So, Tuesday saw me in London at the UK press event for Ghost Recon 2! Before we start, a couple of points need to be emphasised.
Firstly, the press release was only intended to cover the X-BOX and PS2 versions of the game.
Secondly, due to certain legal obligations there are restrictions on what we can and cannot report. These restrictions will be lifted on the 16th of September when some fantastic features will be up for discussion!
Ghost Recon 2
What I can tell you, there is no longer a need to level any criticism at Red Storm in regards to PC fans getting a straight X-Box port, that is not going to happen. This became clear during a lunch time conversation with a member of the dev team. Whilst being non specific, it covered the difficulties of porting a finished PC version of a game to the X-BOX, as lots has to be trimmed down in order to meet the maximum spec that the X-BOX can handle. This can be an unexpectedly long process (any one recall the time delay between the PC release of GR 1 and the X-BOX version…….?).
On the other hand an X-BOX game can be very quickly ported to PC, and subsequently enhanced.
Ask yourselves as I did, “Are Ubisoft going to save money on advertising and release the PC version just after the X-BOX version?" NO! So why? What on earth would you do with a game in three to four months? Leave it idling on a shelf somewhere or………..”
I know where the smart money is!
It was apparent that some of the Red Storm team have been greatly saddened by some of the hostility and negativity expressed in the community forums, (yes they do regularly visit the forums). There is categorically no intention of forgetting the games roots or original and continued ethos. The Ghost Recon franchise will continue in the same vein that it always has. The X-BOX, and therefore the PC version, is using an improved version of the original game engine (the PS2 is built around the unreal engine).
Remember, this is Red Storm's child and they love it. They, just like any parent want to see it grow and develop.
I’m sure that most of you will have seen the Eurogamer report on the day, it is my intention to look at things from the hard core fan base perspective.
The day took the form of an introduction from a Ubi Soft representative, the Clancy development manager. The key points raised during his introduction where the intention, during production to focus on realism, excellence, intelligence and tension.
None of the above suggests a move to run and gun type game play. A point accidentally illustrated by their game demonstrator. Yes, we watched real game play on a large projection screen, this was not a pre recorded effort but real live gameplay. During the first demonstration mission (a pilot rescue) he was killed in the first contact! With an audience of over 30 people this proved rather embarrassing for him and he has been practicing for this event. There was no linier, “I know where the tango’s are on this map” game play here, it looked to me as if he was unexpectedly flanked by the AI!
The command interface was simple, RvS style with a pop up overlay allowing a “click to select” type menu that was instinctive to use.
The Ghosts acted intelligently, followed orders well and seemed much more of an asset than in GR 1. They will follow multiple orders including frag, engage armour, man fixed weapons, flank, suppress and hold. Reportedly 25% of the processor requirement goes towards running the AI routines. Run and gun if you dare, see you in the after action screens when you try!
A recon command was also in the works, this involved a member of your team moving covertly forward and clearing the ground ahead and giving a sitrep.
The ghosts are now much more individual in their character, a lot of money has gone into proper voice actors with the ghosts being much more articulate with a far less repetitive range of vocabulary. Lip sync is also being modelled, again adding to game emersion.
The ghosts also make much greater use of hand signals and work as a team. If you order a flanking manoeuvre your team will split down into 2 x 2 man teams and support each other.
One of my favourite features, apparently included on the advice of special forces out of Fort Bragg, was the “combat roll”, a prone ghost can now roll left or right, an excellent addition. In my opinion this will be as big a milestone as the ability to go prone was in the original ghost recon.
One area of development that I have been critical of is the “medic”. Those of you who know me will have heard my major reservations about the inclusion of this feature. Ok, lesson learned; wait until you see before you criticise! One of the first things I do when I get the game will be to inflict a leg wound on one of my teammates! Seeing a Ghost go down, roll around screaming in pain, calling for help while the rest of your team tell you who has been shot by name is cool enough. However if I don’t react one of my teammates will take it off his own back to move in and treat the downed individual. If the would be rescuer is killed, (and let's be clear here, we can only administer aid to a wounded comrade. Dead is Dead!), the downed soldier will bleed out if help does not arrive!
Probably the biggest single improvement in regards to game play is the kit selection process, gone are the time consuming scrolls through kit after kit. We are now looking at a simple four kit slot approach. You only have to select the kit for your individual character, the game will appropriately equip your team for the mission. To be honest this is a feature I would like to be set as a quick start option in the PC version as I personally prefer to be able to select my whole teams load out as this best suits my game play style.
The most striking improvement is in the graphics, especially the scenery. Crawling in grass is like… well crawling in long grass. You have to see it to believe it; and this is within the X-BOX’s limitations!
We will be able to give more details after the 16th , however the most important thing I can say is that I can't wait for the PC version and I will be shopping for the X-BOX version as Christmas presents!
It's difficult to pinpoint at what point since the confirmation of Ghost Recon 2's development that a degree of negativity and skepticism about the title really took foothold in the hardcore Ghost Recon community. Although justifiable in the face of some of the X-Box information and quotes released over the past few months, we can largely put those concerns to rest in the light of Zero Alpha's experience. For an ardent PC gamer to come away from a console demonstration practically salivating at the prospect of the PC version release, speaks volumes.
In the excitement and debate over Ghost Recon 2 over recent weeks, we've forgotten what a benchmark Red Storm set when they created Ghost Recon back in 2001. It wasn't Game of the Year without merit, and it has stood the test of time as 3 years later the community stands firm. Now, on the dawn of the next generation of Ghost Recon, we should remember what Red Storm are capable of, get behind them, get excited and get ready, Ghost Recon 2 is coming, and it's going to rock!
Zero Alpha is answering questions about his hands on with Ghost Recon 2 in our forums here. Note that there is a strict embargo in place regarding PC specifics, so don't even ask! Topics covered include kit slots, graphics, air strikes, AI, rain drops(!), and lots of exclamation marks!
Finally I'd like to thank Ubi Soft UK for supporting the fan community and allowing us unrestricted access to this special Ghost Recon 2 event - thanks guys (and gals).