Ghost Recon was created by Red Storm Entertainment (a studio part-owned by popular author Tom Clancy) more than ten years ago. Ubisoft, attracted by the success of Red Storm's earlier Rainbow Six game, scooped up the studio and they've been happily churning out Tom Clancy games together ever since.
Ghost Recon broke the mold established by its contemporaries, challenging many of the core tenets of what a first person shooter was supposed to be. From the fact that Ghost Recon replaced the typical on-screen weapon display with a simple crosshair to the way in which gameplay was structured around tactics and planning, rather than rambo-like techniques, it was immediately apparent that this was something new.
Ghost Recon was primarily built around teamwork and the unconventional situations the ‘Ghost’ team were put in. The idea was to navigate a large level - using a realtime waypoint system to out maneuver your enemies - with just a handful of team members, then get in and get out without raising the alarm.
The series grew and started to get a following, much like Rainbow Six did, gaining additional momentum with several expansions, sequels, and spin-off titles.
As a big fan of the series, it should come as no surprise that Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) - a launch title for the Xbox 360 - was my first "next gen" experience. The new name heralded a host of changes to the aging franchise, however, as it strayed away from first person viewpoint and sophisticated team planning in favor of a simple command system, frequent combat, and third person camera.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier changes things up again, with the new name your first clue to the host of changes made to the experience. If you are wanting a GRAW-like game, you’re not going to find it here; Future Soldier is more about stealth gameplay than it is about flanking and suppressing the enemy.
Future Soldier puts you in control of a Ghost operative (a fictional Group for Specialised Tactics, or GST, where the term “GHOST” comes from). I won't spoil any story details, but if you follow the series' meta-narrative, you'll be pleased to hear that some characters return from GRAW.
The game starts off with the demise of an unknown Ghost team, who bought the farm while hitting a convoy suspected of couriering a WMD in Central America. This sequence is really just about introducing the plot of the game as you press only the trigger button, while your team runs around cleaning up the mess.
Instantly, warning bells rang in my ears; I was worried at this point Ubisoft were trying to follow recent shooter trends by walking me on rails to watch - rather than play - but gladly it doesn’t last too long.
After the first two missions, it becomes evident that the gameplay of this Ghost Recon has had an overhaul from its predecessors. You are still a part of the team, but you do not issue move commands or formations to your team anymore. Instead, there's a new ‘Mark and Execute’ command set to use; taking control of a UAV (or even down the sights of your rifle) you simply tag enemies and your AI squad mates will prep and setup all on their own to await your "go" order.
Using this method, you can either target one of the four marked targets yourself, and the rest of the team will fire when you pull the trigger to perform a ‘sync shot’, or you can hold the button down and the Ghost team will take out up to three targets at once.
To help you deliver on your "avoid detection" mandate, the soldier of tomorrow has more than just the portable drone technology I alluded to earlier. They also have “Adaptive Camouflage”, a clever cloak that's on the brink of being viable in the real world. Effectively, it's like a wrap-around LCD screen that displays an image of what's behind you, making you much less visible than you would be without it. Only recently deployed in the game's fiction, it's not perfect, so it pays to be aware of its limitations when attempting to stealth around the various locations you find yourself in.
Once you get good at sneaking around, you can creep up behind enemies and perform two types of stealth kill; either a hand-to-hand type (of which there are several variations), or a silenced shot kill (which leads to a controlled shot to the head and gently placing your target on the ground). I remember seeing this in an E3 demo, but it - like the rest of the game, now that I think about it - has changed a bit since then.
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