OXCGN’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Preview
The King Returns
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
A market that has alarmingly disappeared in the past five years is that of the tactical shooter; i..e, those which are not about running and gunning with the best perks and over-powered weapons.
I’m talking about games that require skill, planning and tact.
Ubisoft has been making a large comeback in this territory, reclaiming lost ground with next year’s Rainbow 6: Patriots, and are ensuring that they still own the turf with the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
I’ve been spending time with the multiplayer beta, and if I could summarize Future Soldier in one statement, it would be that the king has returned.
For those who aren’t familiar, Ghost Recon is a franchise based on warfare in the near future, building on technologies and concepts that currently exist, and throwing them into a plausible future conflict with all the twists, turns and thrills of a Tom Clancy novel.
The most recent embodiment of the franchise came in the form of GRAW, or Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (2006) and its sequel, GRAW 2 (2007).
Apart from being visually breathtaking games, both were at the top of their field in terms of gameplay and content. Being designed as console adaptations of the franchise, they focused on a transition to third person shooters, rather than the series’ PC roots in first person.
In that transition, absolutely nothing was compromised. Players were still treated to top-notch Clancy warfare, conspiracy, and squad-based chaos.
With our modern industry being dominated by giants such as Call of Duty, many franchises have made attempts to “adapt” to the gargantuan audience that thrives around it. Some have been successful, while others have not… and have lost fans in the process.
I’m incredibly proud – and relieved – to say that similar to how Ubisoft transitioned the series to a different perspective on consoles, they have again transitioned the franchise to a slightly more mainstream modern warfare setting, and in the process nothing has been compromised.
It’s still Ghost Recon.
I see dead people…
Roughly fifty meters away, my teammates are engaged in a fierce firefight to take back the objective we were supposed to defend. We’re outmanned, outgunned and losing 2:1. I slowly creep up to a vantage point in order to lay down cover fire for my team.
In this process, I discover an enemy sniper laying down in the exact spot I was traveling; great minds think alike, after all. Slowly, I approach him from behind and make quick work of him with a subduing melee hit. His cloaking technology was good, but not good enough.
My team saw the opening, moved in, grabbed the objective at the last second, and we emerged victorious.
There simply isn’t any other game on the market that has ever evoked such a feeling with its gameplay style within me, and I’m utterly addicted. Ghost Recon has returned, and is ready to reclaim its throne of tactical multiplayer action.
If you’ve played either of the GRAW titles, it won’t take you long to become accustomed to the gameplay in Future Soldier. If you haven’t, fret not; if you’ve played a third person shooter this generation, you’re already qualified to enlist with the Ghosts.
Borrowing from the simplistic concept of the Gears of War franchise, Future Soldier does away with the finicky, clunky cover systems of the Advanced Warfighter titles. Now, all it takes is a simple press of one button – in my case, the A button – to dig in and fight.
The most immediate thing that stands out in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, though, is the non-intrusive, unconventional heads up display (HUD).
Everything that you need to know is on or around your character. Similar to the Dead Space franchise’s approach, your information is displayed via readouts on or near your weapon.
Orange bars protrude from various places to display your ammunition, attachments, equipment and more. When aiming, they become more apparent, but when moving around outside of firefights, they are nearly indiscernible.
It adds the trademark level of futurism to the game that Ghost Recon is known for, and pulls it off perfectly. And while we’re discussing things that the game does perfectly, let’s talk about the animation.
Future Soldier has some of the best animations I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing in a video game.
Everything runs together in a fluid motion, from standard walking, crouching and crawling, to the fast-paced shaky cam and body motions of sprinting, all the way to the signature sliding move introduced in Advanced Warfighter (which is still just as much fun to do now as it was five years ago).
Regardless, it breathes an additional layer of life and believability into the title.
Conflict is reminiscent of the Warzone gameplay mode introduced in Killzone 2; a variety of gameplay modes, primarily revolving around attack and defense of objectives, play out across a single match.
From capturing supply points, to defending intel stations in order to discover high value targets (HVTs), Conflict keeps players on their toes… literally. There’s little to no time to stay in one spot, as the objective continually moves to allow for an assorted gamely experience.
Saboteur, on the other hand, is a little different. Immediately evocative of “neutral bomb” in Halo, it revolves around a single, neutral bomb that spawns in the center of the map. The goal is to pick up and carry the bomb into the enemy team’s base in order to destroy it.
Successful teams won’t have a problem with this mode, as they cover their teammates and use flanking strategies to escort their carrier on a successful mission of demolition.
Each player can choose one of four classes with varying abilities: engineer, rifleman, and scout.
Engineers are great at supporting the team with UAVs that point out enemy players on allies’ HUD, literally showing their position through walls. Rifleman are the front-line infantry, bearing assault rifles, shotguns and light machine guns in order to push forward to accomplish objectives.
The classes are well-balanced, and fit the game perfectly.
All of this is tracked with a simple, overarching level system that currently has no level cap. Upon leveling up, players earn “credits” which can be spent on upgrades to their loadout.
And now… this is where Future Soldier shines: customization.
Upon entering the player customization screens, I was greeted with one of the most beautiful sights in gaming: the most in-depth weapon tweaking system in a video game to date.
Simply put it, if you’re a gun nut, or have the Second Amendment tattooed on your arms, you won’t be disappointed with what Future Soldier has to offer in that department.
To sum it all up…
The game is gorgeous, the gameplay is fluid and enjoyable, and everything combines to form a product that not only will compete with other shooters on the market, but ultimately topple them to reclaim its former glory.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a beautiful, ambitious, satisfying game that will draw in a new audience, and captivate both old and new fans alike.
This is simply the textbook definition of how to modernize a franchise.
The beta lasts until May 3rd, and the final game releases on May 22nd, 2012 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, with the PC version coming at a later date.
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
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