Monday, 20 February 2012

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier – Ghosts You Can Believe In

Who you gonna call?

Australia, February 19, 2012

Poor AI is the thorn in the paw of single-player aficionados the world over, but Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is looking to snuff it out. For good.

Not all modern console owners play online, for a variety of reasons. Maybe their internet connections leave a lot to be desired, or maybe they're disinterested in paying a subscription for the privilege. Maybe to them online gaming is an experience fraught with a level of douchebaggery they're just not willing to tolerate.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier may sport the option of four-player co-op but, for whatever the reason, not everyone is going to use it. Some gamers are going to sit down and play it solo and expect their AI companions to keep up and stay out of sight, and Ubisoft is prepared.

Ubisoft recently roadshowed a lengthy and confident Ghost Recon: Future Soldier hands-on to press (which you can read a more detailed breakdown of here). The thing that impressed me most, however, was the extent of the improvements to the AI of your squad mates.

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Ubisoft's Yann Suquet, an associate producer on Ghost Recon: Future Soldier whose enthusiasm for the game itself is matched only by his ability to speak at the speed of light, was on hand in Sydney to explain these noticeable improvements.

"I don't know if you remember but in GRAW we just gave the orders according to position, like 'Go hide behind that car or that wall and just be in an aggressive state of mind' and this is actually completely preposterous and completely unrealistic," said Suquet. "What Special Forces do is they give target orders, like, 'You take out this guy, I take this guy, and together we take them all out together. The leader of the squad doesn't really care how it's done, as long as it is done. So he doesn't care if the guy is hiding behind a tree or behind a rock or just standing there.

"So we've actually implemented this new ordering system which is based on targets and our teammates just get into position intelligently and their AI is developed in a way that they stay out of the line of sight of the enemies and stay invisible, or almost invisible, as much as possible and then they wait for me to either give the order to shoot or just take part in the shooting."

In practice it's as seamless as it sounds. Across the five missions that were available to test there were various instances where I had the opportunity to spring ambushes on unsuspecting grunts up ahead. On each occasion I simply had to designate the target, or targets, to be put on ice and my men would cunningly position themselves where they had a shot, all without being seen and all without me telling them where to go.

AI you don't have to second-guess, or hope doesn't run directly into the view of the enemy, is crucial to what makes Ghost Recon: Future Soldier more than a simple cover shooter. It's a true thinking man's third-person shooter (or a TMCTPS, as Suquet joked: "It's a TMCTPS, if you wanna write that down. It's a new genre.")

In fact, the AI Ghosts seemed so good at their jobs, those of you who are planning on diving into some co-op may actually want to think twice before you bring any of your flaky friends along for the ride. There's a strong chance they'll be less dependable than the ones Ubisoft has created.


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