Yep, if you’ve survived that gruelling audio-visual nightmare glimpse at the dizzying confusion that exists solely in Rob’s perpetually malfunctioning brain, and haven’t begun to riotously attack yourself with anything solid and in arms reach, then WELL DONE; you’re not a being of this universe.
I’ve added this in, because as it turns out, I was not in the correct mind frame for adding live commentary to this video. In fact, I’m not even sure I possess the capacity to enter into that mind frame at all. But it’s okay, because now you’re reading this, and hopefully in my ardently grating voice as well! Hooray.
So, how is Future Soldier? As is touched upon with disarming irrelevancy during the video, this beta left us with a feeling of distinct familiarity. But in a good way. Sort of.
Immediately, there’s a great sense of fluidity to the movement and controls. Perhaps that’s partially down to the fact I haven’t touched a Tom Clancy game in flipping ages, and even longer goes for the Ghost Recon series (especially because that movement malleability seemed to wear off once I’d really gotten into my game) but Future Soldier certainly feels well-oiled the moment you step into a match. The animations that see your bloke scrambling into cover, strafing blindly into bits of scenery and leaping dramatically over walls look overtly well-rehearsed and go toward that feeling of solid in-game controllability. Comparable to EA’s Frostbite-encumbered Battlefield? Maybe not, but we’re not stacking points against it for that.
Visually, Future Solider seems pretty shiny. The character models look and feel solid, and some of the environments are undoubtedly beautifully painted. Explosions kick up excellent looking dust clouds, spent bullet casings ping excitedly from your weapon of choice, and the camera goes all quirky when your chap engages in anything more physically demanding than checking his pocket watch. Combine this with the aforementioned animations and refined initial feel to the controls, and Future Soldier certainly has the core-aspects in place to make this a big hitter for the series.
The gadgetry was the other notion this Ghost Recon carried that caught our eye, though our playtest limited the amount of time we could really spend tinkering. The sensor grenades, held chiefly by the engineer class, that scan the surrounding area and highlight enemies for teammates help to bring that classic Ghost Recon strategy to the multiplayer. We turned an IR night camera on and off to the supposed fury of Bravo Team, and went invisible a few times, but felt these didn’t really shine through as having any real impact on the combat or competitive aspect of the game. Though being invisible did briefly limit my resounding ability to wander blissfully out into oncoming gunfire over and over again.
The maps seemed exciting and varied at first, scattered with nooks and crannies, interesting looking staircases and an abundance of places to duck, hide and cry whilst bullets scream overhead and smear the corresponding wall. Once I’d gotten used to the layouts however, they suddenly felt cluttered and a little haphazardly nonsensical in design. Like a giant Alan Titchmarsh had accidentally emptied his briefcase of conveniently proportioned chest-high garden furniture everywhere and given Charlie Dimmock the opportunity to not tidy up after him. Or something.
The only game mode on offer was Conflict, which, from what I could gather, involved some sort of ‘attack this, defend that’ routine, which, in turn, involved being typical and forgettable and above all, not appended to any players’ priorities even slightly. Perhaps the resultant tides of beta-testing, but essentially, my games seemed to involve a team-deathmatch centric approach by all involved, regardless of the actual game type. Still, this left room for the core-mechanics of shooting and hiding to shine through, which indeed they did, if slightly refracted here and there.
All in all then, I had great fun with the GR:FS beta, and enjoyed every minute of the hour that preceded putting Mass Effect back in. And whilst there are avid pitfalls that could potentially swallow the game whole ( a been there, done that, bought the Call of Duty t-shirt and wasted all my money already type of uncertainty) we’re certainly not writing Ubi off yet for this one. A solid and familiar Ghost Recon style set-up, with a prettier coat and an engaging single-player, not to mention an instruction booklet for the fancier gizmos, and we might yet make a superstar of this ‘un. Regardless, we reckon Future Soldier’s going to be a feather in the series’ cap come release later this month! Keep ‘em peeled boys and ladies.