With the events of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter only a mere year into the future, it’s time for Ubisoft and Tom Clancy to provide us with a new Ghost Recon game. Thus, Future Solider is nearly here; with a release date of May 25th now set. Despite the few months still to wait, Ubisoft were giving a select few the opportunity to play the game at a super secret location near London’s Kings Cross. The Ubisoft crew were on hand to praise or berate, as well as pass around the nibbles, over the course of the 5 level long demo session. Introduction out of the way now? Excellent. Let’s crack on and talk about the game itself!
The exact plot of Future Solider was, unsurprisingly, kept mostly under wraps. However, thus far, it appears to be the standard Ghost Recon affair; you are the leader of a four man team sent in to deal with the horrendous war being perpetrated by Russian ultra-nationalists who are invading neighbouring countries in an attempt to be the evillest enemies they can be. The missions take place over a wide variety of countries, ranging from Norway, to the Middle East, to non-recognisable Asian countries which were not named in the chunk of levels on show. Rather basic information up until this point, no huge shockers, but that was when I actually got to pick a controller and play it for myself.
The scale certainly seems impressive.
Throughout the section on show the animations were impressive, and Ubisoft have every right to brag about them. Two big thumbs up and off the joysticks for the overall look and presentation of the game – beautiful (for a third person tactical shooter, at least). There were a couple of flaws, mostly graphical snippets and audio issues which will certainly be ironed out by release, but the vast majority of what was on show gives good reason to be excited about Future Soldier.
The gameplay lives up to the same high standard. The cover system is nothing new to the Ghost Recon world, but the cover swap in Future Soldier really helps the game to flow. Just hold down a button when pointing at a piece of cover in your view and you’ll run full pelt at it with all your might. This makes high tension fire-fights all the more exciting, no longer will you have to manually pull yourself up and clunkily stumble to another piece of scenery to hide behind when under fire, or when a grenade rolls dangerously close to your feet.
It’s also incredibly useful for helping to ‘mark targets’ for your AI partners to take down. This is another new innovation in which you can select up to four targets (one being your own), and have the rest of your team synchronise their kills with yours. It makes creating ambushes and clearing sniper placements a lot more tactical, as you have to get the timing just right to make sure every member of your team has a clear shot before executing it, and works even better when used in tangent with the AR Drone.
Ghost Recon featuers lots of crouching and shooting, as well it should.
The drone is used for more than just scouting purposes and marking synchronised take-down targets though, it is especially useful when you are suppressed. Multiple times throughout the game you will find yourself pinned down by enemy fire for one reason or another. Maybe you gave your position away, missed a shot, or something that just made the enemies want to kill you and solely you. During this experience your aiming will be going Tom Cruise crazy all over the screen. Your heart is racing, you obviously don’t want to die, and the pressure just makes everything you attempt to do more difficult. Luckily, you have 3 more team members at your disposal.
You can either pop your head out from cover and hope to Thor that you get a lock on one, or all, of the targets suppressing you long enough to tag them to focus fire your team on them, or you can switch to the drone; using it to mark your suppressors and cover swap yourself out of harm’s way. That sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but pulling off the perfect escape from suppression using the AR Drone was tremendously satisfying every single time.
The other fun bit of future technology on display was the Ghost Camouflage. You may have already seen it in both the Live Action and E3 trailers but it doesn’t do quite what you’d imagine. Yes, it does make your character and teammates appear invisible on the screen, or at least a see-through invisible blur in the shape of your character, but its effect doesn’t make you completely undetectable by enemies and civilians.
What it does is give you an extra second or two of covertness. If you’re moving between two points and an enemy spots you it’ll buy you that precious second or two to either take the shot or get out of dodge. It only works when you’re crouched or prone though, so don’t expect to go Call of Duty-ing it, with all guns blazing hoping that the camo will save you from becoming a bullet and brain sandwich.
The whole experience just feels as if they’ve got the balance of all they promised right. I did spend one mission in a forest carefully marking my targets in advance with the AR Drone and synchronising my kills with the rest of my squad; being patient and methodical about it. The next mission though I was holding down the trigger and spraying like an inexperienced pornstar, all the while frantically ducking and dodging from car to car as a massive fire-fight broke out on a populated highway. It catered to both elements well, and of course I could have almost done the complete polar opposite for each mission if I had chosen to. There were even a few vehicle sections thrown in, which while not spectacular, did add a touch of variety to the proceedings; my favourite moment in them being when I took down a fleeing target in a Hummer, throwing it into a quadruple barrel roll, only to have one of my team next to me accurately spurt out: “Oh Shit!… Yeah, that ought to stop ’em.”
Overall, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is looking to have been worth the long, long wait. Ubisoft has constantly pushed forward the justification for the delays that they want to make this game as perfect as they possibly can. Well Ubisoft, on the off chance you’re reading this; you’ve done it. Okay? It was brilliant. I enjoyed every moment I played. I even put my pre-order down the evening after the event because I want MORE of it. Just please, PLEASE, don’t push this beauty back any longer. Give it to the people. Fans will love it, new-comers will love it, and frankly the thought of even having to wait until the end of May to get my sweaty paws on this is tortuous enough.
This preview written by Duncan Aird.