It takes longer, but sneaking from one cover spot to another, shooting only when necessary, is often the best approach. There will be times when explosive Rambo-style romps are required, so be ready to switch from sneak mode to combat mode when necessary.
The game packs sharp, detailed graphics with explosions that fill the screen and outdoor environments across Central America that come alive with realistically rendered buildings, trees and vehicles.
Fans of the original game will love this sequel. It may not be long but what you get is extremely polished and fun to play. And the multiplayer modes are about as good as online action gaming gets on the Xbox 360.
Three and a half stars out of four.