by Christopher Park
previewed on PC
Tom Clancy games traditionally become more streamlined, simpler and faster with each new edition. This usually comes at the price of losing focus on tactical considerations, realism and authenticity. As such, it is no surprise to see the latest Ghost Recon installment to take this accessible approach even further. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier plans to throw players into the future, giving it the room it needs to explore new gameplay possibilities and some cool new technologies for players to play around with.
Set in the yet-to-be-determined future, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier deals with a dark future that is so popular in both games and movies these days. Political unrest and power struggles are the norm. Locations such as Russia and Norway are under pressure from ultranationalist actions. The world is already on the brink of chaos when Russiaís president is kidnapped, an action that requires an immediate reaction to guarantee short term world peace. Being who you are, a futuristic soldier, you are destined to be in the thick of it. At your disposal are all the weaponry and advanced tech required to keep those ultranationalists at bay and can only hope to counter with sheer numbers.
New to the franchise is that the storyline will be shown from a number of different perspectives. Rather than just seeing the world through the eyes of your super soldier, the game will take you on a rollercoaster ride that will show you how others view things. This should instill a sense of pathos and a sense that this is everyoneís war, not just yours. The different (playable) perspectives include the bodyguard attempting to save the president and a simple militia man trying to defend his town. It will certainly be interesting to see how this pans out.
Everything we have been shown so far points to a radically different kind of Ghost Recon. Future Soldier will have a greater emphasis on close quarters combat meaning that you need to get close and then strike hard and swiftly. You can choose to disable or kill an adversary and while tempting, killing may not always be the obvious choice. A non-lethal takedown nets you information on your targetís squad giving you he tools and the information to be more effective on the field.
Your squadmates are going to need all the help they can get. For the first time in Ghost Reconís history, there are zero squad commands for your AI brethren. All of the AIís actions are governed by what is going around them and what you are doing. This is definitely one of the bigger changes, almost as big as shift to the quasi-futuristic setting.
This isnít a change for the sake of simplification, it is the idea of squadmates working in tandem, understanding just exactly what each of the mates are about to do, represented by a single button. With a press of a button, your squad will, as Ubisoft calls it, Link-Up into a group of four, covering you and your squad from all angles of attack. This in turn has led to Ubisoft creating far less linear maps, aiming for much more open-ended spaces.
Take Link-Up into Future Soldierís multiplayer and the possibilities are exciting. Eight-player team death-match demanding Link-Up and legitimate communication to survive? It really sounds great in theory but we will have to see how it works out in practice.
Sixty, I tell you, Sixty
With so many changes the technology driving the game is obviously under pressure. Ubisoftís dedicated to making Future Soldier run at a crisp 60 frames and any gamer can tell you that good frame rates make a huge difference in a shooter. With that kind of fluidity you would expect some kind of compromise to the visual fidelity of the game. Yet from what weíve seen we have nothing to worry about. The game sports crisp textures and all the high-tech doo-dads and visual elements of the Cross Com system that was introduced in Advanced Warfighter will make a reappearance again without any noticeable slowdown.
Originally set for a 2010 release, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has been pushed back to the March quarter or 2011. Whether it was for business reasons, quality reasons, or both, Future Soldier is a game that will require a lot of time to polish. Ubisoft is stripping down, overhauling and restructuring huge chunks of what has defined the Ghost Recon franchise over the years. True enough, Advanced Warfighter represented a large jump from tactical action to something more in line with the cover-based affair most third-person shooters have become over the past five years or so. Yet Future Soldier represents an even bigger leap. Whether that will result in a better Ghost Recon remains to be seen, but it is definitely a game that warrants more than a passing glance.