You've created one of the best games of 2006. You've appealed to critics and consumers alike. And through a combination of high quality and good timing, your product was dubbed the first truly next-gen experience by most press outlets. So what do you do for a sequel, especially if you plan on releasing it a mere year after the outstanding original?
In the case of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (mercifully referred to as GRAW 2 for the rest of this preview), the developer has smartly chosen to focus on the elements that made the first game so satisfying... then simply amplified them. Until your eyes, ears and mind bleed.
Take the mission design. From what we experienced during our hands-on with the Xbox 360 build, levels in GRAW 2 are as creatively designed and painstakingly brought to life as those in GRAW 1. But this time they're more diverse. A stark and sun-drenched desert landscape full of mountains and caves soon gave way to a twilit barrio street populated with cars and neon signs. The weather or lighting can change dynamically in either setting; in fact, the third location we battled in was lush with vegetation, but deeply dark and drenched in rainfall.
Plus, while the original's levels gave the illusion of freedom, with their tall skyscrapers and wide city squares, you and your team were usually set on a relatively linear path. From what we've seen in GRAW 2, however, the maps are much more expansive. Don't fancy rushing unawares into a terrorist camp? Now you'll be able to approach it from a multitude of angles, or climb nearby ridges to scope - or snipe - the area out first.
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