Posted April 27th 2012 by Frankie Aguilar.
This past weekend the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier multiplayer beta went live. More than a few Ubisoft fans were treated to a chance to preview the latest installment of what can be seen as one of the godfathers of modern online multiplayer. The practice of releasing multiplayer betas has become increasingly in vogue due to the popularity and importance placed on a solid multiplayer presence in any game with a gun. Unfortunately, when you throw the word beta around, there's bound to be technical hiccups, but the hint of what could be was interesting enough.
The idea of a beta as an early look at a game in action works really well for Future Soldier. The game really looks beautiful, with all the grittiness of comparable wartime simulators, but with an added layer of reality not seen in others. Maps are detailed and natural, foregoing environmental oddities like crashed planes, for the sake of a greater sense of realism.
The two maps available for play were the wooded, sniper friendly Mill and the fast paced, killbox laden Pipeline. Pipeline seems like a good way for people more familiar with first-person shooters to cut their teeth on the more tactical gameplay. It's wide open enough to sit back and wait for your enemies to walk into your line-of-sight but also filled with enough choked hallways and corners to ambush the unaware. The Mill, on the other hand, seemed a bit too big, and definitely more suited to veterans of the Ghost Recon games. The use of cover and well timed and executed sprints between covers are a huge component of this game but on a map as wide open as the Mill, any seasoned sniper is gonna have a field day with the run and gunners prancing around like idiots.
Gameplay will be heavily dependent on the type of team you're thrust into. If you come away from this article understanding one thing it's this: you can't succeed in this game alone. Team is everything. A squad filled with players content with camping choke points and buying into base defense tactics are going to dominate and you running around, shooting from the hip like a madman is going to skyrocket your death count. Unfortunately, the learning curve coming from this squad based playing style might come across as too steep for some players. It wouldn't be harsh to say that this game feels kind of slow, although if your spawnpoint gets camped you'll be dying quickly and often. But I really think patience and intent to learn mechanics will really lead to a rewarding gameplay experience.
What would a beta without gripes though? For starters, I'm not sure how to feel about the orientation of the character on the screen. Future Soldier isn't a FPS, rather a third person shooter more akin to Gears of War than Call of Duty. You have the ability to switch views from over one shoulder to the other, which basically adjusts your character from left-of-center to right-of-center but neither really feels comfortable. Although I'm fine with the "Tom Clancy" attention to detail when it comes to things like the kick from firing weapons, having the muzzle flash cover up half the screen when looking down the barrel is more annoying than immersive.
Points of personal taste aside, Future Soldier has positives going forward. I really enjoyed my brief experience with the Gunsmith, the method by which you can customize your weapons for individual loadouts. What's interesting about this system, in opposition to Battlefield's and Call of Duty's, is it's set up more like an MMO than a FPS. Instead of unlocking different parts and perks throughout the leveling process, allowing you to mix and match at your leisure, your character makes binding decisions as he progresses. Say you're given a choice between a scope and an underbarrel smoke grenade launcher. Whichever you choose is what you're stuck with unless you spend skill points to reverse your decisions.
The Gunsmith feature will really bring your personality and tendencies out in your character. The fact that you have different classes to begin with changes the overall feel of leveling your sharpshooter. In other games, your avatar may not have access to the best weapons from the get go, but he's still essentially a weapons master, as proficient with a sniper rifle as a shotgun. Future Soldier constricting weapon types to individual classes forces you to specialize, which works well within the gameplays overall cooperative framework. Add to that the Gunsmith feature which makes you choose between attachments as you go instead of grinding to unlock everyone imaginable. Having individual taste and play style preference actively affecting your decisions really creates a level of ownership not usually reserved for shooting games.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will definitely cater to the hardcore, but I worry that it'll stick only with them. Fast-paced, deathmatch driven first-person shooter have dominated the shortened attention spans of today's modern gamer. Even in my objectivity, I found myself frustrated with the pacing. But I think that had to do with the fact that I was always placed on a team with seven people that fashioned themselves after John Rambo. If you're the type of player that always runs with a crew and you on your buddies can actually cooperate, you'll probably dig this game. A squad driven tactical game this in depth is gonna require actual teamwork and I'd much rather be yelling at my friends for cover than a foul mouthed 13 year-old with less than stellar cursing abilities.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier drops for PlayStation 3 and Xbox360 May 22nd and for Windows June 12th in North America.
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