I'm curious about what you all think; I know Magnum has signed up for a tour of duty...
I got my Beta code yesterday, downloaded the game and played for about three hours. Here are my first impressions:
- Tactical vs. "Run and Gun":
Most mature FPS gamers (self included) do not want to compete in twitchy, reflex-shooters against over-adrenalized teenagers. Although that contingency is well represented in GRO's player population, significant effort has been made to limit their freeedom to Rambo through the maps. The sniper class has an effective defensive gadget that will inhibit reckless forward movement of most over-eager assaulters and cover is plentiful and effectively rendered. Good HUD SA, including virtual tethers to teammates and positional markers, make it possible to progress through the maps with some semblance of tactical movement and cohesion. The maps are somewhat linear (this is not "open world" by a long shot) but they do allow for flanking and effective use of cover.
- Maps, equipment and atmospherics:
I'm finding the ambiance of this game to be pleasingly military, even with the futuristic elements. This is because the maps are properly scaled for SpecOps fireteam-sized CQB operations, and the effectiveness of all weapons is very tied into the (well executed) physics of player movement (exertion/stance, etc.) and individual weapon choice/upgrades. Some people have complained that the starter weapons have so much recoil and/or limited optics that they are getting mulched in every game by better-equipped players but I find this to be a legitimate and effective way to make you learn the basics. Production value in the maps is impressive, with terrific, spatial, sound, high-quality lighting and good, cinematic effects that do not detract from tactical gameplay.
There are lots of these. At the moment you cannot choose which map you want to play on, or which game mode, for that matter (unless I am misunderstanding something). There are no, nor will there ever be, player-hosted servers. Of course, this goes against the grain for those of us who discovered multiplayer combat gaming via the PC and it's exacerbated here by a very busy, even intrusive level of top-down supervision by Ubi. However, there are in-game voice comms and other evidence of a serious attempt on Ubi's part to make this game both tactical and rewarding of teamplay. To its credit, the game is enjoyable even when it's each man for himself, because so much effort has been put into team SA that you'd have to be a moron not to take advantage of where your teammates are in the battle and what they are seeing.
For the first time since the innovative Spies vs Mercenaries MP mode in Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, I feel there is a level of imaginative gameplay innovation here that can engage the tactically-minded player while not short-changing the dedicated FPS gamer. For this reason I'd be interested to find out if any of you here at SimHQ are in the Beta and if so if you'd like to form a fireteam dedicated to tactical comms and gameplay. I'm way too long in the tooth to join a clan but the Beta is good enough, in my opinion anyway, to justify a little effort at real team-based gaming.