Two months from today Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will finally be available for players to purchase, putting an end to the five year wait since Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 released. Delays have pushed the game back nearly an extra two years and in that time we've started to see a lot of what may be the causes for those delays.
From an innovative weapon customization system that supports Xbox 360's hands-free Kinect motion controller and a full four-player cooperative campaign, to what we learned (and played) last week is another co-op mode coming to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, titled 'Guerrilla.'
At Ubisoft's San Francisco offices, Game Rant met again with Future Soldier lead designer Roman Campos Oriola along with some of the leads of Ubisoft Red Storm who are working on the game's multiplayer elements. Where last time we previewed the GRFS campaign playing solo, this time we got to play two levels with four human players, while also spending time on the new-to-the-franchise Guerrilla mode. Oriola explains:
"Since the beginning of Future Soldier we wanted to have a specific co-op horde mode, but we did not really know... and last summer we were at boot camp with one of our military consultants from the Navy SEALs and one day they explained to us the tactics the special forces use in Afghanistan.
Their main issue in Afghanistan is that they don't know where they are going to fight because they don't know where the enemy is, and more importantly, they don't know who the enemy is because anyone could be walking around with an AK-47."
So, what the special forces did, in this case it was SEALs, is head into a zone they know is host to enemy forces with two or three teams at night and seize a building, kicking everyone out. These same people, who are typically paying protection fees to the local Taliban warlords, run to the leader and say, "there are some NATO guys in the village, come and kick them out."
Why this is interesting, and relevant, as Oriola points out, is that it gives the special forces the tactical advantage and intel they need. They now solved the problem of knowing where they are going to fight and can fortify accordingly. They also know who they are fighting because whoever attempts to remove them will be comprised entirely of enemy forces. They do this for three-four days and clear out everyone with this strategy, the same strategy which provides the basis and background for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's Guerrilla co-op mode.
Guerrilla is Ubisoft's answer to the popular horde/survival mode, a co-op feature made almost necessary for triple-A shooters by Epic Games with Gears of War 2 and used by EA and BioWare to introduce multiplayer in Mass Effect 3. Using the real-life military tactics as the basis for Ghost Recon's spin on horde mode accomplishes two things: it provides a legitimate objective-based scenario for the Ghosts to find themselves in that fits within the game's fiction and setting, and it gives Ubisoft an out for not having NPC civilians crowding the map.
Guerrilla is a wave-based survival mode where up to four players can play cooperatively to fight off 50 waves of enemies. The difference is that every 10 waves, the position players must defend (the HQ) moves and they're put on the offensive before digging in again. Completing all the waves on all four maps amounts to what Ubisoft claims is nearly 30 hours of co-op content, and at any time players can jump into where they left off by starting at any desired wave.
Gameplay in 'Guerrilla' is quite a bit different from campaign play as it's kill or be killed. Stealth is traded in for tactical defensive setups and coordination. Players will however, get their chance to attack and silently kill enemies every ten waves when they seek out the next defensive HQ position, and once the area is cleared out, they can set up and all bunker down to kickstart the next set of waves.
The HUD in this mode displays a few unique indicators, one for how many enemies are left and another which lists the five wave bonuses (displayed above) that players can early for racking up points. There are five that can be earned and it's recommended that players save them for the trickier, boss waves:
- Radar - extend cross-com sensory data.
- Invisibility - grants player active camo even when running/standing.
- Missile - target a location for a precision missile attack.
- Turret - place a defensive gun battery.
- Air Strike - wreak havoc on a wide area of land.
When players survive a wave, they are granted 45 seconds to run to the weapon and equipment drops to resupply or change their loadouts and lay down Claymore mines before the onslaught begins again. Gunsmith weapon customization is not a part of Guerrilla since players may need to change weapons frequently in between waves - the weapon drops alternate each wave, offering a different selection of firearms each time. Like the main campaign, players can carry multiple types of equipment and two primary weapons.
Like any horde/survival mode, each wave brings with it more difficult enemy types and within a few waves, players will begin encountering enemies wielding bullet-proof shields and snipers in the distance (be careful of the red lasers!). Towards the very end, "bosses" of sorts raise the challenge big time in the form of armored vehicles.
Unlike Ghost Recon 2 and its standalone expansion, Summit Strike, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier does not feature any sort of usable anti-vehicle rocket launcher so players have to plan ahead and arm themselves with the grenade launcher in one of their weapon slots and restock their frags. Players can also call in artillery or a missile strike if they've saved the wave bonuses.
The game ends if a player dies (gets downed three times or is not healed at all) or if an enemy is able to stay in your base for too long.
In the 14-mission campaign, stealth and communication is key. It's not absolutely necessary in a lot of mission segments, but being able to take down enemies with precision and in a logical order will make all the difference. There is at least one mission however, involving a Russian airport under the darkness of night that requires the team to not set off any alarms. That means everyone must use silent weapons and should avoid enemy contact when possible. Bodies of downed enemies cannot be spotted either as that alerts the guards and results in a fail for that particular mission. Again, teamwork is everything and you need to play with people you trust.
Thankfully, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is nowhere near as punishing as its predecessors and there are checkpoints for each combat area, meaning that players won't have to restart the entire mission based on one slip-up and chances are, there will be a lot of slip-ups as this isn't a run-and-gun game. Players who take too many hits aren't immediately killed which marks another departure from the series. They can be healed by teammates but each player only gets three lives.
Because of the needed requirements of communication, teamwork and patience, campaign co-op doesn't have matchmaking - it's made for players to play with their friends as opposed to strangers. Even then, it may be an issue finding a team of four competent players as synchronizing shots against enemy combatants who are scattered and mobile is very difficult and more often than not, one players would be spotted or their shot won't be lined up. But that type of challenge has always been present in Ghost Recon co-op and veteran players will find themselves right at home with the new gameplay mechanics.
Outside of some lagged animations and graphical hiccups in the preview build, the game mechanics worked well. The only problem was our own teamwork at times, but we did manage to beat the first set of waves of Guerrilla and beat one and half of the campaign missions. It helps having a squad leader knowledgeable of the map and using a drone to tag enemies and coordinate attacks, and it does not help having one team member unintentionally finding themselves in lone wolf scenarios.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier releases May 22, 2012 in North America, and May 24, 2012 in Europe, for the PS3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will follow at a later date.
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