Let me start off by saying, that while I appreciate and applaud the cinematic feel and vibrance of Advanced Warfighter, one of the most fundamental components fails utterly.
I'll keep this as much to the point as possible, and allow a discussion to follow. I had been so disappointed in Ghost Recon 1 that I didn't even bother to follow the series. The first game had been clunky, relatively easy, and in some ways felt like a cheap pass-off at a military first person shooter by dedicated fans of Redstorm Entertainment. Just because there was elements from Rainbow Six (coordinating teams . . . somewhat) and the reticule markers had made a return, does not mean it was a quality game. The foliage was stiff, the enemy AI rather bland (save for squadmates who did fairly good!), and in general, the game felt like you were playing a video game. The manner of play (everything from movement, to collision detection, to sounds, to engine rendering despite some of the lush textures) made it all seem like a flat soda . . . beer . . . whatever. The subsequent releases left a "re-re-re-release" feeling in my mouth with the lacklustre improvements.
I was mortified and ignored the series - Hard for a dedicated Redstorm fan to do, but necessary to give them a chance in years to come to come out with a solid product.
I believe Advanced Warfighter can be that product, but there are some glaring flaws that would keep me from purchasing this game. I installed the demo excitedly yesterday. I'd seen the flashy videos and wondered if it was going to be just a flashy game or if there was going to be the substance from the flat soda that the previous GR games had demonstrated. I loaded the game up. After muttering this and that about loading times, I was hit with an urban helo insertion along with a video briefing. Mind you, this was not an IGI briefing-during-insertion video, this was it, the feel was there. The set-up was believable, the news took me in (being Canadian myself), the engine performed relatively well for the many boxes that represented buildings in the background, and it all felt cinematic with this raw sense of credibility. Then came the fast-roping. Immediately my mind raced back to the insertion activities in the novel Rainbow Six, and thought "how wonderful, perhaps they would include such things in future Rainbow games, and perhaps even add a dynamic challenge to the actual fast roping itself instead of the 'push-button x,y,z to make your character achieve this or that' mentality in gameplay." Then the game paused . . . for awhile. OH, okay, the game was just saving. No warning or message to me that this was going to happen. Okay, developers, when your game engine takes awhile to load something (and I'm not complaining about the loading times themselves), and it can make your customers' computers appear to freeze for a few moments . . . do them a favour and just let them know with a simple message or saving icon during the process. Yeah, thanks.
I surveyed my troops. Kick-butt. Mean. Ready. The engine really covers a lightyear of cinematic effects of a sunny Mexico and dusty city. I would have liked to have seen perhaps dust breezes along the road from the wind. Just whisps here and there, but who's complaining. The environment was radiant with both stylish flare, and negative energy that something bad was going down and you were in the middle of it, believably so and not just under the "you're a secret uber-genetically-enhanced super soldier with your top-dogs in tow" pretense that befalls so many games. This felt real, and authentic under the realistic premise of advancing technologies and missions scopes we know about now in current the current military of the States. I started analyzing how to deploy my troops. Wonderful. Well done Redstorm. I could see this kind of thing even being applied to future Rainbow releases with the use of multiple teams and a dozen operatives. As it stood alone in Warfighter, I was amazed. The AI on both the enemy and your team is fantastic. I repeat, fantastic. The body crumpling positions get old, however. Kind of like ants that curl up in different ways, but all in the same way.
The major flaws: The firearms themselves are extremely well modelled. Complaints? The sounds. My . . . GOD . . . once again they're absolutely awful. Has anyone at Redstorm ever fired a rifle before? Even a small caliber such as a C7 (Canadian version of the M16) crackles louder than a kitten's mew. One complaint I sincerely had about the GR series (and shared by just about everyone I had talked to throughout the years) was that the rifle sounds are truly horrible in their delivery. The sounds may be a flawlessly recorded acoustic sound of the real deal, but in no way does it mimic anything to what one experiences in real life. There should be sharp crackling, sound echoing off of city walls, a droning out of every other noise around you. I noticed the sounds of bullets screeching near you - This was extremely well done. Everything else about the firearm sounds was just poor, poor, poor. I found this to be in sharp contrast to the music that kept an ambient feel - Well done. As well, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavourful communications going on between you and your team. The glaringly awful firearm sounds made me wonder what was going on at Redstorm. It's been like this since forever, guys, come on, time to be the leader again now that you know something needs to be worked on.
Secondly, what is up with the focused sighting. They bounce to and fro from two different points, like the animations are keyframed between two points, and they don't even represent well where the bullet is actually going to strike. This was the major flaw I had mentioned. I was stunned . . . literally. I spent at least an hour trying to justify the manner of approach for this firing style away. I think the manner of aiming was well intentioned, and it does try in it's attempts to complicate aiming and attempt to model realistic variables (breathing, arm-tiring, etc.). My conclusion, however, is that this, Redstorm, has to be changed. For some firearms, the forearm doesn't even move, just the rifle swaying back and forth in that same key-framed manner. Completely revolting and entirely unprofessional. I've seen mods on other games that have modeled complicated firing styles better (ie. Red Orchestra as a latest example). At least make the holosights and red-dots disappear when the rifle goes away from the angle of your sighted eye. Also, if the markers are going to snap out as far as they do sometimes, you have to model that with the weapons themselves at least slightly. The traces coming from the tips of the rifles kind of look like Delta Force 2 style tracer fire, where you know the rifle is just printed on the screen, and the tracers are like little lines to the centre of the screen or wherever the bullets are going. It definitely flattens out the image on-screen as a whole. I also noticed rendering glitches on some of the rifle reloading animations (it might have been the SCARs) where the magazine is visible through the magazine well during the animation.
All in all, I found the game to be an amazing experience. Unfortunately, that is until I actually had to engage anyone with the firing mechanics such as they are. Then it was painful to play. The ambience of the environments was fantastic. Is there going to be a bad guy around this corner or not? I actually found myself asking that question. I hadn't asked that question or felt really, truly nervous about it since I had first played the original RS from Redstorm when it was first released and blew everyone's minds.
Kudos, Redstorm, kudos. But you've got some serious, serious work to do for the PC fans.