E3 2011: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Preview – The Future Sound of Combat
Written Monday, June 27, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
The future is frickin’ cool right? I mean, as soon as you think ahead a few years and consider the possibilities of what we could achieve, it’s enough to make you crumble into a small heap on the floor and giggle like a school girl. Who would have thought 20-years ago that we’d have flat-screen HD TVs embedded in a dry wall in a bathroom and who’d have thought that there would be a machine that helps you make coffee. Barmy! Now think ahead another 20 years… who says that augmented reality battlefield synopsis glasses and invisibility cloaks won’t be a real possibility?
That in a nutshell is Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, and giving us these mentalistic tools of the trade is possibly the most mouth-watering prospect of the game – as well as what makes Future Soldier a Ghost Recon game, of course. Having not seen it since E3 last year, we were intrigued to see where the game had got to in the space of a year. Honestly, it doesn’t look like it’s come very far, then I guess it’s a good job it had a very impressive showing last year.
That damning question might come across as a negative sentiment, but trust me, it’s not intended that way. My point is that what we saw one year ago is very much a part of the experience we saw at E3. No crazy new weapons or gadgets were really on show, and it didn’t really surprise us, but more of the same, well damn, we’ll take that.
Anyway! On with the show.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier takes place in the… future – derp! – and from a campaign perspective is set to offer players 10 hours of gameplay, spread across the game’s 12 missions. We pick up the action with the Ghost squad in Nigeria, with the Ghosts tasked with the objective of infiltrating a small encampment to successfully extract a captured CIA agent.
Kicking things off amidst a small swamp of sorts, the Ghosts line-up one of the game’s key mechanics: the synchronised shot. In single-player, which we went eyes-on with, it was a case of choosing a target out of the four and then letting your other Ghosts systematically line-up their shot. Upon shooting, the other Ghosts will react accordingly and there’ll be four less enemy combatants on the battlefield. It’s a handy tool to either take out a squad silently or to even whittle down the numbers of an enemy hotspot before you roll up your sleeves and plough in with pure aggression.
Taking advantage of the optical camouflage, the lead Ghost snuck up behind a lonely merc on the outside of the village they were about to storm. Snapping his neck, the Ubisoft rep on hand ran us through how the optic camo works: out of combat, the cloak will be automatically enabled but is not 100% effective, so enemy soldiers can detect you if you get too close and you’re more likely to get discovered if they are looking for you; conversely, in combat, the cloak will be deactivated. Incidentally, there is no battery for it, so that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.
Being a game that requires a supreme amount of teamwork, the next team initiated move came in the form of a synchronised breach. With the Ghosts taking positions at the hut’s various entrances, the lead Ghost used the magnetic view to see all the targets in the building and tag them to plan the attack; all the info of course is shared with the rest of the Ghost squad. Busting in through the various doors on your command, the Ghosts are able to take down the vast majority of enemy soldiers, leaving one left over to interrogate for the position of the VIP.
With a lot of civilian activity in the region, the Ghosts need to be careful of taking innocent victims and in the next area, a sync shot later was able to spare a few civilians who were captured by the local militia and kick off a bit of a firefight between the hostile forces. Of course, Future Soldier is primarily a third-person shooter, but like other third-person shooters, you can opt to use iron-sight first-person views to further control the accuracy of your rifles. Marking targets mid-combat as well will mean your Ghosts will focus on a particular target of yours, but otherwise, they’ll make their own judgements.
In fact, it was the friendly squad AI that impressed me the most in the demo, which will delight single-player fans. Not only do they stay out of your way and maintain their position, but you don’t have to hold their hands and they will work together to advance, improve their battlefield position, flank and even tactically perform textbook pincer movements – whether that was intentional, who cares, it was impressive. This was particularly impressive when the Ghosts had descended upon the Oil Harbour, which was the location of the VIP.
Using the satellite scan of the area, it’s clear that there’s a high hostile presence in the area. The game’s augmented reality projects things like this, your waypoint, clip size, current inventory item, area info and story info all on-screen, in a more advanced way that Ubisoft Montreal used in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Of course, you can customise your gear and use the Gunsmith weapon customisation mechanics to refine how you want your weapons for the mission ahead.
Switching from cover to cover, and charging forward to various other pieces of cover, both using the fluent cover mechanics, the Ghost squad make light work of the encampment’s soldiers – making use of the drone’s heat vision to mark targets. It’s important to not stay in one position though due to destructible cover and some cover that you can shoot through, but thanks to the friendly AI, the Ghost team have no real issues. After passing the enemy tents and reaching the shipping crates, a quick sync breach later and the Ghosts had the VIP in tow.
It’s not a case of extracting the VIP in an on-rails sequence where you and the other Ghosts carrying the VIP have to shoot at enemy combatants from-the-hip. It’s more cinematic and less tactical than Ghost Recon games gone by if we’re being honest, but that seems to be the industry we’re in at the moment. After clearing the soldiers, it’s a matter of bunkering down and protecting the VIP from the hostile chopper fire before the authorised thermobaric bomb can come in and wipe them out… and with the large explosion the gameplay demo comes to an end.
While it’s clear that the latest Ghost Recon is more cinematic than iterations gone by, the tactical element still remains. For us though, it’s the lure of the high-tech gadgetry that excites us the most, because after all, if we can’t live out fantasies of the future in video games, where else can we live them out? With four-player co-op, an emphasis on team play and more gadgets than James Bond’s Q, Ubisoft’s latest iteration in the popular franchise could be jetting the franchise back into the limelight next year.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is scheduled for a 2012 release.