Ghost Recon and the Future Soldier brand has always been a beloved and iconic part of the Tom Clancy gaming universe. Gamers have been starved in recent years though of any new title in the world of near-future warfare, due to Ubisoft being unsatisfied with the then current product, and taking the game back to the drawing boards.
But has the wait been worth it then? Oh yes, yes it has indeed, as the beta for the multiplayer of Ghost Recon paints a game that is completely different to all other similar games on the market today.
Like any beta, there are bound to be problems, or awesome solutions in my case, when I found my soldier to have developed sudden invulnerability to all attacks. Glitches abound, lag is present and visuals pop in and out, but then again, this is why the beta exists, so that developers can spot these issues well ahead of time.
And yet, even with these early issues, that will be ironed out anyway, the game is still a blast to play. The game looks great, load times are quick (most of the time at least) and the guns feel meaty, realistic and lethal.
So let’s start from the beginning then. You’ve downloaded a gig of Clancy soldiers, and you want to start a game. Here’s one part where I have an issue, as the current menu and options design feels generic and rather bland, and sometimes cluttered as well. It’s nothing major, but I’m pretty certain that a graphic designer or two will explode when they see the initial designs.
Going deeper into the menus, and you get your regular options, as well as a customisation option for your various soldiers and classes. Gunsmith is a fantastic addition to the franchise, as your primary and secondary weapons set a new benchmark for customisation.
Everything, and I mean everything, can be altered on your weapon. Sights, colour, magazines, barrels and even the carbine system can be tweaked, and while it’s still too early to tell what effect this will have on the game itself, it’s a well implemented idea that will give joygasms to anyone who loves their carbine.
Saving Private [email protected]
Gameplay itself, clearly leans towards a multiplayer session that is more objective based than anything else. Capturing control points, protecting high-value targets/players (WHY IS IT ALWAYS ME?) and demolishing certain goals in order to rack up points makes for a tense atmosphere, one which is not always clear.
The cover and movement system will feel very familiar to anyone who has played some Splinter Cell Conviction, with cover playing a key role, as well as being more fluid when transitions are needed.
Initially, the game feels like pure information overload, with various HUDS, objectives and data streaming into the battlefield at all times, and while confusing and cluttered at first, once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Marked enemies pop up as red danger silhouettes, concentric circles around your rifle let you know what you’re about to shoot out of your barrel and team-mates always maintain a visual connection to you.
Again, confusing at first, second nature afterwards.
But here is where gameplay is also drastically different. We’ve all engaged in team-based multiplayer before, but honestly, this is the first time that I’ve actually felt that I was part of a team.
You can go full commando if you want, gunning it alone and trying to rack up kills, but honestly, GRFS will punish this kind of behaviour. Four cowboys are no match for a team that sticks together and covers each other, as my fellow American beta-testers confirmed when I joined them for a few rounds, as we completely dominated the maps.
And bear in mind that I’m usually terrible at these kinds of games, but my support-happy tactics have finally found a home, it seems. This might also slightly hamper the game when it launches however, as playing with friends who know and trust you will result in a completely different experience compared to joining a random party.
Soldier classes also feel different and not in any way like a palette swap, with characters such as the Rifleman being your heavy hitter, Recon acting as an invisible watchdog and the Engineer having excellent diversion skills to draw from.
Viewpoints can also change on the fly, from an angle that can suit either right-handed people, or lefties such as myself for a change, while slipping down to a first-person view down your iron-sights is an effortless process.
In my case it worked out, as I played with the Americans, who kept asking me to shout out “diplomatic Immunity”, but compared to the match that I had with a team of angry Frenchmen, that was a disaster.
The two maps on offer in the Beta are Mill and Pipeline. Pipeline feels more like one long corridor of fortifications and urban warfare, while Mill has a more arena-like feel to it, providing more of an opportunity to circle around, and take cover to set up ambushes in the various huts, bridges and barns.
They’re both massive however, and it’s going to be really interesting to see just how much action full teams can bring to the locales when the full game launches. And much like any warfare game worth its salt today, GRFS will have a stat-tracking service in the form of the Ghost Recon network. Pity that it wasn’t available for any of the Beta testers, at this time of writing, as was promised.
Leave no man behind
If you’re a fan of multiplayer action, shooters, war or a diehard Tom Clancy supporter, then this might just be the game that you’ve been waiting for. It’s far more tactical than other offerings on the market, there’s plenty of meat on the bones, and provided that Ubisoft can gather enough data to polish over some rough edges in the game, this could very well be one of the breakout hits of the year.
If you’d like to experience the ghosty tactics for yourself, then why not download the beta? In fact, here are some spooky keys for PS3 and Xbox 360!