We got a chance to see a video demonstration of Ubisoft and Red Storm's upcoming military tactical shooter, Ghost Recon 3, at a pre-E3 press event. Though the game is slated for release on current-generation platforms, including the Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, and PC, the video we observed was taken from an early build of the game running on the Xbox 360. As such, the visual quality of Ghost Recon 3 appears head and shoulders above similar games on current-generation consoles. The environments we observed in the video exhibited great detail, with highly detailed textures, advanced lighting and particle effects (which were most noticeable in explosions and other action-packed sequences), and fully appointed urban environments. Character models in the next-generation version of Ghost Recon 3 will be highly detailed and will use up to 20,000 polygons, a full order of magnitude higher than the models used in Ghost Recon 2.
But enough about the graphics. What exactly is Ghost Recon 3 about? As in past games in the series, you are a member of an elite United States Special Forces unit: the ghosts. The year is 2013, and the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico are meeting at a political summit in Mexico City to negotiate a trade treaty. Mexican rebels take advantage of the unique opportunity to attack the event, which results in the kidnapping of the US president. The ghosts must provide assistance in quelling the unrest, and, of course, in rescuing the commander in chief. The game's single-player campaign will take place in multiple districts throughout the sprawl of Mexico City.
To bring a better sense of continuity and immersion to the experience, Ghost Recon 3 will offer no out-of-engine cutscenes or loading times, aside from when you boot up the game. As you move with your four-man team from district to district, completing one objective after another, the experience of playing promises to be seamless. You won't wait for the next level to load, and you won't deal with the traditional stop-and-go nature of most shooter games.
Ghost Recon 3 uses the now-familiar over-the-shoulder third-person viewpoint, but it integrates an overhauled interface, which is being called the "integrated warfighter system," or IWS. In plain English, the IWS basically consists of one or more onscreen windows (called the cross-com) that can serve multiple purposes. When you issue orders to your squadmates, they'll appear in the window to respond to you, and you'll be able to see the action that's happening around them as well. You might use the windows to view a satellite map to assist you in navigating the giant metropolis of Mexico City. You may talk to vehicle drivers and pilots assisting you on the battlefield, oryou may receive orders from a remote commander. You'll even use airborne predator drones to scout out hostile territory ahead, as well as to see what it sees, using these interface windows.
These graphical bells and whistles promise to enhance the game's look, and from what we've seen, they'll make you really feel like you're a futuristic special forces badass. Between the cross-com and everyone running around with high-tech monocles and futuristic guns, like the OICW, seeing Ghost Recon 3 in action is almost like playing Universal Soldier in game form. But once you get down to brass tacks, Ghost Recon 3 is still about squad-based combat in an urban environment. You'll use the D pad to give your teammates orders, such as moving to or holding a position, to attack an enemy, and to even dictate overall disposition (from defensive to aggressive, for instance) as the situation warrants it. You'll be able to lean around corners, and now you can peek up over low obstacles to observe and shoot at enemies. Your teammates will also intelligently take cover behind corners and other available cover as you take on enemies.
No details about multiplayer modes were available, but Ghost Recon 3 will have competitive and cooperative gameplay types. You can also expect to play the game online on all the expected platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Xbox 360. After seeing several other Xbox 360 games revealed recently, Ghost Recon 3 remains among the more impressive-looking titles in development for Microsoft's new baby. Ubisoft plans on a winter 2005 release for the game, so stay tuned for more.