Can Ghost Recon: Future Soldier re-energise the squad-based shooter?

The latest news:

Ubisoft’s well-received series is back, but can we return to the days of ordering men about?

Several years ago, you couldn’t wander into your local game shop without being visually assaulted by rows of squad-based military shooters, all promising a highly strategic approach to, well, shooting people in the face with guns. It all started in the late nineties with two defining titles: Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six and Hidden & Dangerous from Czech developer Illusion Softworks. Both featured small squads of differently skilled operatives, usually sneaking about carrying out fiddly missions behind enemy lines. Players were required to plot waypoints for their AI team-mates and work as a cohesive unit to overcome the mostly rather cerebral mission objectives.

After this came an influx of similar titles, which tweaked and refined the squad-based mechanics. Operation Flashpoint maintained the hardcore tactical approach while the likes of Conflict: Desert Storm and Brothers in Arms took a slightly more intuitive approach, often by grouping the AI soldiers into one controllable gang rather than demanding that you direct them all separately. Later, Ubisoft came to dominate the squad scene with its Ghost Recon and continuing Rainbow Six series’. It was very much the genre to be seen in for developers of shooting simulations.

However, in the wake of the military FPS onslaught captained by Call of Duty, squad-based action has drifted to the periphery. Seduced by the raw emotional immediacy and explosive action of Infinity Wars’ creations, mainstream gamers have largely abandoned in-depth, in-the-field strategy, for a combination of heady narrative thrills and weapons management. In the CoD titles, your relationship with allies is fleeting and almost entirely out of your control, you’re just subordinate vessels together, reacting to orders and doing your jobs. Maybe, amid the political and military complexity of the Iraq/Afghanistan era, that’s all we want.

But now, Ubisoft has announced a new Ghost Recon title, so the squad-based game is back on…Set for release this winter, there’s very little information available yet about Future Soldier. Indeed, the publisher has conspicuously not mentioned which platforms the game will arrive on, although the fact that a multiplayer beta is being offered with the Xbox 360 version of Splinter Cell Conviction suggests that at least Microsoft’s machine is on the list.

We know it’ll be from the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter team and will feature all the usual high-tech weaponry and prototype gadgets, as well as plenty of multiplayer modes. That’s about it. The press release says that the game will, “go beyond the core Ghost Recon franchise and deliver a fresh gameplay experience.” Which could mean anything.

So what would be necessary to make squad-based games fashionable again? A substantial co-op mode seems an obvious start-point. I’d also suggest a highly scaleable squad management system, which like the driving set up in Gran Turismo or the Assistant Manager settings in Football Manager give you a sliding scale of direct responsibility for the mechanisms of interaction.

I’d also like to see mission designs that absolutely could not be completed without proper squad tactics. I loved GRAW 2, but often I used my team-members as glorified bullet fodder, shoving them into open spaces ahead of me to test the enemy response. What I certainly don’t want is Operation Flashpoint’s mind-numbing multiple-menu approach filled with formations, commands and tactical manoeuvres. But that’s just me.

Importantly, there’s no reason why a good squad game cannot match the gutsy, adrenaline-charged chaos of a decent lone soldier shooter – the co-op mode in Left 4 Dead, and the manic Army of Two: 40th Day, proved that. But what can Ubisoft do to really bring this genre bang up to date?




Keith Stuart © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

This site is updated regularly per day with all latest Free Sony Slim PS3 news, reviews and features.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply