Ghost Recon Future Soldier Multiplayer Beta Impressions
The latest addition to the Ghost Recon franchise has followed the logical route set out by previous games, putting itself a short distance into the future. This near future setting has allowed for gameplay elements such as active camouflage and other theoretical/experimental items that Richard Machowicz probably gushed over while hosting Future Weapons.
In gameplay terms it plays more less the same as the last few Ghost Recon games. What with a cover system, third person perspective and first person view when using the iron sight on a weapon. The control layout is fairly simple to grasp; most likely due to it being the more or less the same basic outline as the majority of any game to feature third person shooting action on this generation of consoles. However despite the simple layout the player character handles like a sack of bricks being hurled through a china shop. I have no problem with a games that force a slower pace; but Future Soldier encourages a quite fast past and even has reasonably high movement speeds, it’s just that the ability to turn or adjust your trajectory once hit the sprint button are nonexistent.
What makes this worse is that the enter/exit cover button and sprint button are the same resulting in a number awkward situations in which you sprint near a wall and get glued to its muddy brown surface or the more common problem of sprinting to cover but holding the button a fraction of a second to long so that you then sprint straight out from cover the minute Generic Marine #9 smacks his futuristic backside against the chest-high pile of rubble. This last scenario happens a lot especially due to the gameplay feature that tries to resolve the clunky running mechanic inaccuracy.
When in cover you can point at a wall or some other piece of brown-dusty dirt and an icon will appear indicating the where you should end up if press and hold the run/cover button. The problem is that if you release the button you stop running but if you hold it to long it’s quite easy for your Flange-Faced Soldier of the Future to try and run off somewhere else; both of these situations usually end with you getting enough jam all over your screen to trigger a death animation.
To be fair these issues are common place among modern third person games; clunky running was in Gears and a health system based on hiding behind cover until you magically heal all your wounds through sheer manliness has been present in nearly every game with a pseudo-modern setting since COD4 made it cool. The game also has some less commonly seen features such as that you can be revived if you get wounded and while in this state you can crawl around the floor. However most of the time you’ll die instantly from either a well placed high-power sniper shot or a barrage of machinegun fire; which is a shame for all the budding amateur medics who want to run around pumping their wounded chums full of adrenaline.
Other problems can be seen through the pointless first-person mode that can be activated when aiming by clicking the analogue stick down. This mode is meant to make aiming easier as you can see down the iron sights; which would be great if 50% of the iron sights were repulsive and obtuse to use, what makes it worse is that not only is the field of view poor but the screen goes essentially into dark and light grey colour filter that ends at the corners of your vision. Now the vision filter isn’t a massive problem and I get what they were going for: it’s supposed to be due to the funky AR goggles your Team America reject is wearing; however why then isn’t it present whenever you use the overlays? Surely that would have made sense, in fact that could have easily become a gameplay mechanic where you could toggle vision modes or manage a battery? E.g. using the cloak feature or some other electronic gadget when low on energy might drain those lovely goggles (which were probably made by Google) and cause them shut down for a short time; somewhat akin to what happens in the game when people use EMPs.
Now, back to my original point about the FPS view. This view is only useful if you’re using a scoped weapon and even then it’s only good for long ranges. Now maybe this dislike for the feature stems from a personal preference for the other notable franchise from Tom Clancy – Rainbow Six which tended to be all first person except in the few cases where it was either an option or happened when using the cover mechanic present in later games.
The game does have some good points so don’t fret fans of Ghost Recon! For one thing playing the objectives provides more points than kills so you’d think that would encourage teamwork and non-camping kill whoring fun right? Wrong!
Due to only having one static spawn per team it is really easy to lockdown the enemy who spawn on maps like Pipeline with as little as two guys; this leaves the rest of the team to dick around getting the points. What’s that you say? What about the non-static squad spawns? Unfortunately, you cannot use them most of the time because if the target squad member is in combat, near combat, near an objective or if the “area’s been compromised” you won’t be allowed to spawn.
While all other times these situations make sense, the last one is a gameplay feature you can use to make it harder for the opposing team to hold
Non-combat related stuff on the beta include access to the blatantly “designed for use with Kinect interface” of customisation menu screens; with the main offender being the one for “pimping guns”. Now all this customisation is good thing. However, many items are far superior to others and take an age to unlock. Like most games that include some level of player choice this game suffers from not making all the gear/weapons balanced and solve this by locking the more deadly stuff away for higher level players only. This isn’t a game breaker, it’s just an annoyance. their front. However, despite the logic behind not spawning into combat it does not work well in practice because by the time you have clicked the button to spawn your ally will most likely be in combat again.
This is due to the small size of the maps in the beta which can be traversed very quickly, meaning, you can quite easily get killed by a the second you squad spawn; what makes this worse is that you tend to spawn standing upright in the open, even if your fellow Macho Marine has his face in the dirt cowering in fear of the sniper who’s been waiting for someone to wander out into the open. Which brings me to my next point about how the spawn system seems to have a weird way of deciding if an ally is in combat or not; though this is probably a side affect of the small maps.
Somehow, despite all its flaws, Ghost Recon Future Soldier’s Multiplayer is still rather fun to play; well, only if you manage to find a match with a full lobby and not get on the team full of invalids. The high proportion of idiots in beta is most likely due to the beta codes mainly being given to people who own Splinter Cell Conviction.
Again, the game is only in beta so it could get better; except it’s been in development for ages and unless they delay it further I doubt any major changes will be made. But, in the end, there is something highly satisfying about frying someone’s nuts with a stun gun and then teabagging their incapacitated form.
Positives: Interesting Weapons/ Gadgets, Good Graphics, Feels like the previous Ghost Recon.
Negatives: Clunky Controls, Yet another game of America vs Russia, Poor customisation
Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Red Storm
XBox 360/ PlayStation 3 – May 25, 2012 (UK)
Windows – June 15, 2012 (UK)