Of the two gameplay demos Ubisoft showed off during a Nintendo roundtable at E3 2011 for the upcoming Wii U console, Ghost Recon Online was the most complete. That probably has something to do with the fact that it’s not exclusive to the platform, though fortunately, an impressive range of tablet-enhanced features will apparently make this version of the game the one to beat.
First, the basics. Ghost Recon Online is a team-based military shooter. Players start things off by selecting one of three classes. Pretty elementary stuff here. The Assault class is well-suited for dealing in-your-face damage, with a medium armor, a bullet-spewing assault rifle, and a special Blitz ability for quickly moving into the heat of battle. The Recon class is your sniper and scout, great for fighting at long range and mapping out that battlefield with help from its ORACLE special ability. Finally, there’s the Specialist, a support fighter with heavy armor and a powerful AEGIS Shield, which creates a protective shell wide enough to house an entire squad.
Using these classes, two teams wage tactical wars from a third-person perspective on modern battlefields in a manner that should be familiar to anyone who’s played a shooter online before. The unique Wii U features fill more of a support role, but a very valuable one when used effectively.
All off it is built on what Ubi calls the Crosscom 2.0 interface, which is based on PDAs that real-life soldiers use in the field. At the core is an interactive tactical map of the battlefield. Not only can you scroll around to see what’s going on, you can also set beacons that are then highlighted on the battlefield you see on your TV. These markers were very visible in the demo we saw, appearing in the sky above the location in giant letters.
Each player is also equipped with a drone, a sort of personal UAV that can be thrown into the air for an overview of the battlefield. The drone can be controlled manually using the touch screen or it can be set to auto-scan; in either case, spotted enemies are subsequently marked and seen on your TV as a red outline, even through walls. What’s more, the touch screen ties in with the game’s perks system; calling in a missile strike, for example, involves guiding the explosive to its target using the Wii U tablet’s touch screen.
Ubi’s plan for Ghost Recon Online is to build it as an online “service” – no word on the possibility of premium subscriptions – complete with persistent character progression. The plan/hope is to have a personalized account system, friend lists, ranking, and matchmaking, but since Nintendo’s revealed nothing publicly about the console’s online community elements, none of these features could be confirmed. The game WILL take advantage of the “always online” tablet with a constantly updating Ghost Feed that keeps track of the community and even alerts you when your friends are playing.
That’s about all there is to say for Ghost Recon Online right now. The sampling shown during the E3 roundtable included a 1v1 demonstration, but it was really more about showing how the console-specific features work in practice than putting them into any (virtual) live-fire exercise. There’s still more than a year to go before the console launches, but it’s clear, even based on this brief demo, that the Wii U offers some fascinating possibilities for enhancing the way we interact with our tactical shooters.
[Images from PC version]