September 10, 2007 // 9:28 pm
- The new gear introduced in GRAW 2 is still pretty freakin' sweet. The UAV Cypher, for example, gives you an eye in the sky to scout ahead for enemies. The MULE is a mobile, automated weapon shop; it can be used in a pinch to run down any bad guys foolish enough to stand around out in the open. And the Gun-cam lets you take a bead on enemies without stepping out from behind cover.
And all that spiffy recon gear is put to good use, because GRAW 2 liberally mixes strategy and action, balancing the two more adroitly than in any other tactical shooter I've played to date. In some levels, you'll go in guns blazing; in others, you'll creep from cover to cover and pray you're not seen. Sometimes you'll be alone, other times you'll make heavy use of your three-man squad, and sometimes you'll end up with additional support as the mission moves forward. The game constantly mixes things up, and in the process manages to neatly avoid the most common frustration of tactical shooters: figuring out how you're supposed to be playing the level.
See, most tactical shooters I've played have a specific path in mind for the player; you need to take out this guy first, then move to that cover, and take out that vehicle with this weapon -- and if you don't do everything right, and in order, the mission becomes vastly more difficult, if not impossible, to complete. Here, the options are far more broad, not just because of the wide-open level design (though that's certainly part of it), but also because of the sheer variety of tactical support -- both human and mechanical -- at your disposal. The result is that the game offers a legitimate feeling of being a highly trained special operative, with the discretion to perform your mission as you best see fit.
The tense missions are only half the equation, of course: GRAW 2 also offers an astonishingly deep multiplayer mode, offering matches online, over LAN, and splitscreen. The game features an almost shocking number of maps -- 32 in all, with eight of those offering battles at two different times of day. And you'll also find nearly two dozen game modes, from solo to team to co-op campaign missions. Online play allows for exceptional clan support, allowing the clan leader to customize characteristics as minute as camo pattern and clan logo. And you'll even get to use some of that fancy gear from the single-player campaign online, like the UAV drone: Send it out, and any enemies it sees will show up on your HUD.
Trouble is, the gameplay itself isn't quite up to the same standard. Characters move more slowly than in the offline game and lack some essential abilities that campaign-mode players are trained to rely on, like being able to shoot around corners. The framerate tends to chop (at least, it did for me on DSL), making simple movement feel floaty and imprecise. I ran into plenty of teleporting as well -- only it was me who was teleporting, which is fairly unusual.
On top of these issues, the matchmatching is simply atrocious. Choose a "quick game," and one of two things will happen: The game will go through the entire connection process but then tell you the match is full, or you'll join the lobby of a game already in progress and be forced to wait until the current match is over. I never found a single exception to either of those rules.
Now, understand that many of these issues could be caused (or, at least, exacerbated) by my specific connection. They're also the kinds of things that could potentially be resolved through a patch (I notice that the online menu reports "version 1.01"). But if you're one of the millions of people with a good-but-not-great broadband line, you need to know that this could be an issue.