by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on X360
I remember the original Ghost Recon with vivid fascination. Me and a friend of mine would link our PCs up and sneak through the densely grown forests together, looking for terrorists to shoot at. In some cases, we would be crawling on the ground for hours without finding a single soul, and suddenly, we were both dead; shot by an enemy whose presence we had been completely unaware of. Sound uninteresting to you? Well, it was anything but. The feeling of suspense that cooled our very cores, the immense satisfaction we got at seeing each enemy fall, and the sheer level of frustration at each defeat made the game all that more exciting. The Ghost Recon series has already taken quite a few steps away from its beloved roots but will Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier be the final farewell to the sense of realism and suspense that its predecessor instilled in our minds?
A Name to be Reckoned With
Tom Clancy's games have to this date been synonymous with well written, exciting and beautiful military action games, despite Tom Clancy himself not taking any part in their creation. Apart from a few disappointing titles on the Nintendo Wii, and a less-than successful attempt at a voice controlled strategy game, his games have generally delivered what the fans expected of the franchise. With statements about Future Soldier having a bigger focus on action, the addition of a Crysis-esque invisibility suit, and the shoulder mounted, Predator-style, mini Javelin missiles, one can't help but wonder where this series is heading.
Set in a not-so-distant future, Future Soldier lets you control 4 of the best equipped, best trained elite soldiers the U.S. Military has to offer. Their futuristic equipment include the aforementioned optical camouflage suit, a shoulder mounted rocket launcher, heartbeat sensors, exoskeletons, and one gun that can apparently do everything. All of these are based on real life prototypes according to Kimi Matsuzaki, community manager at Ubisoft, but one can't help but wonder if all these additions will not make the game far to easy to complete.
A band of ultra-nationalists have taken over Russia and decided to invade a couple of their U.S. Allied neighbours. This was not a good idea as the aptly named “Ghosts” of Ghost Recon are on their way to slap their wrists. The fighting will take place in Norway, the Middle East, and Asia, giving players a very welcome break from the monotony of constantly fighting in the same places. The game is a third-person shooter, but does give the player the ability to switch to first-person view in order to pull off precise sniper shots or gather info on a specific target. Cover can be destroyed, rendering those lovable four foot high concrete walls a mere temporary safe-haven, forcing you to keep moving if you do not want the last thing to go through you mind to be a few grams of elongated lead. The promise of four player co-op does sound very appealing though, and the ability to compete in prize tournaments through Virgin's online service is a very welcome addition to the more competitive gamers out there.
The development team seems to be very optimistic about this game - optimism which long term fans of the series do not appear to share. Many gamers have slated the developers for steering the series in the direction of games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and focusing on the action rather than staying true to the series' roots. Others believe that the additions of the exoskeleton (which will enhance the “Ghosts” physical attributes, making the action faster and more frantic) and the Optical camouflage suite will “dumb the game down” and render it just another generic run-and-gun shooter. The developers have stated that the equipment available in this game is still in the prototype stage when the events take place, and that the enemy will have equipment which should keep the difficulty balanced.
Farewell to a Beloved Friend.
Originally scheduled for a holiday 2010 release, the game has been repeatedly delayed due to fine tuning and Ubisoft's commitment to “strengthening” their 2011 lineup. Very little information is available about the game as of yet, which only serves to give our skepticism time to fester in our minds. The few glimpses we have seen of the game so far do paint a pretty picture though. The game looks absolutely superb and close quarters executions and fire fights almost appear exciting enough to forgive the lack of freedom and stealth which made the original Ghost Recon the masterpiece it is. The optimal word in my previous sentence was “almost” and I remain cautiously optimistic about Future Soldier, but with the commercial success of series such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, one can understand their reasons for choosing that route. With so many excellent games already occupying the “run-and-gun” genre and so few focusing on real stealth and realistic combat, the Ghost Recon series will be sorely missed by many virtual soldiers.