It's been a while since the last Ghost Recon game, Advanced Warfighter 2, arrived on the scene, and even Future Soldier itself has been in the works for some time now. This prolonged development seems to have paid off though, with Ubisoft implementing key elements from recent military shooters to create a new tactical experience unlike any of its peers.
As you may recall, Ubisoft showed off a pre-rendered trailer back at E3 to illustrate one of these key gameplay mechanics -- a team-based take down of multiple targets timed to the second to maintain the squad's cover and move up the map. When played out in-game however, it's not as dramatic and Michael Bay-esque as the trailer would have you believe, though nonetheless significantly changes the way the game plays.
As it's the future, you and your teammates have advanced augmented reality features built into your helmets, which is reflected by the HUD you have on screen. It's a bit of a mixture between the fantastic holographic menus and displays in Dead Space, and the labels and prompts of Assassin's Creed. The "halo" is ever present on your gun to point you towards the bad guys, and a small box accompanies you on the side displaying your ammo count. It's crisp and beautiful, and while perhaps not the first of its kind, it's adopting a new trend and running with it.
The story has you attempting to locate and apprehend a weapons dealer who is selling equipment to a dastardly warlord. The mission we were shown had the Lead Design and Game Director paired with two AI team mates as they try to infiltrate an airfield and take down a cargo plane. The squad starts off under the cover of stealth - when your movement is limited and your finger off the trigger you are effectively ‘cloaked’ -- before dispatching a drone to recon the immediate area. The drone is limited by the wireless reception range as shown by a cell phone-style reception indicator, and marks targets for your HUD to pick up on. The drone can crawl on the ground, where it is cloaked, or hover, where it is not. This adds a little element of risk and reward - when you're flying you can see more enemies but you leave yourself vulnerable to being spotted. Conversely, while on the ground you will be difficult to spot, but won’t be able to see much yourself.
Team mates can then choose marked targets to take down, though this is limited to four at a time as there’s only four squad members in a unit; however you don't need the drone out in the field to do this. The diamond selection of your target slowly twists to be square, acting as a countdown timer for your team mates both human and AI to time their shots. Enemies will be neutralized considerably easier in this mode than in standard gunfights, as we were shown when the developers blew their cover.
In a firefight, the game turns into a cover-based third person shooter, but still utilizes all the AR features to alert you of mission objectives, friends and foes. The cover is fully destructible - depending on the material - and can be shot through as well. There's also different vision modes you can use to see behind cover, such shooting at heat signatures and such. Meanwhile, the plane, alerted to the team’s presence, prepares to take off. Apparently, there is a way to complete the mission without it getting off the ground; however in this case the team had to shoot out an engine, causing the plane to crash.
With all the AR and tactical elements present, not to mention the dynamic mission structure to play around with, Future Soldier could well be one to watch when it ships in March 2012. Stay tuned.
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