Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Preview - Getting It Right
Written Wednesday, May 02, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
This is more like it. The last time I played Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's campaign, it's fair to say I had reservations. Aside from the wonky code of a title still months from release, there was something about the game that didn't feel right.
Perhaps it was the level set amongst a jam of abandoned cars, lifted straight from Infinity Ward's cutting room floor. Maybe it was the gadgets that, while fun, did not feel completely essential. Or it could have been the erosion of the series’ deep strategic foundations, a deliberate attempt to grasp at a broader, less demanding audience.
Yet the level I played recently, co-operatively with three other teammates, was a joy. We died. A lot. We payed the price for lone wolf tactics. We learned that the game's gadgets are essential. We grew better at communication. We still died. A lot. And before that we got to tinker with Gunsmith.
Not merely an attempt to tack Kinect controls to a game that doesn't need them, Gunsmith is an insanely deep customisation tool. The characters in Future Soldier are not really characters. They're shallow, gruff-voiced nothings. As such, they – and by extension you – can only express themselves through gunplay. Gunsmith lets you sing.
You can tinker with the power, range, control, maneuverability, rate of fire and magazine size of your weaponry by swapping out the barrel, the muzzle, stock, optics, paint, trigger, magazine, underbarrel attachment and god knows what else. It’s dizzying.
All of this is baked into the experience too. So rather than give you the loadout and set-up best suited for each mission, the game lets you choose. The level we played was supposed to be approached stealthily, so a silencer was suggested. Beyond that, we were on our own.
I'm not sure I chose the right weapon. It was silenced and the range of it meant that I could pick off enemies from distance. But given more time I could have made something with more punch, more power. And that's the point. I wanted to spend longer with Gunsmith to learn its intricacies. You could lose yourself in it for hours.
Suitably equipped we dived into the level itself. I had used the tagging system before. I had lined up synchro shots before. I had used the UAV, the X-Ray vision and those funny recon grenades too. We’ve written about how they work in our previous previews. But they’ve never made as much sense as on this mission. Suddenly, everything came together.
The mission involved storming an enemy camp. There were four of us and lots of them, scurrying around in the distance and hiding in elevated sniper spots. The camp was incredibly well guarded, with a central building fit to burst with enemies. If at any stage we broke cover and revealed our presence, they would come out en-masse. That happened a lot.
We must have tried the level 10 different ways and every time we were punished for lazy shots, poor positioning, not working as a team or just general stupidity. Every time someone got hit, we had to patch them up before they bled out or we would fail the mission. We learned the hard way. One teammate’s mistakes punished the whole team.
But it wasn’t frustrating because we knew it was our fault. Step by step we learned. We were initially reluctant to tag enemies thanks to our eagerness to secure a kill, but the mission was almost impossible without it. Many of the enemies were at a distance, so you simply couldn’t see them without that tell-tale red diamond outlining their position. We either tagged or we died. It was that simple.
Movement had to be co-ordinated too. For a while, after the lone wolf crap had died down, we thought that moving around in unison would be the answer, but even strength in numbers couldn’t prevent us from being outnumbered or flanked. Therefore it was essential that we had all the angles covered by splitting into different groups and communicating.
We finally triumphed when we divided ourselves up, with one team stalking to the left and keeping their distance while the other team punched straight through the middle of the map, clearing the central building with the help of motion sensor grenades. Only when we mastered the gadgets and our movement and tactics did we succeed.
You must have read a million reviews and previews of games where the writer has told you that communication is key. I’ve written a fair few myself. But very rarely have I seen an unorganised team punished so severely for sloppy tactics. And it wasn’t just a matter of memorising spawn points or scripted movement either; the mission panned out slightly differently each time.
It was, in short, an almost completely different experience than any of the other preview sessions I’ve had so far. So let's have no misunderstandings, the missions I played in previous sessions will still be in the game. The shortcomings of the crappy action-oriented scenes on tight maps remain. But when Ghost Recon Future Soldier gets it right, it gets it really right. It will be interesting to see which way the final game leans when it hits later this month.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is out on May 22nd in North America and May 25th in Europe.