Tom Clancy's name has been associated with all sorts of games over the years, some of them good, some... well, you get the idea. Ghost Recon has always been well-regarded, however, even after rebooting the franchise with the Advanced Warfighter series in 2006.
Jump forward to 2012 and the series is getting another reboot, of sorts, with Future Soldier.
The game is, unsurprisingly perhaps, set in the future. This setting lends the title more than an interesting premise; it also allows the designers and weapons experts to look ahead and speculate on the sorts of military technology that might actually be in play in just a few short years. Tech like heads-up displays, sensor grenades, active camouflage, and robotic weapons platforms - all of which Ubisoft have implemented in Future Soldier.
That's all well and good, of course, but how does it play? After a lengthy session in Auckland last week, I'm able to reaffirm that the answer to that question is overwhelmingly positive. During our session, we got to play cooperatively in both a mission-based scenario and the game's Guerilla mode, in which you must defend your base against waves of enemies.
The mission-based scenario had us (spoiler alert) sneaking around a refugee camp in Africa, as we attempted to locate (and terminate) a local warlord. A stealth mission, it would end immediately if anyone was spotted and the alarm was raised. Given the camp is teeming with NPCs, both hostile and friendly, achieving this goal was no easy feat.
That's where the tech I mentioned earlier comes in. Using a combination of active camouflage (effectively an invisibility suit) and sensor grenades (which reveal enemy positions), we were able to sneak our way through the camp to our first hurdle: a group of four enemy guards, blocking the way. To get past them, our approach was to tag each of them using the right bumper, which assigns a number to a target. Then, using a combination of voice chat and the game's intuitive interface, each of the four players took out their assigned target in a simultaneous shot. Four targets down, no alarm raised. Neat!
The rest of our journey through the mission, while fraught with danger and frequent restarting due to ineptitude, I won't detail for fear of spoiling the experience. Suffice to say the scenario rewarded skill, teamwork, and use of the various techy tools on offer over and above fast-twitch trigger fingers.
The second section of gameplay was the game's guerilla mode. A wave-based cooperative multiplayer mode, it still has some unique features that help set it apart from similar modes in other games (which seem to be the mode du jour at the moment).
For a start, in order to have a base to defend, you'll need to sneak your way in and take it from the enemies that are currently occupying it. Once you do so, you'll then need to defend it against waves of increasingly difficult enemies, before moving on to capture a more difficult base in the area. This occasional changeup helps to keep the mode feeling fresh and keeps you on your toes, once again ensuring organised teams that use their technology well are the ones that succeed.
In particular, smart use of the aforementioned sensor grenade is paramount. With it, you can see enemies who are inside the radius of its effect even if they are behind walls. Laying down solid sensor coverage is crucial to your survival in every mode of the game, it seems, and it's fascinating to see the changes in strategy such an inclusion has already wrought.
If you die, it's not game over; your teammates have a chance to resurrect you - doing so will get you straight back into the fight (just try to crawl somewhere safe or they'll die too!). If they don't get to you in time, you can still help out; while dead, you'll be able to finish the round by taking control of a UAV and tagging enemies for your team.
We also got to have another go with Gunsmith, albeit without the Kinect this time around. The depth this weapon customisation system brings to the experience is quite remarkable. Initially, it seems like a gimmick, then you start to appreciate how best you can minimise or maximise your loadout for a given situation, and then... you actually do get hooked on it. Fiddling around with the incredible number of options on offer gives you an attachment to your weapon, resulting in a satisfactory smirk when you pop a guy through light cover with the x-ray scope you specced.
While it might have lost a little bit of its competitive advantage with the announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops II (which shares the "future war" scenario), this is a game that shooter fans who like something a little more biased towards skill and intelligence should consider.
I had an absolute blast playing it and am very keen to get my hands on the full game. It's out on May 24th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and then in June for PC players. If you're keen to find out more about the game's story, be sure to check out the live-action prequel, Ghost Recon: Alpha.By Alan Bell