Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Preview - April 10th 2012

Like Splinter Cell: Conviction before it, Ghost Recon: Future Solider has undergone some pretty fundamental changes throughout its oft delayed development. The creaky E3 reveal from 2009 left a sour taste and failed to impress, but thankfully, the near finished product is a far cry from what was initially shown. Gone is the turtle like pace and awkward aiming mechanics, and in their place an energetic, arcade like shooter has emerged. It's all the better for it, thanks in part to an overwhelming number of customisation options and a renewed sense of identity.

There's a definite Call of Duty vibe, but to directly compare these franchise behemoths would be a futile exercise. Ubisoft continue to ground this series in a plausible near future setting bolstered by actual military tactics. Infinity Ward meanwhile seem perfectly content with incremental engine upgrades and bigger set piece thrills. Lack of innovation aside, this formula has been massively successful for them, and so if Future Soldier has any chance of turning heads, it needs to be a substantial offering.

The campaign will offer plenty of thrills.

On paper, things look promising. 4 player co-op in the main campaign, the option for two player split screen, and both co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes certainly tick the value for money boxes. Then of course there's Gunsmith, which aims to add a more personal touch to managing your arsenal. Each of the 50+ weapons in the game can be blown apart and tinkered with. Everything from clip size and scopes, right down to recoil and trigger mechanisms can be modified to suit your preferences. It's by no means revolutionary, but nonetheless a step above recent military shooters. And then of course is the optional Kinect support. Although it hardly deserves much fanfare, tweaking your gun by emulating Minority Report style gestures looks pretty cool. As unlikely as it is to redefine the world of menu navigation, it fits the aesthetic of the game without feeling out of place.

There does seem to be less emphasis on controlling all aspects of leading your squadmates, which in some ways is a bit disappointing. Despite the promise of more sophisticated friendly A.I, there's a risk that they simply won't behave correctly in every situation. At least Ubisoft have included some interesting mechanics that will hopefully minimise any potential issues. Synchronised takedowns work in tandem with the GRAW-esque heads up display, which allows you to paint several targets and take them all out at the same time. You'll also have access to various drone weapons, which can be remotely piloted and serve a variety of purposes (scouting out an area, providing mobile cover etc...)

Environments typically offer more than one route to the finish.

Future Soldier also boasts a couple of interesting additions that should spice up the feel of combat. Most cover points are now destructible, which will force you to constantly rethink your strategy on the fly. To avoid any potential frustration, you can now hop around the immediate environment with an onscreen selector, which allows you to snap to your next position without the burden of fiddling with over complicated controls. Then of course you have the new suppression effect, which is activated when you're under constant enemy fire. Camera shake and distortion suddenly become a major distraction, but the impact of this on gameplay goes beyond mere visual trickery. Your ability to aim will be significantly reduced, which will force you to risk falling back or flanking from a different angle.

But even when you're away from the game, Ubisoft's recently announced Ghost Recon Network will keep you tied to the action. The free smartphone app provides various stats and social features, such as the ability to receive notifications and challenges from your friends. You can also customise your load outs and clan info, which is then automatically synced with the game when you next go online. There seems to be a real demand for this sort of thing, with FPS's like Halo and Battlefield already employing their own versions of this tech (ATLAS and Battlelog respectively).

The floaty HUD looks cool.

I have high hopes for this game, as Future Solider boasts a feature set that is hard to ignore. A multiplayer beta is due to start on April 19th for owners of Splinter Cell: Conviction and Playstation Plus subscribers. TGSN will bring you hands on impressions of the game during the beta period, which is due to run until May 2nd, and a full review following its launch on May 25th here in the UK. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will be available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

Jon Titmuss

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Ubisoft various
25th May 2012
PC PS3 360