The shooter genre, both first person and third, has become increasingly stagnant and over-saturated with perennial copy and paste titles. It has become bad enough to turn me, a once avid shooter fan, away. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is the veracious second breathe this gamer needed. The game is a blend of a few notable titles: It borrows some of Gears of War’s cover mechanics, Socom’s panned-out third-person camera, and Battlefield 3‘s objective-based gameplay. It grabs the best aspects of those series and incorporates it with the already established Ghost Recon universe superbly.
This of course is a Tom Clancy title, so the military action is as authentic and realistic as it gets–for the most part (some of the tech might seem a bit out of this world,but more on that later). The weapons are extremely detailed; you would think, with as much time as players spend looking at and firing these guns, other games would add this much care and customization. With Gunsmith players, have complete control over their load outs. Everything imaginable is customizable from a gun’s barrel to the hand rail scope to the trigger. This level of customization is unheard of, and it will take first hand experience to truly appreciate it–it’s a major selling point. The promised Kinect compatibility is a small addition, but something I look forward to seeing.
Characters pop in and out of cover with the preciseness you would expect from trained soldiers, and the animation is amazing. It’s a breeze to move in and out of cover, so you never feel stuck in position like you do in in Gears. Sprinting and then hitting the deck also looks authentic, and I also appreciated the ability to roll around while prone, which gives snipers more mobility. Environments received lots of love, too. Landscapes are extremely detailed; the way foliage rips apart when it’s under heavy fire really help immerse players.
The game features some of the most interesting military technology that’s ever seen in a video game. According to Ubisoft, all of the technologies are military prototypes and we can expect to see them in the near future. Each class utilizes a different piece of tech, creating teamwork and strategy. The teamwork brings Battlefield 3 to mind, as teams with good communication will probably fare far better against a team of lone wolves. To improve teamwork, players can link up to teammates by bringing up the mini-map and selecting the player, which creates a link very similar to the SOP link from Metal Gear Online. When linked, a line appears on the ground always leading toward your linked teammate. Players can also spawn on a team-mate that isn’t near an objective or in combat.
Engineer- This class is for the team player. If you enjoy setting team mates up with info like enemy location while keeping your backs covered play as the engineer. The weapons available are a bit underpowered, but the engineer isn’t meant for the front lines; it’s more of a pick up the scraps type of class. The most useful piece of equipment in the engineers arsenal is the scanner grenade. When thrown, it collects all the data in the area it lands in (including the enemies in the vicinity) for the entire team to see.
Rifleman- More offensive players will enjoy playing this class. It’s straight forward, in your face, and most of lethal. The Rifleman is the only class that has lethal grenades at its disposal along with the lethal assault rifles and light machine guns (LMG). To balance out this powerful class riflemen don’t have futuristic technology at their disposal. That said, beginners should stick to this class for easy straight forward combat.
Scout- This is probably the hardest class to play, but it’s by far my personal favorite. This class is for the patient sniper that likes picking targets off from a distance. Snipers lack automatic weapons from the start, and will lose most close range fire fights. Scouts, however, have active camouflage from the start. Camouflage activates when the scouts stops moving and causes them to blend in with their environment and appear invisible. Thermal scopes and UAV’s help spot hiding scouts to keep the class from being overpowered. This is easily the coolest tech in the beta and is actually balanced quite well.
The Beta includes two multiplayer maps that are drastically different. Mill is long-range map that favors assault rifles, but has areas for snipers to perch. Pipeline is conducive to more up close and confrontational combat. Sticking to cover and picking your shots is important on this map, as snipers can also cover the high ground and pick enemies apart. Both maps show the games versatility.
This map is excellent for objective based game types–its huge and has a lot of open space. There are areas for snipers to defend like the bridge in the middle of the map. There are a few spots for close range fire fights, but not many. Mill is full of natural locals with foliage and huge tress, making for some great hiding spots. Long distance fire fights will occur, and marksmen reap the rewards.
Pipeline is a more industrial map with a bunch of small buildings and lots of cover. Cover is your best friend on this map, as the firefights are a-plenty. If you’re caught in the open you become an immediate bullet-sponge. Engineers are damned important on this map. Their scanner grenades really help identify targets and set up strategies. Snipers can climb to the top of buildings and target stragglers here also.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is shaping up great and it’s already an amazing game. It does have its issues, but none that Ubisoft can’t correct. Firstly, the Rifelman class is a bit overpowered due to its weapon strength early on, also the class gets extra armor, this gives it an advantage during most firefights. Secondly, head shots come far too easily, I noticed opponents who weren’t aiming would land lucky headshots.
In all, the game is great, and will surely put other shooters on notice.
Expect a review later this month. What did you think of the beta?