PC World had a chance to try out Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the latest addition to the special operations franchise by Ubisoft. The game retains the squad based gameplay of past installments, though the overall experience is quite different to the two earlier Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter games. For one, the control of the squad is now automated, with team members adopting formations and taking action automatically based on what is going on. This lends to a more arcadey experience, though there is still plenty of strategy to enable the player to carry out missions in their own distinct way. In addition to impressive visuals, Future Soldier also comes with detailed animations for in-game characters, boasting some of the most natural looking running animation in a video game so far.
To get an insight into the look and feel of the game, PC World caught up with Ubisoft Montreal creative director, Jean-Marc Geffroy.
Why did you decide to make Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier in the third person perspective?
Ubisoft Montral creative director, Jean-Marc Geffroy (JMG): Being a third person shooter allows us to put the player in the heart of the action while also creating a connection with the story. This perspective is more immersive in that it gives the player a different relationship with the character and team. It allows the player to engage more naturally with the protagonist, and in Ghost Recon: Future Solder it gives an insight into the world of Special Forces.
What does the third person perspective add from a gameplay standpoint?
JMG: In terms of actual gameplay it allows us to do several things. Besides the added visceral and physicality of seeing your character, we have an advanced cover system. This allows you to have a secure position to plan your attack and to analyse the battlefield. It means you can recon and prey on your enemies. Obviously you also have the peek feature which allows you to see around corners or pop up easily from behind cover and pick off enemy targets.
How does the perspective enable the player to keep track of their surrounding?
JMG: The third person view also allows us to inject supportive elements such as the UAV drone more naturally. You can secure a cover position and throw up your drone to plan your attack or use the "Tag 'em and bag 'em" feature to have you and your unit carry out synchronised kills.
How about precision during combat?
JMG: We wanted to make sure the player felt like they were playing a precise shooter. You are an elite operative and the experience is all about shooting. We were very conscious of how an FPS has that precision and that is why we have three states for the player to choose from. You have the OTS "Instinct" view, "Aim" and then "Scope" all workable simply and on the fly.
How authentic is the action in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier?
JMG: We wanted to provide the player with a modern Ghost Recon experience. The game was founded on similar principles described by Charles Alvin "Charlie" Beckwith. Some people know him as one of the founding fathers of Delta Force. He was responsible for changing the perception and functionality of Special Forces in the 70s. He created special units of elite soldiers, able to adapt to all situations effectively and in a highly autonomous manner.
What's special about these units?
JMG: What’s key with these types of units is that they are made up of highly trained warriors who carry out missions very differently than traditional soldiers. This is what we want the player to experience and we constructed the game with all of these principles in mind. Intel and information dictates how they will attack and deal with an operation whether it's taking out a key target or rescuing a VIP. Throughout, we give you various gadgets, such as a drone, sensor grenades and added intel that are fun to experiment with and use on the battlefield.
Can you tell me about the cover system?
JMG: The cover system also adds to this "preparation" and intel gathering phase. The cover system allows you to quickly identify your next cover position using the augmented reality provided via CROSS COM device, the blue projection over your eye, and move to it fast and fluidly. When you’re in danger of getting pinned down, this allows the player to reach a safer position as fast as possible. It is especially useful since covers are dynamic and can be destroyed with sustained enemy fire, leaving the player out in the open and vulnerable. The cover swap varies depending on your approach. If you cover swap in recon, your visual signature is very low and you can get close to enemies while keeping your cover. This allows you to flank quickly without being spotted and giving you a tactical advantage to start the fight.
What about the enemy AI?
JMG: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is the only modern military shooter that allows you to pass from recon to action whenever you decide. It means the game supports true classic recon throughout, but the fight scenes are not scripted. The AI reacts to the situation and the player, not to what a designer decides will happen. This means when you approach a situation, you use your intel and tools to prepare and you trigger the fight that gives you a tactical advantage over the enemy. Just like the principles taught by Beckwith. It allows the player to push the limits of how they want to play.
How has the animation in the game improved?
JMG: First, it's about working with the best, most elite operatives. We aim to be the most authentic and realistic military shooter on the market. Authenticity is the foundation of both the franchise and of the Tom Clancy universe. Throughout our motion capture, we worked with former Navy Seals who gave us guidance and helped us capture that precision and realistic movement. These are big guys, but their training and skills allow them to effectively move like cats, which is crucial to their survival in the field. This led us to creating over 2500 animations on the main character alone to ensure that the player really enjoys the movement and can identify with his Ghosts. There were two phrases that they used that always stuck out in my mind: "Be a predator, don't be the prey". And my personal favourite, "Fast is smooth, but slow is f#%^ing slow".
What aspect of the animation were you the most proud of?
JMG: One of the most rewarding aspects of our animation system, and something new to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, is the CQC attacks and Stealth kills. We are really proud of the character's movements as he busts out some Krav Maga or Jujitsu moves to take down an enemy and finish them off. We also extended this into the Ghosts' characteristics, things like little twitches, peeks, ducking their heads when under fire, all the things that real humans do naturally.
What effort was put into creating the animations?
JMG: Our designers were very demanding and wanted to inject the best of everything: reactivity in the player's movements, a wide range of moves that are compatible between all different stances and movement speeds. However, the most important was to achieve perfect accuracy in the character's movements and aiming as we are a precision shooter above all. Much of the development in terms of our animation system was created to allow for this agility. The system uses a huge number of transition animations, mixes additive and procedural animations, inverse Kinematics and other tricks. This enables the animators and programmers to match the designers' expectations in terms of functionality, reactivity, and realism. For the player it means they fully control an elite soldier of the future, who has a group of highly trained warriors backing him up. It means he feels part of an intelligent, elite unit that supports you and knows what they have to do.
Gun customisation forms a big part of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, how did you go about creating the animation for all the different varieties?
JMG: This was a real challenge with Gunsmith, as our system has to adapt to the 20 million different variables. The fact is that real operatives in the field customise their guns, so we had to figure out how to do the same with our animations system. We are very pleased with how the system now adapts to each weapon, but it also allows the player to see the left to right shoulder swap. This may sound like a small detail, but it's an important tactic that is primarily used by seals which allows for a better line of sight when peeking, or breaching.
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