Preview: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Campaign
Many modern shooters have been following a similar, linear path. Over the past few years our home consoles haven’t really been graced with a tactical co-op based shooter. With Ghost Recon out of the picture for the past few years, First Person Shooters like Call Of Duty and Battlefield have taken the spotlight. After a lengthy development cycle how does Ghost Recon: Future Soldier provide a new experience for 3rd person/warfare fanatics? Find out in this preview.
When booting up the Ghost Recon: Future Solider campaign for the first time you will easily notice the graphical upgrade the title has had since its previous entries. There’s lots of nice animations for the player character, as well as both the friendly and enemy AI, giving it a more realistic feel, similar to that of Splinter Cell Conviction. There was however some very bad loading on a number of textures, and certain buildings and features did look a tad outdated, however the experience wasn’t ruined and hopefully won’t be reflected in the final build. During the preview my colleague Barry and myself managed to try out a few missions from different areas of the game. The second mission took place in South Africa, where your squad has been sent to infiltrate and kill a target in the sandy deserts. As soon as you’re given control, players will find that the game takes a much more stealthy approach in regards to taking down the enemy. The cloak is pretty much always activated when walking in a crouched position, though enemies can detect you if you move too close.
The cloaking is both a brilliant and nifty idea to bring a tactical element to the fight. During the preview we were accompanied by 3 other AI co-operative partners. Due to the game being focused on 4 player co-op, I strongly recommended you bring a few friends along, although for the most part the AI partners can hold their own. The option to control your squad like you could in the G.R.A.W series no longer an option, as you can no longer tell your AI partners to go take cover behind a wall or to attack when prompted. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t get use control your squad or plan tactical assaults. I was pleased that this functionality was removed as I did find it a bit annoying in the previous titles, as even though it was a nice idea and it did work, it just felt too slow and overwhelming having to control both yourself and your squad. As Ubisoft have revamped the franchise the only control of the squad you now have is the ability to do sychronised attacks on enemies. This means that if you’re in a situation where 4 enemies are guarding an object or in your view, you can now take them down together with ease. Simple and very fun, all it takes is a click of the right bumper button to bring up the prompt to call one of your team mates to take out an enemy or two. You can shoot up to four enemies at one time, and you could pretty much play the whole game without taking a shot as your AI is well coordinated. Your AI and the character you control move and work well together, and there has clearly been a lot of improvements to the whole feel of the game and from what we’ve played. Taking cues from the more recent Tom Clancy games, the navigation and environmental awareness systems have been taken from Splinter Cell Conviction and incorporated here.
After playing through several different missions I came away with a positive gameplay experience. On the narrative side though, it was a little lacking, as what I played showed no character development, and at no point did the cut-scenes introduce or build characteristics of the four soldiers (even if one of them did share the same surname as myself). I did question Ubisoft’s PR about if there was a possibility of character biographies being featured in the game, to which Pete Closs responded “We can’t currently confirm if this feature will be added in the final build”. This might not seem like a huge issue to most gamers but I would of liked to have seen some more character development. There was also a few little issues I encountered, mainly the enemies AI. Throughout the various missions playing on the Medium difficulty it wasn’t hard to notice how stupid the AI was. Sneaking behind enemies and taking them down without being noticed was a little too simple, and with the brilliant support from your AI comrades, this difficulty will be a breeze for most players. It was easy to exploit the enemies, as most of them seemed to follow similar paths, meaning that it’s often a little too easy to sneak by unnoticed. If spotted however, the difficulty does pick up and more enemies start to suppress your position, while others trying to get up close to you. It became difficult to maneuver, but interesting as the use of your AI partners can make the firefight a little bit easier, instructing them to move forward and take out certain enemies to help you push forward.
Among the above issues, there were also some issues with the covering system, as even though it works during firefights and helps you progress further, at times I found the cover to be a tad clunky and unresponsive, meaning that I often decided to just crouch behind the wall instead of taking cover properly. It seems like it could be an issue with the preview build, and I hope it is, since the covering system could cause a lot of negativity for players, especially for those who will choose to play on the higher difficulty where it’s one shot one kill. With these issues aside the controls are very accurate and deliver a reliable experience. Aiming is also very precise, realistic and the recoil from your weapons are balanced but also at times challenging, providing a lot of realism.
Throughout the various missions we played, there was a lot of variety in locations and different objectives to keep you on your feet, as well as keeping the game fresh and exciting. The game isn’t as linear as a Call Of Duty or Battlefield, which means approaching enemies doesn’t have to be so direct and sudden, as players are given enough time to assess situations and take out enemies as they please. One of the levels that most interested me was a snow mission which allowed me to control a mechanical armoured robot as it entered into a Russian base to cause havoc.
Overall Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is turning out to be a very nice and well developed shooter. I feel that there needs to be a number of improvements with some of the mechanics as the covering system could do with some work. The game really shows how hard the team have worked, making improvements to the G.R.A.W formula, whilst implementing features from a few other Ubisoft titles. GRFS has the potential to be the best of the series and offer numerous hours of co-op action, through a campaign said to offer 12-15 hours of gameplay.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is due for release on May 25 2012