What kind of shooter is Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ? [Preview]
“A smart third-person shooter”, that’s how Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’s producer, Yann Suquet, refers to the latest entry into the squad-based near-future military franchise. It’s smart because rather than simply running into the fight, the game is designed around the fact that you must use the tools at your disposal to analyse each and every situation before committing yourself.
Commit yourself prior to gathering the relevant information and you’re doom to a pellet of searing lead in the leg, torso or worse. That’s the idea, at least.
The five maps we recently got our hands on were clearly plucked from the entirety of Future Soldier’s campaign as examples that demonstrate not only the need to play the intel game, but to show off the different situations we can expect come 24 May.
One level set in Bolivia saw us engaged in a firefight across rooftops, complete with terrified civilians running for cover below. Later in Namibia we’re silently infiltrating a military camp on the hunt for a rogue general. Then there’s an intense street shoot-out in Peshwa and the open-ended freedom of a Russian jungle.
Despite our mere taster of the final game, Ubisoft has already provided us with a where’s where of secret operations locations from the 80s through the next 20 years. Subtle this story is not. Nor is the gameplay, but it does leave a little more to the imagination.
In terms of pure gadgetry and gameplay options we were hardly stuck for choice. From UAV drones to intel grenades and augmented reality eye-pieces, there’s probably something here to satisfy every weapon nut, conspiracy theory junkie and good old fashioned whacko.
Supposedly Ubisoft worked with the military on every stage of production – from motion capture to gadget/weapon authenticity – so, I can only assume that all of what was on offer has either already been realised or is on its way (this being ‘Future’ Soldier after all). While it is possible to play in a manner not all that dissimilar to Call of Duty or Battlefield in some situations (the Bolivia level was pure shoot ‘em up) when the odds are against you a run ‘n’ gun approach led us straight through temptation and into Death’s wide open clutches.
The UAV drone is probably the handiest of the equipment we’ve seen (we were assured we haven’t seen nearly everything), allowing you to see the area of operation around you. Your distance of flight is limited by a pre-set proximity from your soldier, making flight-bys of the entire map impossible, but it’s enough to tag enemy locations to your augmented reality point-of-view (more on that later).
It’s possible to leave your UAV up in the air and revert back to your soldier’s viewpoint. Doing so can result in the enemy attempting to shoot the thing down if they see it which, for the creative among us, could potentially be used as a diversionary tactic. The drone itself cannot be permanently destroyed, although it will take damage and have to undergo automatic repairs of about a minute before it can be used again.
For moments when the drone is less-than-helpful for spotting targets – such as in crowded civilian areas in which the bad guys look like the good guys – the intel grenade becomes the gadget of choice. It deals no damage, instead it highlights enemies with a neon outline – including those that are behind cover (some of which can be shot through).
During the levels we played these grenades were extremely limited in supply but also yielded positive results. In fact, scrap what I said earlier about all of those weapons being in some form of real-life state, how could equipment such as this possibly work on a technological level? Answers below appreciated.
You don’t need to worry about such neon outlines being employed against you, as whenever you’re crouched an active camouflage system automatically deploys itself and hides you by taking the colours of whatever you’re standing next to. Stand too close to an enemy and they will see you, but the tech does relieve a lot of pressure and provides the ability to weigh up your options without being seen.
A combination of intel grenade and drone becomes most useful when it comes to giving your three squad mates orders. Only on the levels that were purely based on intense gunfights was it absolutely necessary for us to get involved. If you prefer to sit back and give the orders while someone else does the work that’s a viable option a lot of the time.
Once enemies have been highlighted (either through sight or gadgetry) you can order your buddies to take care of them for you. This is achieved by making targets (either through the cross hairs or the drone) and waiting for everyone to get a clear line of sight. Once everybody is in place you can give the order to fire – if you want to take out four guys at once, you’ll need to pull your own trigger as well.
On the final level we played, in Russia, I fired three times in its entirety – my team mates ably handling the rest based on my instructions. When using this targeting system the game will enter a slow-mo mode for a couple of seconds to allow for any delay in shooting on your own behalf. While this is not especially necessary in single player, playing in four player co-op (and the dodgy communication that usually involves) will probably see its usefulness heightened.
Your characters’ use of augmented reality has been stepped up a notch from pretty much any game on shelves today. From the aforementioned neon enemy outlines, to the names of levels painted across blue skies, and blue crosses that indicate a friend is hurt – all of your information is provided via your soldier’s augmented reality eye-piece.
While the system does provide some valuable information, I suspect the real reason behind its inclusion is that is simply looks cool and acts as a means of separating Future Soldier from the throngs of military shooters currently doing the rounds. For the most part it works in that regard, adding a genuine sense of near-futuristic tech to the battlefield and avoiding the temptation to overdo it with too much on-screen clutter and Matrix-style streams of digits/letters.
‘Cover swap’ is new to the game and is essentially a way of perfectly moving between two cover points. The way it works is by removing all control from the player. When in cover a reticule will appear at whichever point you’re looking at, once you’ve positioned the reticule in the correct place simply hold ‘A’ (on a 360 pad) and you’ll crouch-run over to the location and automatically snap to cover.
What we’ve seen of Future Solider puts it firmly into the category of not-quite-a-tactical-shooter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it seems to be setting out to do exactly that and create a bridge between a traditional shooter and the likes of Delta Force for those that may enjoy elements of both but are put off by their pinpoint focus.
Only a full playthrough will tell us whether or not that straddling of the border has paid off or simply resulted in a dilution of beloved genres. Whatever the case, what we’ve played so far we’ve enjoyed. Even if the gadgets are a little silly.