Game Rant visited the offices of Ubisoft’s Red Storm Entertainment recently for the first ever Ghost Recon: Future Soldier media event where everything was open and unlocked. We had access to every mode, every weapon and every feature.

This time around, with a near-complete build of the game, it was all about adversarial multiplayer – the specialty of Red Storm, who also developed the multiplayer of Advanced Warfighter. Read on for details on the four competitive game modes and our hands-on impressions.

The main focus of the day was getting hands-on with 6 vs. 6 Ghost Recon: Future Soldier multiplayer on all of the game modes. One team were the Ghosts, the other were Bodark (each side of the room was decorated accordingly). Each team is divided into a pair of squads, so two squads of three within the teams of six (named “Alpha” and “Bravo” for both sides). Players can communicate via headsets to all players on their teams but spawning on allies only works for squad mates so it’s key to move as a group and to keep one player alive.

With several of the game modes involving more than one active objective marker, having two squads coordinating is key, even when it comes to the basic balancing act of attacking/defending. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, more than any other shooter, rewards players who communicate and share information effectively and the game’s mechanics and features allow for this.

I was happy to be on the Ghosts team and even happier that we were winning the majority of the matches, although it was always a tight game and the tide can turn on a dime if the opposing team makes a surprise attack on one of the objectives not well-defended (which happened more than once).

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier features 10 multiplayer maps and all are available across the game’s four competitive modes:

  • Conflict – The most accessible gameplay mode. Conflict is objective-based team deathmatch where most of the score will come from completing objectives. If teams are equally matched in objective points, it will come down to kills, but if a team with terrible Kill/Death ratios manages to complete more objectives, stat-padding means little and the more combat-effective team will still lose out in the end.
  • Siege – A homage to the original Ghost Recon where there are no respawns. If you die, you’re a spectator. Beware of snipers!
  • Decoy – One team defends, one team attacks a pair of potential decoy objectives – once captured, info is transmitted to HQ and if it’s the right one, the final objective is revealed. If not, players move on to the next objective before being able to attack the primary.
  • Saboteur – Grab the bomb! Each team competes to locate and carry the bomb to the enemy base. The trick is that the carrier of said explosive device moves slow and can only use their sidearm. However, there are a few brutal takedowns that can be made while carrying the briefcase which always make for highlight reel moments.

Using cover is the winning formula in gun battles, and to help navigate obstacles and move from object to object, GR:FS employs an easy-to-use cover swap. While in cover, simply looking at another object will highlight where you can move to – hold down the button (“A” for Xbox controllers, “X” for PS3) and the soldier will bolt to that spot, keeping low. Once players get the hang of that, teams will move quickly and tactically.

The GunSmith feature was again, a highlight of playing the game. It was used by every player before every round and most of us frequently asked for a few more minutes to toy with the weapon/class combinations (and the 600 available pieces) before launching games. It helped having everything unlocked. Within the game itself, in between spawning, players can change class and weapons/attachments via a simplified 2D GunSmith so you’re never stuck with a certain class or weapon.

We also tried out the Kinect version of GunSmith in a separate room which works great as a Kinect showcase, especially in the shooting range where players can test out their builds before entering the actual game. Kinect however, is not practical when playing multiplayer or the campaign and frequently switching/customizing loadouts on the fly.

Real-Life Kinect Gunsmith

When away from the console or PC, players can use GunSmith via the Ghost Recon Network. We tested this out, using the fully rendered 3D GunSmith on touchscreen phone, a tablet and the web browser with a mouse. Go here for the Ghost Recon Network trailer and our impressions.

A neat detail added to the game is the interactive loading screen where instead of displaying a static image of the controller layout, it’s a blank controller and players can press any of the buttons to see what it does. Tactile response beats out visually reading text when it comes to learning gameplay controls every time.

When it comes to objective-taking, moving as a group will become essential and it can cut down on time with the “Confidence System” which simply means that the more players in an objective, the quicker it’s taken (think Battlefield). Another key system of note that relates to team coordination is a GPS which highlights a path to a player or objective. It does not however, mean that path is safe. Make use of the X-Ray and Thermal vision modes to better locate enemies although keep in mind, scouts are invisible to thermals.

Another neat mechanic, although slightly more difficult to pull off, are nonlethal takedowns on enemies. When successful, downed opponents become an objective point for Scout class players who can hack them for data before they bleed out. Downed soldiers can be shot so they cannot be revived/hacked.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier takes a round or two for players to surpass the learning curve. Our first game was a little messy with players running everywhere, learning the maps and how to attack objectives, but after two matches, we were synchronized and all of a sudden, there were enemy drones spotting us, squads flanking, well-place turrets and players were learning what role suits them best.

Each class can take on vastly different roles in terms of equipment, weapons and abilities but each is very well-balanced and it comes down to player preference or the needs of the missions. I tested out multiple loadouts of each class and managed to hit high kill/death ratios at the top of the list with a Scout using a semi-auto rifle with a mid-rage scope, a Rifleman with red dot sights on a full-auto weapon and an engineer with a rapid fire shotgun loaded with incendiary ammo (that was fun in close quarters).

Ammo can be surprisingly scarce so if you’re trigger happy (see: rapid-fire shotgun with incendiary ammo), play with or stick close to a rifleman equipped with ammo drops, or be prepared to switch to a kit from a downed enemy.

Everything has a purpose and it’s the little details that make all the difference. One player launching a drone and spotting even one or two enemies outside of the team’s line of sight can instantly turn the tide in a skirmish.

Running and gunning isn’t the name of the game with Ghost Recon and staying alive means more than just stats – squad members can spawn on allies an when attempting to overpower a dug-in team of defenders, that’s the only way a team can win.

Players enjoying third-person shooters and action games including SOCOM, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3 looking for something a little more gritty, tactical and objective-focused have something to look forward do with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

Key features (see them in action with the new GR:FS multiplayer trailer):

  • Up to 12 players in 6 vs. 6 matches.
  • 4 objective-based game modes (Conflict, Saboteur, Decoy, Siege).
  • 3  character classes (Rifleman, Engineer and Scout).
  • 10 maps.
  • Gain XP points to level up, unlock gear, customize and progress characters.
  • Gather intel on enemies’ positions and seamlessly share it with teammates.
  • Use the suppression system to pin enemies down while teammates flank.

The Ghost Recon: Future Soldier multiplayer beta begins on April 19th.

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. The PC version releases June 12.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for more on Ghost Recon.