I seriously had my doubts about this game. Most of the trailers I watched looked amazing, but the character animations and environment interaction left a lot to be desired. Since my initial impression of G.R.A.W. oh so many months ago, this game has undergone some massive improvements! The visuals seemed tighter and more polished and the gameplay was brought up to speed with the graphics. Being a long time fan of this series (Desert Seige was the best in this series up until this point) I'm absolutely thrilled with the final product and glad that Ubisoft decided to pushed it back 5 more months, instead of making it a rushed launched title.
GRAPHICS: Easily the strongest aspect of this game! There'll be times where you just stop and look around, admiring the vistas. The highly touted "HDR" lighthing system used in the game actually does a pretty good job of simulating realistic lighting not only in the environment, but with the players camera perspective as well. Walking into the middle of a street will cause the players view to wash out from the intense sunlight, only to readjust seconds later mimicing the human pupil. Very cool effect! The textures are wonderfully presented and I hardly saw any repeating textures during my romp through Mexico City. One thing that will blow your mind from the get go is the HUGE draw distance. In no way shape or form could this have been pulled off on the ol' XBOX without some serious framerate issues. When crusing in a blackhawk helo, you can truly see how massive this city really is. The most crazy pary about it is that all the little buildings you see below you are being rendered in real-time. The characters themselves are well textured and animated very well. Running and diving behind cover is a particularly cool new feature, which lends to the chaoticness of some levels.
SOUND: It seems Ubisoft didn't just put all it's money into the graphics, because the sound is amazing! With a 5.1 surround system the running this game really shines. Whizzing bullets, richocets, windows bursting out, car tires popping, concrete shattering. It's all a little over whelming at first. If you have your sound system turned up, explosions rock your house. If you're to close to an explosions the sound actually becomes more muffled simulating the deafing blast. The weapons sounds are excellent. Each weapons seems to have it's own distinct sound to it. So if your firing a SCAR-L or an SAW you'll know the difference.
GAMEPLAY: New features like the running dive and coner peeking give the game a more complete feel this time around. The PIP (or Picture in Picture) freature is cool, but ultimately not very useful. I never really had time to check out what my idiotic team mates were doing or not doing in some cases. The UAV cypher is a welcomed addition allowing you to scout ahead and reveal enemy positions. Also being able to have helo and tank support get you out of some sticky situations. I lover being able to designate targets for a blackhawk and have them swoop in and strafe the hostile effectively neutralizing them. Good times!
OVERALL: This is a must have for any 360 owning fan of the series. Heck even noobs to the series will find something to like. This is the first game that truly screams "next-gen". Don't miss out on this ride!