E3 2011: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Hands-On Preview

By Jordan Douglas on June 19, 2011, 2:52PM EDT

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon series has been at the forefront of tactical third-person shooting for many years now. However, it has been missing-in-action since the successful Advanced Warfighter titles earlier this generation. Future Soldier, the latest in the series, looks to return Ghost Recon to the spotlight after numerous development delays. After spending some time with the game, it's clear the near futuristic abilities add personality to a game many fans of the series may have trouble recognizing.

Our demo tasked the Ghosts with finding a missing CIA agent deep within Nigerian territory. As the name suggests, Future Soldier is set in the near future. This gives players access to a range of technologies in combat that can best be described as experimental by today's standards. Ubisoft did say much of the weaponry is modeled off current military prototypes.

These futuristic abilities are represented in-game by the augmented reality system each soldier possesses. The Ghosts can each market a target to initiate coordinated executions, view enemies in any ally's line of sight, deploy drones for ariel surveillance, and cloak to blend into the environment. The intel gained from using any of these abilities is visible for the entire squad, helping facilitate teamwork.

With the augmented reality mechanics at each soldier's disposal, it should not come as a surprise that Future Soldier is aiming to make coop play a core part of the experience. The game supports drop-in, drop-out online coop for up to four players.

That being said, the emphasis on streamlined action and playing with friends appears to have come at the expense of squad commands. Future Soldier takes many of the tactical squad elements out of the player's hands, meaning NPC teammates will generally find their own positions based on your movements. Ubisoft pointed out that the AI has been programmed to target whoever poses the most immediate danger to them, regardless of whether the Ghost is player-controlled. Using adaptive AI like this could lead to increased replay value, but that remains to be seen.

After playing through the demo, some of Future Soldier's design choices showed promise, but the core gunplay could be improved. For example, the "cover swap" mechanic, wherein players select an area they wish to go and the game automates the process for tactical efficiency, works fairly well. On the other hand, the guns don't have the weight you'd expect to make combat feel natural. Fortunately, there's still time to iron out some of the kinks.

Look out for more on Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's campaign and competitive multiplayer as its March 2012 release date approaches.

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