In a marked contrast to previous Ghost Recon titles, Advanced Warfighter fast-fowards the hyper-real military combat series to 2013. Scratch built for 360 to fully flex the hardware's tech muscle, it looks stunning. But it's the new gameplay features that make this one of the first 'true' next-gen titles and a revolution in squad based gaming. We went hands on with the multiplayer modes to see how it's coming together.
Advanced Warfighter delivers an amazing level of choice for multiplayer set-ups, with a huge number of customisable options for team cooperative play and solo matches.
Not only can you select from a number of match types - siege, elimination, objective, territory - but you can also edit settings for player respawns, speed of respawn and location, victory conditions, time limit, weapon restrictions, support restrictions, and more, with every combination creating a different experience.
There's also a choice of class to select before each skirmish. Riflemen, grenadiers, marksmen and automatic riflemen all receive different bonuses for different weapons. For example, marksmen are excellent with sniper rifles, but are stuffed if stuck in a close-quarters skirmish, while automatic riflemen can wield heavier weaponry with better accuracy.
The real-military emphasis means team communication is vital, and Advanced Warfighter has an impressively innovative way of making this work. Each team has a remote drone: an aerial cam-carrying gadget that floats over the battlefield. By commanding the drone and surveying the map, you can locate enemy soldiers and have them flagged up in the screen display of each of your squad buddies.
The drone also transmits a real-time image to your screen via a picture-in-picture window called the Cross-Com. This fantastic feature means you can near-as-dammit have eyes in the back of your head by using the drone to scout your surrounding area. By cycling through with the D-pad, the Cross-Com will even show simulated video feeds of what your team-mates are seeing for perfectly coordinated assaults.
Another benefit of the drone is marking areas of the map with waypoints: floating pointers that can be used to improve team work. Locate an enemy sniper, for instance, and you can point them out to your team by dropping a waypoint on the sniper's position, which appears on-screen for your squad.
Or you could flag up an area that your enemy has left unguarded. Of course the other team can do exactly the same thing, so it's a good idea to watch the skies and try to shoot down their drone before the other side can take advantage.
It's essential to recon each of the 10 dense, detailed levels, as some intelligent design makes for a mix of tight cover and clear spaces that trigger brilliantly tense firefights. Ghost Recon's realistic bent equals one-hit-kills, so swift cover-to-cover movement is a must - which is frustrating when you're gunned down by a wildly sprinting enemy. But the balance of weaponry emphasises measured murderising, and lengthy reload times leave reckless attackers totally defenceless.
You can't ignore how amazing Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter looks on 360, and none of the visual quality is lost, even in packed multiplayer matches. But the Cross-Com is the real proof of what next-gen hardware can do - not just pretty pictures, but brand new functional gameplay features. And if the Advanced Warfighter single-player campaign can live up to what we've seen of the multiplayer modes, then we could finally have a 360 game that's truly next-gen.