First, to let you know where I am coming from in this review:
1) I was a US Army Platoon Leader for a M1A1 tank platoon and then a light Scout Platoon during OIF 1 and then OIF 2. I like to think that lends some credibility to my case.
2) Love GRAW 2 multiplayer and Coop campaign, but hate the campaign mode
3) Enjoy COD campaigns (despite the more arcady moments), but dislike the multiplayer and its olympic sprinter/high jumping capabilities imparted on players.
4) I love Halo and the Halo universe, though the XBOX live crowd is inarguably one of the most obnoxious pack of mountain dew fueled 12 year old brats ever assembled. ODST is brilliant by the way if you haven't tried it.
So here we go.
PLAY / GRAPHICS- Probably the most realistic game I've ever played as far as weapons, tactics, underbrush, movement, command of AI, and whatever else you want to throw on there. As stated, I love GRAW 2 (1, not so much), and will continue to play that for years to come, but this game has moved it to the next level. Will you see the grenade rotating in mid air when you throw it? No. That is my first example of some things that may be observed by many players and find frustrating. Yes, its cool in World at War to see the stick grenades pass head over tail as you chuck them into German positions, but don't forget about what you miss out on and what makes this game so remarkable. SIZE and SCOPE. COD and even GRAW limit you greatly on what your left and right limits are either by barbed wire/terrain, or by simply killing you should you venture from the acceptable path. This game is mammoth, and leaves all options on the table for the player to decide where, how, and when he wishes to conduct his operation. The mission profiles are literally boundless, with the exception of drowning in the ocean (which is honestly not an option I have tested now that I write it), and the environment is fantastic. You will find more graphical detail in some games, you will find some more beautiful (as Modern Warfare 2 looks to be by all accounts) ,but as of yet, you will never be as immersed in an environment like this so large and so grand. The sacrifices for some of the trivial are more than made up for by the playability and realism provided by the size and scope of the world you are injected into in this game. No game can be all things to all players, the current technology in a home system just can't support it yet, but this game made great decisions on what to keep and what to ignore.
I like that my boys call out enemy locations for me to plot on my map, and that map stays set until the enemy positions are updated or I find them absent or destroyed already. Not radar, just as close to Situational Awareness as the game makers can give us (though granted, your character is THE MAN if he can really track his squad, fight his fight, and update the map all at the same time to this level of perfection) and maybe the developers assumed we would have some FBCB2 or better capability to rely on in this FUTURE conflict. That "Future" word is important and worth remembering.
AUDIO - If you don't have a surround sound system, I would look into it because of games like this. In a creepy sort of way, I loved hearing the battle going on a few Km to my flank and actually remembering the tension of knowing that over there was something very real that could impact me, but was out of my hands while they were plenty full of their own tasks. I like that enemy positions are radioed to you to help you keep track. Sustain: X talk. You know what I'm talking about.
NEGATIVES- These affect my "fun scale" more than the overall scale because they are little things some people can get past.
AUDIO- I don't know where the grid coordinates came from, but the developer picked some weird stuff. Its called "MGRS" or Military Grid Reference System, and the Marines use it as well. This alpha numerical stuff is just weird. I don't like that the grid gets called out everytime i tell my boys to move, just say "Roger" like everybody else and get your duff moving.
PLAY- Love incorporating vehicles, but they are a bit touchy. And realistically, it's tough to use some of these things and that's why there are different MOSs in the military. Unless you have the certificates and training like Corbin Dallas from the 5th Element, an expert in all weapons and vehicles you may encounter during this mission, you may be less than polished in your skills. It's not really a negative, and maybe there are negative factors applied against you like they did for GRAW when you grab a system you are unfamiliar with. The command features are pretty in-depth. Bigger than Ghost Recon ever was (not bad) but at times its just a bit cumbersome. I think Ghost Recon 2 got it down by giving your boys a ROE and telling them where to go, after that it gets a bit too into the weeds sometimes for some players. As a military man though, I love this attention detail and being able to guide my guys like that.
Some of the more "Hoo Rah!" (Hooah! if you're Army, and "Errr!" I suppose if you're that kind of Marine) moments are...well...stupid. Never have I experienced these moments in the service, but the understood image of the military for a normal person has been skewed by hollywood and...I don't know, but it's a bit silly at times.
Some, probably the same who complain about GRAW, don't feel the game should be so realistic and difficult. I agree. It's the players money afterall. This was not designed for the aforementioned 12 year olds though. Don't think you and your 12 year old will appreciate this game. Let people blow through a rediculously easy game if they like, and if they grow up and want to stay with the game community, they can mature into it, but give them the choice. It takes patience and intelligence, and at times, yeah, it's boring. Thankfully not as boring as the real military sometimes, but its not you slaying 500+ jihadists while you run through their town like its the suburbs you grew up in.
The checkpoint thing is VERY long, so you need to keep your head on straight. There is no rushing to cross some magical line that will autoload you when you pass it in the middle of a firefight. Each objective is a mission to itself, play it smart.
I think that is enough. Rent it, appreciate the size of the game before you bad mouth it too heavily, and if you like it, make the buy. The game is blinding, absolutely great and I can't wait to get more friends into it to run the campaign coop because it will be great to talk instead of search through the buttons for a (admittedly great)AI to interpret. If you liked GRAW 2 or the other Ghost Recon games, I think this will make you happy. If you enjoy overshields and think it won't hurt when a 7.62 slams into your body armor, or being shot in the leg will negatively impact you, keep on walking kiddo. We don't want to hear you cry in-game and you probably have to go study for that big algebra test anyways.