For satisfying tactical shooting, I’ve always gone to the Tom Clancy games, whether it’s the impressive Batman-style terrorist hunting of Splinter Cell: Conviction or the first-person terrorist hunting of the Rainbow Six series. Lots of terrorists. In heaps. Dead.
Now, the Ghost Recon series is taking the terrorist hunting into the future, taking inspiration from the real-world weapons either conceptualized or in development by various militaries or private corporations. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier definitely pushes the “future” part of that title, and if the fate of ear is anything like this game envisions it, that future is going to be awesome.
I was given a guided tour through three short mission sections in the game, each showing off a different gameplay style. During the first section, your team of ghosts approaches a lone enemy combatant with full optical camouflage. Your teammate places a gun to the back of the enemy’s head and pulls the trigger, dispatching the enemy not only silently, but without ever being seen despite their not-so-hidden location.
Essentially, this sets the tone for the game: high technology, complete stealth, and ridiculously cool tactics. The rest of this section of the demo follows the team as they work their way up a beach, taking one enemy out through the cracks in a dock’s wood planks, shooting an enemy on a mounted gun while stabilizing his head directly in front of another enemy, and taking out one enemy from behind while a teammate stands cloaked almost directly in front of him.
There was ample opportunity to show off how much the optical camouflage factors into the gameplay, and it seems to offer a radically new gameplay experience. Many people I talked to expressed concern that this would make the player overpowered, but players will need to manage not only when they are seen, but how they take out enemies, whether they use thermal imaging, and so on. There’s still plenty of danger to the player.
This is apparent in the game’s next section, which shows off some of the intelligent enemy AI. During this, the player has to snipe a helicopter pilot from an adjacent building, then begin clearing out enemy troops on the ground. The player took out the pilot with ease, then moved on to a couple of soldiers behind some sandbags. After taking out the first enemy, his buddy spotted where the fire was coming from and pointed directly to the player, and the firefight began in earnest. This section ended quickly right as a rain of bullets began digging holes through the walls around the player.
The last section put the player right in the middle of an intense firefight, which gave the opportunity to show off the cover mechanics, which have been made rather similar to many recent cover systems like those popularized by the Gears of War series. Popping in and out of cover and moving between barriers seemed quite fluid, which will be vital since cover can be chipped away by enemy fire. This was another very short gameplay section, but it was quite intense.
The demo only gave a brief glimpse into the game story, which showed the ghost team capturing a high value target and leaving him in a conspicuous location for some normal soldiers to find. A representative from Ubisoft informed me that getting the job done without anyone knowing you were there is the main goal of the ghosts, and this often means letting someone else take the credit.
While the demonstration only showed single-player gameplay, I was able to get some details on the game’s multiplayer component. The game is being optimized for a rock-solid 60fps framerate which will carry over to the multiplayer (tentatively, of course). The game will support four-player cooperative play, with support planned for split-screen multiplayer through the campaign. Lastly, competitive multiplayer at this point is planned as 6v6 online.
It seemed like the demonstration’s gameplay was heavily scripted, especially in the opening area, so it’s quite hard to get a feel for how the game will play in your hands. However, it looks like a blast to play. It should do for Ghost Recon what Conviction did for Splinter Cell: give the player a new reason to love the series by providing a wealth of really cool gadgets and abilities. If you want to become the ultimate warfighting badass in 2011, Ghost Recon: Future Solider is the game to play.