Preview: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Name: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Genre: Third Person, Cover-Based Shooter
Multiplayer: 8 vs 8 Online, LAN or splitscreen
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft Paris
Release Date: 27 April 2012
With the arrival of Advanced Warfighter 2 the Ghost Recon series managed to piss off a fair amount of Mexican politicians who clearly have nothing better to do with their time than blame their failing tourism industry on a video game. With the governor of Chihuahua (which is apparently an actual province of Mexico) making it clear that they meant business, it seems that Tom Clancy has decided to cut his losses and choose a far less touchy nation to be the antagonist in his next addition to the series. Yep, you guessed it – that means that Future Soldier will indeed be set in Russia. Not just present-day Russia, though – that’s far too mainstream for old Tom – Russia twelve years in the future. No points for guessing that ultranationalists and nukes are driving the plot, then.
Let’s not write the game off entirely as ‘just another military shooter’ quite yet, though. After all, we don’t hate cliches simply because they are cliches – if someone takes a cliche and does it well then it’s just unoriginal. We hate cliches because developers tend to get lazy, cut corners and deliver second-rate or especially boring games when they’re working with them as a premise. The question we need to be asking at this point isn’t whether Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is going to be an innovative deviation from the norm of the genre, then. What we need to be looking for is how it plans to set itself apart from the rest of the crowd, specifically in its overall quality and in any refreshing, particularly clever or particularly well-executed aspects of gameplay.
We’ll talk singleplayer first of all, seeing as there isn’t all too much to say about it just yet and I want to tick something off of my “To talk about” list. So that I feel like I’ve achieved something, you know?
Ubisoft has been awfully stingy in releasing details regarding their singleplayer so far, and so there isn’t much more going on in terms of the plot than I’ve already told you. Basically, you’re part of a Ghost team tracking down the source of a ‘dirty bomb’ (a conventional explosive combined with radioactive material which kills stuff as well as irradiating its area of effect) which killed off another Ghost squad. You play the role of the newest member and commando (assault rifle shooting guy) of the squad, known by your peers as Kozak. The rest of the four-man squad is made up of by the relatively self-explanatory sniper (Pepper) and recon guy (30K), as well as an engineer (Bones), who is in charge of the shotguns and providing intel via drones. More on the significance of intel in a second.
After some fan disappointment at the relatively short campaign component of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2, Ubisoft have promised a somewhat more substantial singleplayer campaign which should clock in at around ten hours. Thankfully, diversity of setting is also an aspect which they’ve been touting quite heavily, so we ought to be seeing a bit more of the world than just Russia. Quite a bit, actually, if this page on the official website is anything to go by. For those too lazy to click on things, we’re looking at playing in some pretty obscure locations: Zambia, Nicaragua, Pakistan and the Barrents Sea to name but a few.
More may not always be better (having recently consumed my bodyweight in Easter eggs I feel pretty confident in making that statement), but if you are one of those “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” types then you’ll just love all the shiny things Ubisoft has in store for you in Future Soldier.
First off, there are the guns. Ubisoft has promised over
9000 50 highly customisable guns for use in the single and multiplayer. When we say customisable, by the way, we mean customisable. We’re not just talking about the optics, barrels, grips and rails changes which have become standard in most shooters these days, but everything down to the trigger and gas systems as well. All of this customisation is going to be facilitated by a system called Gunsmith. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they needed to attach a snappy name to their weapon customisation system besides simply drawing attention to the level of customisation they’re offering. I used their buzzword, though, so hopefully they won’t sue me now. That said, it does look awfully shiny and works with Kinect, so make of that what you will.
It seems as if weapon customisation is going to be available in the singleplayer, co-op / Guerrilla and multiplayer modes, but we haven’t heard anything too precise on exactly how much overlap there will be between them.
Luckily for you kids, the guns are just the start of the toys Ubisoft has in store for you. A very large part of the emphasis in Future Soldier is on the technology you have at your disposal and how far ahead of the poor bastards you come up against that puts you. There is too much of it for me to mention, so I’ll stick to discussing the more notable gizmos and gadgets you get to play with. For a full list, you can follow this link.
Like I said earlier, intel (which from what I can tell basically means “where the enemies are”) plays an important part of the game. Or at the very least, Ubisoft would like you to think it does. The engineer can pilot numerous types of drones which can scout out enemy positions and fortifications (usually) undetected. The drone then relays this information back to the ‘Cross Com’ system, which is a central hub of information shared between the Ghosts. This hub cross-references all of the information it receives (from the drones and from the sensors on each individual Ghost) and uses it to create the ‘Augmented Reality’ system, visible through the Ghost’s sexy-looking sunglasses. The Augmented Reality system gives each Ghost access to all of the information which the other Ghosts have: ammo counts, physical conditions and, most importantly (unless your buddy happens to take a bullet to the face or something; then physical condition might become more important) enemy positions. It basically lets you see ‘through’ a wall, as long as you have a friend with cool shades who can see the other side. Which is pretty awesome. On top of just being awesome, it allows you to line up some insanely attractive synchronised kills with the rest of your squad, and makes fighting while pinned down in cover far less of a mission.
