GR Online sounds horrible, in my opinion. I'm not sure which made the game sound worse to me, the PCG hands-on, or the Theo Sanders interview. Let me provide a few examples, first from the interview:
We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.
How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.
During our earlier experiments with more open-ended maps, we had a much more run & gun flavor of game play that just didn’t feel right. Part of the problem is the player’s expectation of a moderate amount of safety when they use cover. If you’re consistently getting shot from behind, while in cover, you quickly stop using it.
Someone should be watching your flanks and your rear. That someone should be one of your teammates. With an 8-man team as described by Mr. Sanders, clearly there are enough people to have someone watching your back. 360 security is called 360 security for a reason. If players are that horrible that they can't even coordinate security, then they need to be shot.
To be frank, when we started the GRO development, we weren’t convinced we could get away with third person. However, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted the game to ultimately feel like and, on paper, third person had a lot to offer to achieve that flow. The problem was – it has never been done very well on PC (especially multiplayer).
No, 3rd person hasn't ever been done very well, at least not by UbiSoft. Suddenly, after ten years of destroying Tom Clancy titles left and right, UbiSoft has gotten it right? Yes, and Conan O'Brien's hair no longer looks stupid. Er....
Jumping back to the PC Gamer hands-on:
The cover system is surprisingly good – you see a highlight on the patch of wall you’ll hug, then press the cover key to move to it. If you then hit ‘Aim’, you can peer round bit by bit in first-person, so you only expose as much of yourself as you need to.
Where have I seen this before? Oh, I know! The diarrheal abyss of a title known as Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. UbiSoft did the same thing in that game: They forced you into head-on confrontations with the AI enemies, where you essentially used the cover system and slugged it out with the enemy while trying to figure out how to outflank them. In the process, sometimes you had no choice but to get shot X number of times. The only thing memorable about R6V:2 is how bad it was. I can only surmise that if GR Online plays anything like R6:V2, then it'll be just as forgettable.
Two things really impressed me about the way abilities work in GRO. One, that Assault shield-charge is immediately fun. The previously vicious kill zone becomes a hilarious playground with you as the bully, smacking people down as they try to scramble away from you. If you stop to finish one off, that’s the end of your charge. But if you have a team-mate covering you, you can keep bashing people while your friend finishes them off.
So, the Ghost Recon series has gone from a tactical, thinking-man's shooter, to a futuristic "Oh, look at the pretty lights!" shooter, to a "Rawr! Hulk Smash!" shooter where you take a riot shield and pummel everything you see. Right. Got it. Funny, when I read "tactical combat puzzle" in the interview, I wasn't thinking of charging through enemy lines with a riot shield. Maybe "tactical" means something else at UbiSoft.
You unlock new weapons, upgrades and abilities as you play, but not necessarily for cash. Senior producer Hugues Ricour says “a player that decides to never pay can have the full game and the complete experience. We don’t want a paying user to have a competitive advantage.” You don’t buy weapons earlier than you’d normally earn them, but you can buy consumables like grenades. Ricour says the other stuff you can spend money on includes new uniforms, special ammo, armour boosts and extra inventory space to store this stuff.
Here, we have yet another gem where someone from UbiSoft is saying two things - one out of each side of his mouth. First, he says that they don't want paying users to have a competitive advantage. Then, he says you can buy consumables like grenades
. It's good to know that those extra grenades won't give the other guy an advantage over me. Perhaps when they detonate, said grenades will pepper the air with confetti that spells "I used my mommy's credit card to buy this!" instead of peppering my character with shrapnel. Awesome. Also, it's good to know that special ammo and armor boosts won't give the enemy an advantage over me, either. Perhaps the armor boost will just flash a screen message to the wearer proclaiming "You are being shot! Move, you idiot!" that I wouldn't get on my screen, since I haven't shelled out for the awesome armor. It's refreshing to know that the armor boost won't ... you know ... make the guy harder to kill, thus giving him an advantage over me.
I have to admit I was pretty sceptical about a free-to-play Ghost Recon. I was imagining a drearily realistic online shooter with a bare-minimum design philosophy
Drearily realistic sounds much better than some fool with a riot shield shouting Leroy Jenkins as he charges the enemy and I crouch down behind cover and wait for the "I don't know what this class does" specialist to sneak up on us and kill us. Drearily realistic also sounds a lot like Ghost Recon. While it wasn't that "realistic", in many ways, Ghost Recon was - and is - a much better game than anything else to come out of the rectal regions of UbiSoft. I can't see this title being any better than RS:V2, except that this time, we know it's coming. That's more than I can say for some of UbiSoft's other diarrheal encounters.
Edited by Parabellum, 04 June 2011 - 05:20 PM.