The Player

by Marty Demarest & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t turns out they make guns that shoot around corners. On the business end of the MR-C LW SD automatic rifle, there's a camera that's pointed at exactly what the gun sees. On the bottom of the gun is a small video monitor, almost like a camcorder's. With this gun and video combo, I can point the weapon around corners and see what I'm aiming at.

According to Tom Clancy, the endorsee of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter 2, a gun like this, in the game's year of 2014, "enhances the survivability of the soldier carrying it." That small, extra chance for survival is what keeps me reaching for my MR-C LW SD, because, despite the game's future setting, a war can still be won -- or prevented -- by a single soldier. All I need to do is survive and that soldier is me.

Apparently something has gone wrong in Mexico, and I'm required to lead my squad of nonexistent elite operatives across the border to carry out my U.S. Government unissued, nonexistent orders. Dropped with little ceremony into the war zone, we are given our missions on the fly. If everything goes right, it will seem as though global politics have tilted. If they go wrong, nobody will know we've died.

Like other recent war/invasion games (Resistance, Prey), GRAW2 tells its story through a judicious use of CNN-like news footage and digitally rendered talking government heads. Reports of uprisings and captured U.S. soldiers send my operatives and me to our next location, often in trucks or helicopters across spectacularly war-strewn landscapes.

Unlike Gears of War, the last squad-based tactical combat videogame of note, GRAW2 doesn't interrupt the flow of battle with tedious solve-the-puzzle or assist-your-teammate missions. Here, combat alone is the beginning and end of the game's missions, which often flow into each other at the heady pace of global politics. Weapons of mass destruction make appearances, as do suicidal insurgents. It's my job to conduct diplomacy among them with a bullet -- shot, if possible, from around corners with all of the presence of a ghost.

THE GOOD: The layout of the battlefields, which are strewn apace through each larger level, is wild with broken walls and abandoned cars for me and my foes to hide behind. Unlike Gears of War, with its concentric battlefields and straight gauntlet runs, GRAW2's environments are asymmetrical and keep me moving, fighting the same battles against the same foes in different ways because they and I use the cover differently.

THE BAD: It seems unlikely that only soldiers would die in war. But, in GRAW2's short single-player game, civilian casualties are almost nonexistent. Despite being set in one of the world's most densely populated countries, GRAW2's levels -- both rural and urban -- lack innocent people and are occasionally desolate and brown to the point of blandness. This allows me to unload the mayhem a little thickly, since I don't risk any collateral damage, but it also robs the game of some subtle tactical combat moments.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter 2 is not quite the battlefield of tomorrow, but it's good enough for today.