Them Ghosts love their stealth almost as much as their synchonrised kills, too, as can be seen in this oh-so-sexy trailer. Fair enough, too, because unless you want an entire ultranationalist army bearing down on your ass you would want to stay relatively undetected. Imagine their excitement, then, when they heard about the Optical Camo cloaking system. While it doesn’t render you completely invisible, it does make you transparent and far, far harder to spot, making it much easier to get into just the position you need for the aforementioned synchronised kills.
Now that we’ve got the major tech out of the way, let’s start talking gameplay and squad interaction.
What we’re looking at here is a pretty standard cover-based, third-person shooter, with some notable streamlines and interesting adaptations. You’ve got your standard get-your-ass-the-hell-behind-that-chest-high-wall command, and well as your ability to vault and roll over cover. You can fire from out of cover and, more interestingly, peek out from behind cover to spot enemies for your teammates. One addition which should prove welcome to a pretty tired system (provided they pull it off, of course) is a mechanic which allows you to move from cover to cover by selecting the next object you want to hide behind while still in cover, making transitioning between cover far more seamless, and helping you not kill yourself in the process. You aren’t as safe behind cover as you thought you were, either. Not only have Ubisoft declared that any son of a bitch unfortunate enough to find himself pinned down behind cover by a machine gun shall have his screen shake, field of view diminished and practically lose his ability to aim down their sights. This means you either need to run out from behind the cover (and probably die), throw a smoke grenade and then run out from behind the cover (and probably not die) or get a buddy to help you out. That buddy had better come fast, though, because cover is now destructible, meaning that if that machinegunner has the time to have his way then there (literally) won’t be anything standing between you and him.
In terms of squad interaction, the player doesn’t have access to an approach as ‘hands on’ as we see in games like Mass Effect, where they can control the positioning and weapon and ability use of their AI companions. Instead, the player can designate a target for each squad member when they are out of combat, to perform a synchronised take-down, or identify a high-priority target during combat, causing their squad members to target it more than other enemies.
If AI isn’t quite your thing then Ubisoft has you covered, too. In fact, they might be a bit disappointed if AI is your thing, given how enormous the stink they’re making about their co-op system is. The entire singleplayer campaign is fully co-op integrated, though we haven’t heard anything about whether or not there will be a drop-in / drop-out system in place, and exactly what will be used to facilitate the co-op. If that’s still a bit too stale for you, though, then Guerilla Mode might be more up your alley. Essentially being a wave-based survival mode, Caveshen would love to have you believe that it is a Horde Mode (from Gears of War 3) clone, though it isn’t quite that simple. Firstly, we all know that CoD: World at War’s Nazi Zombie mode was the first of its kind, so everything else is actually cloning that. Second and more importantly, however, the developers have added a stealth portion to the game which precedes the wave survival portion. Players will first have to sneak up on an enemy location and bring it under their control before the hordes (calm down, Cavie) descend upon them. Every ten rounds or so players will have to move up and capture a new location, all stealthy-like once again. This sounds like a very interesting addition, and one which could hopefully break the action-packed monotony (that isn’t as much of an oxymoron as it sounded. Promise) which can come of having to mindlessly hold out against wave after wave of enemies.
Keeping in line with Future Soldier’s singleplayer and co-op, the multiplayer is designed from the ground up to be very reliant on teamwork. All of the multiplayer modes are objective based, effectively forcing the team to work together, and discouraging ‘lone ranger’ shenanigans. We know that there will be about four of these objective-based game modes, though we haven’t been told how they will differ from one another, and what sort of objectives we’re talking about. Some of the grey area should be removed when the Beta goes live on April 19th.
Those lucky enough to get their hands on the Beta (and those who eventually end up playing the full multiplayer) will find themselves in the shoes of either the Rifleman, Scout or Engineer. The Rifleman is your standard front-rank soldier, with access to assault rifles and light machine guns. The Scout is your classic sniper, with access to sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. The Engineer gets to have slightly more fun than the other classes, as not only do they have access to shotguns and personal defense rifles, but they get to fly the intel drone.
On that note, you remember intel being a big deal in the co-op and singleplayer? Not much has changed in the multiplayer. The Engineer with his recon drone plays a large part in this, along with allies spotting enemies for the team. An interesting new method of gaining intel which is only available in the multiplayer is the player’s ability to stun (not kill) an enemy soldier using various different gadgets and gizmos, and then hack into their Cross Com hub in order to gain their intel. The hacking takes time, though, and if you are interrupted (read: killed) during the hack your team gains nothing. The risk is worth the reward, however, because if you succeed then you and the rest of your team is treated to the knowledge of each enemy’s location for a limited amount of time.
Ghost Recon has always been something of a love it or hate it series, but with any luck the strong emphasis on team-based gameplay and what looks to be a well-streamlined cover system should make the game relatively accessible to those new to the series, and perhaps even to the genre. As was mentioned in the introduction, this game does run the risk of simply becoming another game which failed to make anything of what is now a pretty worn-out cliche, but what we’ve seen of the gameplay so far looks encouraging, and the innovations we’ve been exposed to so far lend weight to the idea that there may be hope that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier manages to set itself apart from the pack.
Oh, and it’s going to have LAN support.