Ghost Recon, like all the work to come out of Tom Clancy’s love-it-or-hate-it style, is something of a staple in the realistic military genre. While some of the tech is certainly in the “in-development phase”, it’s fair to say that every game labelled with the Tom Clancy name is firmly based in reality; at the very least you can say they’re slightly less arcade-based than perhaps Call of Duty or Killzone. So the news of a beta is pretty huge for any fan of military shooters and the shooter genre as a whole, but does Ghost Recon stealthily sneak into your heart or does it fall over, scream in agony, and end up somewhere near your colon? We played in the public beta to find out.
As somebody who played an awful lot of Metal Gear Online back in the day, it was pretty terrible to hear them announce the closing down of the servers coming in July. Since then, I’ve found myself constantly trying to find games which can live up to the image I’ve built around MGO, the perfect third-person shooter that I played for days of game time when it first came out. For a while, I thought that Binary Domain managed to capture everything I liked about MGO, while adding a little Gears seasoning to the mix. Unfortunately, it didn’t get the sales (or after-release support) to warrant long periods of play.
So it’s not too hastily that I say Ghost Recon could well be my next Metal Gear Online, the next game that I play when I don’t want a straight up shooter. There are differences: the levels don’t seem as long, and there’s not really the option to hide somewhere safe and shoot from a distance. I wasn’t expecting an exact copy though, and on the whole, it’s a pretty high-quality experience. From the guns to the graphics, there’s definitely enough on offer to interest almost anybody looking for a good online game to play over the coming months.
Gameplay in the beta was simple. The first team has a set of objectives, and the other team must stop them completing those objectives. Think of it like Battlefield’s Rush mode but without the long maps. Usually the objective amounts to little more than capturing and holding a certain spot over a set time, although sometimes you’ll find yourself defending people or places. No doubt there’ll be more to choose from in the final game; for the time being though, there was enough to keep me hooked, and while the objectives tend to be fairly simple, actually managing to complete them is anything but. This is a very hard game to get into and I dread to imagine what it’ll be like starting out twelve or even six months after release.
what it’ll be like
starting out twelve
or even six months
In fact, that’s a pretty good description of my first game: sneaking around corners, carefully picking my shots, and not running unless absolutely necessary scored me three kills and nine deaths. After a few seconds of self-loathing (what do you mean I shouldn’t take it so seriously?), I realized that I’d made it to the top of my team’s leaderboard. Was our team that terrible? Was the enemy team that good? It was probably a mix of the two, but despite never surviving long enough to see more than a single enemy soldier, I’d actually had a lot of fun. It’s nice to find a game where working as a team (when it happens) is better than acting on your own interests, and the levels are made in such a way that you’ll definitely end up covering teammates as they run out into fire and, of course, knowing they have your back as well.
There are a set of classes to choose from, for when you’re doing really badly and need something to blame it on (“I picked the wrong loadout, honestly”). They’re pretty standard: sniper, assault gunner, heavy. Each packs a different amount of power and, from what I’ve seen, have been balanced quite well. That is to say, I’ve never felt like any of the classes I’ve played with have made me not suck. Still, it’s nice to have a degree of variety to your gameplay and, as mentioned earlier, even nicer to have an excuse.
Level design is well done as well, for the most part. I often feel games can suffer from something I call the MAG curse, a terrible design flaw where the developers have to work in places to aim from for each class, on multiple levels. On paper, these things work like clockwork, but as soon as you’re up against a superior team who know the map, it just seems like there’s far too much going on. If you can’t spawn and then join your team mates without dying, there’s a good chance the developers were just trying to “give everybody a chance”. As such, don’t be surprised if you find yourself utterly confused as to where the enemy is actually shooting you from. That’s without mentioning the ability to shoot back.
All in all, Ghost Recon is shaping up to be a pretty decent game and one that it’s certainly worth your time and effort to try out. Whether futuristic (but realistic) things are your cup of tea or not, hidden beneath all the invisibility suits and fancy radars is a very good game that might just hold your attention for the time being. At the same time, it’s difficult enough to win that those with less time to put into levelling up classes and trying out kits might just want to stick with the noob-friendly Call of Duty. On the whole though, you’re in for a treat.