Preview: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Future Soldier is the latest instalment in the Tom Clancy branded Ghost Recon franchise, available for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 24 May, and PCs on 15 June.
Harley Ogier | Monday, May 14 2012
Platform: PC; PS3; Xbox 360
Test Platform: Xbox 360
Developers: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Red Storm; Publisher: Ubisoft
A gun-enthusiast and weekend warrior's dream.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is a series of tactical shooters dating back to 2001, which have shot their way through just about every platform from PC to the Nintendo 3DS. Future Soldier is the latest instalment in the franchise, coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 on 24 May, and PCs on 15 June.
While waiting for our review copy to arrive, we had a couple of hours of hands-on time at a preview event on Auckland’s North Shore.
The game features both cooperative and competitive multiplayer. We had a chance to try out two four-player co-op modes: the game’s story campaign, and the wave-based ‘Guerrilla mode’.
We’ve seen the start of the story campaign in an early trailer, and finally getting to play through it interactively was a treat. Unlike the three seasoned gamers I ended up playing with, I have no experience playing shooters on the Xbox – the preview event’s console of choice. I am a strictly PC gamer, and I’m sure it showed. That said, Future Soldier threw me for a bit of a loop: the game is difficult, and we were all reduced to strawberry jam time after time, but I found myself adjusting to the controls with remarkable ease.
Movement is smooth, the controls are intuitive, and the auto-aiming is helpful without making you feel like the game is looking down its nose at you and laughing. If you’re a PC gamer considering the Xbox version so you can co-op with your console-bound friends, the platform-transition is less jarring than most.
We didn’t get far enough into the campaign to make any sweeping statements about the game as a whole, but the level design in the early stage we did play was a little more open and considered than you’d find in something like Call of Duty, where you’re dragged along a narrow corridor of bullets and explosions from start to finish.
I believe the game as a whole is still linear, but there’s a good amount of room to manoeuvre and develop tactics with your co-op teammates a little more complex than ‘on the count of three, kill them all’.
The section we played also had an emphasis on stealth – running in guns blazing was an option, but fast proved a very stupid one. The ‘Future’ in Future Soldier means nifty tech such as optical camouflage for near-invisibility, and all manner of ways to spot and highlight your enemies on the battlefield.
The four-player cooperative ‘Guerrilla mode’ felt terribly familiar after a few months of Mass Effect’s multiplayer – both are wave-based against fairly intelligent AI, allow you to revive downed squadmates before they expire, and actually require communication and cooperation if you intend to survive the match.
We played an area defence scenario in a warehouse, and quickly found we had to be careful that someone was guarding each side of the building, and to coordinate our efforts to repel larger groups. It’s challenging gameplay and, even given my unfamiliarity with the console controls, undeniably fun.
A much-touted feature of the game in its pre-release stages was the Gunsmith mode, which allows you to customise your weapons to a degree that would leave the greatest of gun-enthusiasts in paroxysms of delight. Every component can be customised, from trigger to barrel, magazine to optics. Whatever situation you’re preparing for, you can tailor the ideal weapon to give you the best fighting chance. On the purely cosmetic side, paint jobs can be customised to an equally detailed, and slightly scary, degree.
There’s one downside to this, of course: in multiplayer, there’s always going to be that one player, sitting in Gunsmith for ten minutes while everyone else taps their feet impatiently, planning just how they’re going to nudge said player into enemy fire at the first available opportunity.
From gameplay to gun customisation, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier feels well polished and extremely playable. Tom Clancy’s involvement may well be limited to the licensing of his name, but it certainly feels like a Tom Clancy novel, through and through. If that sounds like your kind of game, you won’t be disappointed.
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