Tom Clancy's name has been a boon to Ubisoft, who have been cranking out games with the author's brand association since 2000, when they purchased Red Storm Entertainment (which Tom Clancy founded). In fact, they like the association with the military fiction author so much that they actually bought the rights to his name - in perpetuity - back in 2008.
The next game to proudly bear his moniker is the twelfth (!) game (including expansions) in the Ghost Recon series - Future Soldier. Set in the near future, the game looks to leverage real-world events and technology that - rather than being purely science fiction - is described as being projected from stuff that either exists right now or can reasonably be expected to be an extension of actual weaponry in use today.
That aside, is it actually going to be any good? At the end of the day, that's the most important question a gamer wants to have answered and, thanks to a recent trip across the Tasman, we got to find out for ourselves...
The first part of our trip to take a look at the title took us to a gun range an hour or so out of Sydney, where we took part in some actual shooting of actual guns. When I first heard about this aspect of the experience, my thoughts were mixed: would shooting a real gun immediately prior to playing a video game simulation of the exact same action make the game feel worse than it might otherwise?
Surprisingly, it didn't; while the act of pointing a rifle or a pistol down a range felt quite different to aiming a cursor with a controller, it didn't take anything away from the simulation-based Ghost Recon experience. As an aside, when the scores were tallied up, I had the highest score of the 32 journalists who were in attendance. Clearly, that makes me an expert in assessing the merits of a game in which simulated gunplay is the focus...
Once we'd had our fill of target shooting, we were treated to a presentation from the game's assistant producer, Jann Suquett. In it, he explained much of the development process and went over the game's features - rather than expand on that here, we've detailed that separately in our interview feature. He's an interesting chap, with enthusiasm and passion for what he's doing, so be sure to check that out.
Finally, with an understanding of the background and development process fresh in our minds, we headed into the demonstration area and set about enforcing American ideals of liberty and justice for all on anyone that dared appear in our crosshairs.
The general plot, if you're not aware of it, sticks closely to the formula established by Tom Clancy himself and as seen in other games. Basically, there's a bunch of ultra-nationalist Russian chaps, who have set about stirring up some trouble which plays out around the world. The specifics of the plot are still fairly secret, but if you've read a Tom Clancy book before or have played the likes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, you'll have the general idea.
This plays out by way of a third person shooter mechanic or, as Jann referred to it, a Smart Third Person Shooter (STPS). In addition to the normal over-the-shoulder shooter interface, the game features a set of heads-up display and deployment technology called Crosscom. This interface allows you to get a read on tactical information about what's going on around you, as well as enabling you to issue commands to (and receive information from) your squad mates.
Unlike the original Ghost Recon, while Future Soldier does include additional AI troopers to assist you, they're all in your team with you (rather than in other remote teams that you can co-ordinate with). That doesn't make them useless, though - in fact, they're quite the contrary. In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2, the AI were able to intelligently refer to what was happening in the battlefield - "he's behind the red car", etc. Here, that intelligence has been increased even further, resulting in battleground chatter that is never inane and well worth listening to. While I was playing the game, I found myself relying on what my teammates were saying about the battle raging around us as much as any of my clever heads-up display.
Continue reading on page 2.