Up Close and Personal
Over time, the Ghost Recon series has evolved significantly. In the early days, it was a slow-paced, methodical, tactical shooter in which your planning and squad commands mattered more than the speed of your trigger finger. With the pair of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter games, the series became even more action-oriented, with a simplified squad control mechanic that made the franchise seem faster and more deadly than ever before. Based on a recent demo we saw, the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is continuing the trend towards more action-heavy gameplay. Even so, fans of the series shouldn’t worry that the tactical element of the Ghost Recon games is being completely ignored.
At first glance, Future Soldier looks like a now-familiar Gears of War-style third-person shooter. However fast-paced it may be, gameplay is still a long way from the constant action of the Gears games. In Future Soldier, you’ll take the lead of an elite four-man Ghost squad that still relies more on subtlety than firepower. This is reflected in the game’s signature piece of equipment, a new optical camouflage suit that renders you almost completely invisible.
You might think that such a piece of equipment would be game-breakingly powerful, and you’d be right, if Ubisoft hadn’t put strict limits on its usage. According to the developer who walked us through the demo, the optical camo is young technology and thus, still has many flaws. If you do anything other than moving while it’s active, the invisibility effect shorts out, leaving you exposed. It’s designed as a tool to let you get into position and nothing else, so take those thoughts of becoming an unseen killing machine like the Predator and throw them out the window. The camo is here to let you nearer to your enemies than you’re used to. Then, of course, you take them out. In the demo we saw, the player crept up behind an enemy solider manning a mounted gun, slit his throat, and then held him in place while an enemy patrol walked by. We’ve seen the stealth kill attack a hundred times in games before. We’ve never seen any game use the same stealth skills to explain why enemy guards don’t notice when their comrades drop like flies.
Speaking of comrades, the plot of Future Soldier has the Ghosts traveling around Europe, battling an evil force of Russian ultra-nationalists. As the leader of the squad, an American of Russian descent, you’ve got a particular interest in seeing that the terrorist organization doesn’t disrupt the stability of the region. Fortunately, you’ve got three skilled team members by your side. There’s your sniper, who not only takes out enemies from afar but also helps map out the battlefield. There’s your recon soldier, who specializes in stealthy recon, and there’s your engineer, who has an EMP shield and can command both air and ground drones. The drones will be a much bigger part of combat this time around. Not only will they help you spot enemies, but can also deliver ammo and even fight on their own.
In one demo scenario we saw, the four members of the Ghost squad coordinated an attack to take out the guards defending a VIP, whom the squad were instructed to take alive. By using their optical camo, three Ghosts were able to get into sniping position, while the player character crept up to within a few feet of the target. On the player’s mark, all three Ghosts fired in unison, taking out the guards at the same time, allowing the player to spring forward and capture the VIP unharmed.
Of course, with any scenario based on a team-oriented action such as that, co-op gameplay is a given. Future Soldier will feature four-player co-op for the main campaign, as well as the expected competitive multiplayer. While many of the multiplayer details have yet to be revealed, Ubisoft has shared one unique new feature that will be included in both the co-op and competitive modes: , a new “tethering” system that allows players to automatically link up. Up to four players can tether together as a single unit, steered by one lead player. The other three players will stick to the lead, automatically staying in formation. This new mechanic frees up the three supporting players to concentrate on spotting and battling threats without having to worry about navigation. Not only should this new feature encourage teamwork, it is also designed to help newer players learn the maps by tethering to a more experienced player. It’s a radical new feature for a multiplayer shooter, and one that proves that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will be pushing players to work together like never before.